Volvo V40 hatchback

The Volvo V40 is the Swedish manufacturer's answer to other upmarket hatchbacks like the Audi A3, BMW 1 Series and Mercedes A-Class. Buyers who find these cars predictable choices, or who just don’t like them that much, may find that the V40 is the perfect alternative.

The V40 is stylish and comfortable, plus its one of the safest cars on the road today. Euro NCAP identified the V40 as the safest small family car to buy in 2012 and it was one of the first cars to offer autonomous braking, a system that scans the road ahead and automatically applies the brakes if it senses an imminent collision. Even in the intervening years, nothing in the V40's class has bettered its score, which is why it was awarded Carbuyer's Safest Car 2015 award.

Safety isn’t the V40's only strength, with the quality of the interior and seats making it a very comfortable car that's a pleasure to take on longer motorway journeys. All V40 models are very competent on a twisty road but the sports pack does enhance the car's handling, albeit at the expense of some ride quality thanks to the lower suspension and larger alloy wheels. For keener drivers there's also the V40 R-Design, which has tweaked suspension and sports seats to make the V40 more involving to drive  - although it still can't compete with the BMW 1 Series for driver involvement.

Certain Volvo V40 models are also very cheap to run, with the D2 diesel returning an official economy figure of 78mpg and CO2 emissions under 100g/km, meaning there's nothing to pay in road tax. The diesel variants provide plenty of punch and their superior economy means we think they make the most sense.

The Volvo V40 is quite expensive to buy but this does at least mean the car comes with plenty of standard equipment. Entry-level models wear the ES badge, while the range tops out with sporty R-Design and plush Lux models. Several option packs are available – often they make more sense than buying optional extras individually.

Buyers also have the option of purchasing a Polestar Performance Package for the V40. It consists of a range of performance parts that can be fitted by the dealer either individually, or as a complete pack. There are bespoke springs and dampers, firmer suspension, 19-inch Polestar alloy wheels and a small rear spoiler.