Volvo V40 hatchback
Price £18,995 - £31,900
- Fresh, elegant design
- Comfortable ride
- Safest car in class
- High entry-level price
- Petrol engines don't suit auto box
- Not as practical as VW Golf
At a glance
"The Volvo V40 is a stylish and comfortable hatchback with excellent safety credentials and very good diesel engines."
If safety is your number one concern, look no further than the Volvo V40. This upmarket rival to the Audi A3, BMW 1 Series and Mercedes A-Class was one of the first cars to feature autonomous braking as standard, which can detect an obstacle and apply the brakes to avoid a collision.
A comfortable interior, with some of the best seats in the business, makes the V40 a great car for travelling long distances. That alone will appeal to some drivers as much as the BMW 1 Series’ sporty handling will attract others. Equipment levels are comprehensive and the R Design adds a dose of aggression to the elegant V40, but also makes the ride less comfortable.
It doesn’t quite have class-leading economy, but the 83.1mpg achieved by the D2 diesel is still staggering, while the superb D4 diesel gives the V40 an impressive blend of performance and economy, with acceleration from 0-62mph in 7.0 seconds and fuel economy of 67.3mpg.
MPG, running costs & CO2
Excellent diesel engines lead the way over mediocre petrols
The V40 is available with a wide range of petrol and diesel engines, most of which make it cheap to run. The most efficient version is the D2 1.6-litre diesel, which can return 83.1mpg and emits just 88g/km of CO2, making it more economical than the Lexus CT200h hybrid and free to tax. The thriftiest T2 1.6-litre petrol is not quite as convincing, with 53.3mpg and emissions of 124g/km of CO2 costing £110 annually in road tax. Particularly impressive is the addition of a new 187bhp Drive-E D4 engine, which is not only very powerful, but emits just 99g/km of CO2 and returns 67.3mpg thanks to advanced turbo technology.
It’s an impressive performance: the most economical BMW 1 Series returns 74.3mpg, while it takes the eco-tuned Golf BlueMotion to beat it, with 88.3mpg. Drivers with a low annual mileage will find the economical D2 engine a good compromise, but the new D4 offers an exceptional blend of power and economy if you can afford it.
Engines, drive & performance
The responsive D4 diesel is the jewel in the crown of a broad engine line-up
The V40 shares its basic chassis with the Ford Focus, which is a lot of fun to drive. The Volvo is good in this respect too, with plenty of grip and accurate steering with three modes to vary its weight. Smaller wheels and standard suspension offer the best balance of comfort and fun, while larger alloy wheels and sports suspension sharpen the V40’s responses slightly it is not entertaining enough to compensate for the way it crashes over bumps. For the most thrills you’ll still want a rear-wheel drive BMW 1 Series, but the Volvo acquits itself well against the A3 and A-Class.
Diesel engines start with the 113bhp D2 which is fine for town driving with occasional motorway use, while the 148bhp D3 accelerates from 0-62mph in a respectable 9.6 seconds. The range-topping D4 has 187bhp and is very responsive and quick, hitting 62mph in 7.0 seconds, half-a-second faster than the Golf GTD. Thanks to an almost unheard of blend of performance and economy, it is the best engine in the range by some margin.
Petrol engines include the 113bhp T2 and go all the way up to a T5 with 242bhp and an automatic gearbox, which can reach 62mph from a standstill in 6.1 seconds and hit a top speed of 155mph. T2, T3 and T4 models all offer virtually identical running costs, but each model improves its 0-62mph time by 1.1 seconds.
Interior & comfort
Wonderfully comfortable seats, but R Design makes the ride quite firm
Volvo’s designers still add a touch of Swedish style into each model’s interior, and the V40 has one of the most relaxing interiors of any hatchback. Not only are its seats very comfortable and supportive, there’s also a real sense of quality, which puts the V40 in direct competition with the Audi A3 and BMW 1 Series.
Our only real complaint is the dashboard layout, which is starting to look dated because it has far too many buttons and the interface is clumsy and unintuitive to use. The A3, on the other hand, has a very minimalist dash, thanks to most controls being taken care of by the rotary dial positioned on the transmission tunnel. Choose a model with smaller wheels and ride comfort is excellent, but alloy wheels larger than 17-inches in diameter and models equipped with sport suspension both send more bumps into the cabin than we’d like. Visibility is good, but thick pillars either side of the windscreen can mean you have to look around them at roundabouts and junctions to avoid blind spots.
Practicality & boot space
Well-placed interior storage, but a small boot
The Volvo is comfortable for four adults thanks to a rear bench with its two outer seats further towards the middle of the cabin than normal. This means two rear passengers have more shoulder room and can see past the front seats more easily, but it also results in a narrow middle seat. Headroom and legroom is pretty good throughout the car, but it’s worth noting the panoramic sunroof impinges on headroom slightly. The V40 is more spacious than the BMW 1 Series, but the five-door A3 Sportback is better still.
Boot space is a bit disappointing at 335 litres, which trails the Golf by 45 litres. Even the stylish Mercedes A-Class manages to pip the Volvo. Folding the rear seats down increases luggage space to 1,032 litres, but the rear seats don’t fold completely flat. Unusually, the front passenger seat folds flat, allowing exceptionally long loads to be carried. A raised boot floor makes it easier to load large items without snagging them on the folded rear seats but this is an optional extra.
Interior storage is plentiful, with a large glovebox and door bins as well as a cubby area behind the centre console. Volvo is proud of this console, which has a hollow back to give the impression that it’s floating. Design frippery it may be, but it hides a storage space behind. Coffee-loving passengers will also appreciate the cup holders hidden beneath the middle cushion in the back seat.
Reliability & safety
The V40 is Volvo’s top performing model, while safety is first class
Volvo has a good reputation with customers, which helped the company to come 11th out of 33 manufacturers in the 2014 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, just ahead of Audi. There’s more good news, as the V40 was its top-rated model, coming 19th out of 150 cars, with a score of 89.95 per cent. Competition is strong in this class though, with the BMW 1 Series coming eighth, while the Audi A3 placed 16th.
Volvo is renowned for its safety, and the V40 is class-leading in this area. Every version has a system fitted that will stop the car automatically if a low-speed collision is imminent. This should not only help avoid costly and dangerous minor crashes, it has also made the V40 more affordable to insure. The V40 also has a bonnet that pops-up slightly to help minimise pedestrian injuries by cushioning their impact. A five-star crash test score from Euro NCAP was easily achieved, with a near-perfect 98 per cent score for adult occupant protection.
Price, value for money & options
An upmarket price tag, but you get a lot for your money
The Volvo V40 is priced above the Golf but below the A-Class, which is currently the most expensive family hatchback. The main trim levels are ES, SE, Lux and R Design, with Nav versions of each coming with sat-nav fitted as well. ES is quite well-equipped with 16-inch alloy wheels, a five-inch screen and iPod connectivity. Stepping up to SE – the sweat spot of the range - gets you keyless entry, cruise control and a more luxurious interior, while SE Lux has leather upholstery, 17-inch alloy wheels and brighter headlights. R-Design versions are sportier, with large alloy wheels and sports seats.
Diesel models in R Design trim hold their value on the used market best, but still can’t quite compete with the Golf, A3 or 1 Series, which have particularly rock-solid resale prices.