Volvo V40 D4 & T5 R-Design update - Driven

Volvo revised its V40 range quite significantly only a couple of years into the model's life cycle. Now, all models have 4-cylinder engines - in fact the entire Volvo range is headed that way, when not long ago the Swedes offered 4, 5 ,6 and 8 cylinder engines... The small V40 range now consists of two diesel and two petrol versions. I tested the upmarket version of each.

The first car I had was the T5, which in its earlier iteration sported a 5-cylinder engine. Now, the T5 has a 2-litre, 4-cylinder turbocharged unit, which produces a decent 180kW at 5500rpm. It certainly gives plenty of performance, but never in a raw way, more the cultured, sophisticated hot hatch. At 1468kg it's n lightweight, but a 0-100km/h time of 6.3 seconds isn't bad, 0.2 sec slower than the old model.

There are selectable driving characteristics and the 8-speed adaptive Geartronic transmission always performs as you'd hope. Handling and roadholding leave little to be desired. The T5 was the sporty R-Design version, with 18-inch alloy wheels, sportier body kit, a quite differently specified interior - altogether a successful upgrade.

The D4 I drove has a double overhead cam 1969cc turbodiesel engine, with the same 8-speed Geartronic transmission. The additional 50Nm of torque over the most powerful petrol engine means it gives the car a fair turn of speed. In fact it was surprisingly quick. The less overtly sporting nature of the car didn't detract from its driving enjoyment at all. Even when pushed hard, it was fun to punt around.

Disappointing is the frustratingly large turning circle - how does any car suffer from this? And the sat-nav requires a rotary dial for letter selecting which is just a bit old school these days. The cross traffic alert works effectively (but adds $1275 and is coupled with blind spot warning).

On the upside - the lights on the car are excellent, once you switch off the stupid automatic high beam which more and more car makers are adopting these days. These 'clever' systems just mean if there's any light at all in the vicinity of the car you can't use high beam... On another positive Volvo lighting note, the reverse lights are the best I've ever experienced.

The V40 features one of Volvo's new signature items - the frameless rear view mirror, which I quite like. And an illuminated gearshift knob showing the gear selected... okay, that's not so outstanding. And frustratingly, several non-illuminated knob titles keep you guessing at night until you're familiar with the car.

The front seats are very comfortable and the T5 R-Design upholstery materials were an especially excellent combination. I thought the boot was quite small, but it s a smallish hatchback...

And there's the drum. Many people probably compare the V40 to a Golf or Mazda 3, both of which are seriously good cars and considerably cheaper than the Volvo. There's little to criticise about the V40, except probably the price (and the high cost of some of the options). A panoramic glass sunroof will set you back $2650, keyless entry $1500 and for what Volvo casually calls "Adaptive Cruise Control and Collision Warning with Full Auto Brake including Queue Assist with Pedestrian and Cyclist Detection and Driver Alert System", will set you back $6250. Thus your T5 R-Design can easily get to the $60K mark. The V40 range starts at $36,990.

The V40's perceived exclusivity over the Golf of Mazda 3, yet lower price point than a BMW or Mercedes hatch (which boast even more expensive options) mean it has its own niche.

 Volvo V40 D4 Luxury/T5 R-Design
 Engine: 2-litre 4-cylinder diesel/petrol
 Transmission: 8-speed automatic
 Power: 180/140kW
 Torque: 400/350Nm
 Performance: 0-100km/h 7.2/6.3 seconds
 Price: $45,990/$49,990 at time of review
 Text & photos - Paul Blank (copyright)


Photos copyright Paul Blank/CarOpinion