Volvo V40 hatchback (2012-2019)
“The Volvo V40 is a comfortable hatchback, with a version to suit most drivers and impressive safety kit”
- Excellent safety credentials
- Impressive fuel economy
- Stylish design
- Small boot
- Costly servicing
- Some relatively high prices
The Volvo V40, now one of the oldest models the Swedish manufacturer has to offer, sits in a slightly unusual market position. When launched, it was intended as a rival to the Ford Focus, Volkswagen Golf and Vauxhall Astra. However, with an ascent into premium territory brought on by the XC90 and V90 estate, the V40 now finds the BMW 1 Series, Audi A3 and Mercedes A-Class among its rivals.
This places the Volvo under immense pressure from all directions, and its considerable age – the V40 hit the market back in 2012 – means it goes into battle with one hand tied behind its back. It still has one great virtue in its favour, though: individuality. It's a unique-looking car, and the latest version wears Volvo's now-signature 'Thor's Hammer' daytime running lights.
That gives it a tidy, up-to-date appearance at the front, as the chrome exhaust finishers do at the rear, but it's the truncated shape, dark glass tailgate and vertical rear light clusters that mean it stands out in a car park, even after all these years on sale. Unfortunately, time hasn't been quite so kind inside – the V40 betrays its age with ranks of small, indistinct buttons on the dashboard and can't match the intuitive infotainment displays of newer rivals.
The traditional Volvo attributes of comfortable seats and solid build quality haven't been abandoned, though: the V40 is an effortless machine in which to make long motorway journeys. That's as long as you're not stuck in the back seat, which is a bit tight for two adults, with the central perch best suited for children.
The V40 can hold its own on a country road. Its underpinnings are related to the last-generation Ford Focus – one of the best-handling family hatchbacks around – and the V40 grips gamely in corners with very little body lean. This is only a little less true of the Volvo V40 Cross Country, a tough-looking version with four-wheel drive, raised suspension and hints of SUV style that makes an interesting alternative if you're split between choosing a hatchback or a crossover like the Volvo XC40.
V40 engine sizes depend on whether you want a manual or automatic gearbox. Petrol models are the 120bhp T2 and 150bhp T3 but, strangely, the engines aren’t the same size for automatic and manual versions. Choose an automatic gearbox and you’ll get a 1.5-litre, while cars with a manual gearbox get a 2.0-litre engine. All diesel models use a 2.0-litre engine, in 118bhp D2 or 148bhp D3 varieties.
The petrol engines are fairly economical, but the best fuel consumption is offered by the 56.5mpg D2 manual diesel. We prefer the rather nippier D3 which offers virtually the same economy, which can take the V40 from 0-62mph in 8.5 seconds.
There are several trim levels available, allowing you to choose not only how luxurious your V40 is, but also how sporty you want it to look. The entry-level Momentum is far from basic, now coming with much of the kit that was previously reserved for Nav Plus models. Included as standard is air-conditioning, cruise control, front and rear parking assistance, DAB radio, Bluetooth, alloy wheels, automatic LED headlights and a seven-inch colour display with sat nav and online services. Inscription models are very comfortable and elegant, with leather seats, a digital dashboard in place of conventional instruments, 17-inch alloy wheels, electrically adjustable driver’s seat, an upgraded stereo and stylish interior trim.
The R-Design is effectively the sporty alternative to the Inscription model, adding leather sports seats, a body kit, sports suspension and tinted windows.
Volvo has been at the cutting edge of automotive safety for years, and the V40 is no exception. Although it was crash-tested by Euro NCAP some time ago – back in 2012 – it easily achieved the full five stars and was the safest car in its class, just missing a perfect performance with 98%.
The V40 finished 65th out of the 100 cars ranked in our 2019 Driver Power owner satisfaction survey of cars currently on sale in the UK - not bad for a car that’s been around for a while now.
The amount of choice in the family hatchback class can be overwhelming, but if you want an upmarket and comfortable car, the V40 performs well enough to be very convincing. The V40 also appeals to anyone who also wants a car that’s that little bit different.