By Wayne Gorrett
The V40 is a small family car with a front-mounted engine driving the front wheels. It was launched in the UK in August, 2012 and replaced the C30 two-door coupe (2006-2012).
Under the skin, the V40 uses a platform that’s a development of the Ford Focus (Volvo began work on the V40 while the company was still under Ford ownership), which is no bad thing. It may be ‘Made by Sweden’, but it’s built in Ghent, Belgium…less Andersson and more Poirot, if you like.
Under the guidance of Peter Horbury (Volvo’s head of design at the time before moving to parent company Geely), the exterior was designed by American Chris Benjamin and the interior is the work of Pontus Fontaeus.
In 2015, a new line of turbocharged engines was introduced and in 2016, the entire V40 range received subtle exterior styling enhancements, equipment upgrades and further reductions in CO2 emissions.
➤ The Style Factory
The current V40 range comprises of Momentum, Inscription, R-Design and R-Design Pro trim grades, along with the lane-ready V40 Cross Country.
It’s now a much simpler range of nine variants (including ‘Nav’ models), whereas prior to the 2016 reshuffle there were 14. This translates into less confusion for buyers in the showroom and a simpler and more cost-effective range for Volvo to build, supply and maintain.
In 2016 the subtle design changes were largely cosmetic enhancements to the exterior which included the restyling of the front end with softer crease lines and new ‘Thor’s Hammer’ LED headlights that have trickled down from the XC90, V90 and S90 range-toppers. New alloy wheel options and five new exterior colours were introduced.
Here, we’re testing the D4 diesel in athletic R-Design Pro trim.
➤ The Inside Story
Inside the updated Volvo V40 R-Design, you’ll find some of the best leather seats you’ve ever parked your backside in and a handsome dash that is on the verge of looking a little dated with its non-touch infotainment screen.
However, the main, single-dial binnacle with its customisable TFT readout still looks modern as does the leather, multi-function steering wheel. It’s a pity the handbrake lever is a little awkward to operate, being on the left side of the centre console – an obvious hangover in the conversion to right-hand-drive variants. The belated adoption of an electric parking brake will negate the issue and reduce costs.
The floating centre console is still there with its multitude of buttons that, on the face of it looks overwhelming, but which is really rather simple to decipher.
In the rear there is enough space for two adults – or 3 for short trips – and, despite the declining coupe-like roofline, headroom isn’t too bad if you’re less than six foot in height.
Boot space at 335 litres is under par for the class but comes with a clever and useful boot divider that is handy for those small top-up shops ensuring your groceries don’t rattle around in the boot like a willy in a shirtsleeve.
➤ The Toy Box
R-Design variants across the Volvo range are generously equipped and the V40 is no exception. In addition to the lengthy R-Design kit list, the Pro adds; leather-faced sports upholstery, active cruise control, tinted rear windows, rear park assist, rain and dusk sensors, Sensus Connect with high performance sound, forward folding and height adjustable front passenger seat with lumbar support, Sensus navigation and 18-inch Ixion-IV alloy wheels (diamond cut/matte black) shod with 225/40 tyres.
➤ Engine and Transmission
Volvo’s upgraded range of diesel engines for the V40 model are designated ‘D’, and are available in three states of tune; D2-120hp, D3-150hp and D4-190hp (as tested), with CO2 emissions of 94g/km, 101g/km and 99g/km respectively. All engines are Euro-VI compliant.
The four-cylinder, 190hp D4 oil burner in the test car delivers 400 Nm of efficient, thumpy torque from between a lowly 1,750 to 2,500 rev range. It’s good to drive and feels every bit as quick as its 0-62mph time of 7.4 seconds suggests.
The six-speed manual gearbox is paired with the D4 via a somewhat soggy clutch, but does what it’s meant to do under normal driving conditions, but feels slightly stiff and notchy under, shall we say…’enthusiastic’ operation and doesn’t quite match the levels of glee emanating from the D4 power plant.
One saving grace of this pairing is the good fuel economy. Over 388 mixed miles and fully exploiting the available power and torque where safely able, I achieved a respectable 53.1 mpg with an average speed of 34 mph. The official combined fuel consumption figure is an ambitious 74.3 mpg.
➤ On-Road Cred
That’s a bit of a shame, really, as overall, the V40 is a decent car to drive. It steers well, rides bumps and crests nicely (despite the sportier, stiffer suspension settings and bigger wheels reserved for R-Design variants). And once you learn to keep the D4 in its generous sweet spot, it makes effortless and entertaining progress.
Body roll is well controlled and, as long as you’re making normal, unhurried progress, the V40 is easy to drive.
The D4 is good by diesel standards, emitting a distant but easily ignored thrum when you’re cruising, but you do hear the characteristic diesel clatter when demanding more revs. There’s wind and road noise at motorway speeds, not forgetting that soggy clutch and notchy gearshift. On a more positive note, mechanical vibrations felt well suppressed.
➤ Safety & Security
The updated V40 wears the most comprehensive range of standard safety systems in its class. It even has a pop up bonnet concealing a dedicated exterior airbag for pedestrians at the base of the windscreen.
Standard safety kit fitted to all V40 variants include; City safety pack, speed limiter, dual stage driver and passenger airbags, driver’s side knee airbag, SIPS (side impact protection system) and dual chamber SIPS airbags, side curtain airbags, front seat WHIPS (whiplash protection system) and DSTC (dynamic stability and traction control) including torque vectoring. Unsurprisingly, the V40 received the top five-star safety rating from its 2012 Euro NCAP test.
To keep you and yours secure, there’s an anti-theft alarm including an immobiliser, remote control central locking and home safe and approach lighting. Security experts Thatcham rate the V40 highly for resisting theft and break-in.
➤ ICE and Connectivity
The V40 uses Volvo’s previous-generation sat-nav system, rather than the latest tablet-style touchscreen setup on the new XC90. It’s old technology, and it shows. It’s fiddly and awkward to use, requiring multiple twists of a dial and presses of a ‘confirm’ button to set destinations. Once set though, the system itself works reasonably well and the mapping is clear from the high-res screen.
Volvo has a well-deserved reputation for excellent stereo quality, and the V40 R-Design is no exception. Even the standard High Performance Sound system has excellent depth, definition and clarity.
Volvo’s Sensus Connect (standard on R-Design) brings voice control, connected web apps and internet browser.
➤ Warranty, Servicing & AfterCare
There is the industry-standard three-year / 60,000 manufacturer’s warranty. Like all new Volvo’s, the V40 also comes with complementary 36 months Volvo Assistance cover across the UK and EU. Service intervals are every 18,000 miles or 12 months, whichever is sooner.
The updates to the V40 have reinvigorated the smallest Volvo in its class, but I’d wager that the D4 R-Design is probably not the right one to go for. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a legitimate and appealing alternative to the usual suspects in this class. But its price tag and overly firm ride plus one or two other issues would be deal breakers for me. Per contra, there is a solution…
Wearing my Captain Sensible hat, the V40 would be a far better package with the less expensive but equally efficient, D2 (120 hp) engine riding on the smaller 17-inch alloy wheels found on the Inscription (£24,950), which would soften the ride and better suit the relaxed character of this, the smallest Volvo.
Because you’re down here, thanks for reading.