Ah, Volvo. The brand synonymous with building safety-conscious, tank-like cars that do everything they can to keep the soft, fleshy humans within alive and in intact condition should they meet a horrific crash.
In Sri Lanka, Volvo has come under the purview of IWS Holdings since 2016 and the entire customer experience has been turned up to eleven. Suddenly, we are seeing more Volvos (both new and old) on our roads. The V40 is among the crop of new Volvos that we are getting a taste of under the new custodians. So, how is the car?
The Volvo V40 was initially offered as the wagon (or Estate) version of the Volvo S40 from 1995 to 2004. With the new generation S40, the wagon variant was christened V50, and the V40 nameplate disappeared until it was resurrected in 2012 for use on Volvo’s small hatchback that sat just above the C30 which was retired in 2013, and thus the V40 is now the smallest Volvo you can buy. But, what does small in Volvo parlance mean? Read on!
The V40 carries the athletic and dynamic stance that stablemates such as the S60 (reviewed in our April issue) have adopted. Whilst Volvo’s latest styling direction is taking yet another stunning turn in the shape of the spectacular S90, the V40 has a presence that mean you will not mistake it for anything from any other premium manufacturer. The bold Volvo badge on the front grille that instantly draws the eye to it means its parentage is of no question. Our car was in a nice shade of bronze-ish gold, and had stylish alloys wrapped in medium profile rubber. Look closer and you see some quirks, like for example the front windshield is sprayed with not the usual two, but three water sprayers! The side profile is sleek and the wrap-around rear lights add some colour to it, along with the discreet roof spoiler. At the rear once again, the V O L V O letters are boldly presented, once again leaving no doubt at all about who makes this car. Our T4 variant was badged as such as well, and has twin tailpipes hinting at the potency of the powerplant. Volvo’s own website states the V40 has “Clean, Scandinavian Design”, and being a fan of IKEA in particular, I have to agree. To sum up, the V40 looks very good.
Mechanicals & Technology
The V40 comes with a range of petrol and diesel engines. At the Euro 6 compliant petrol turbo spectrum, you can have a 1.5 litre engine in 122bhp (T2) or 152bhp (T3) guises, or a 2.0 litre engine in 190bhp (T4) or 245 bhp (T5) guises, coupled to a manual or Geartronic automatic six-speed transmission. Our test car is a 190bhp T4 variant coupled to the six-speed automatic transmission with sports mode and manually shifted from the gearlever. All engines drive the front wheels only. The kerb weight is listed as 1,500kg for this variant. Braking is taken care of by front and rear discs and, being a Volvo there is a host of technology to keep you safe. For example, the brakes have what’s called Ready Alert which prompts the brake pads to be moved closer to the discs if you suddenly lift off the accelerator or if front sensors detect an imminent crash. Traction control and Stabilty control are standard fitment.
Getting into the Volvo’s driving seat is a fuss-free affair and the electric seat offers a decent range of movement which ensures I was soon comfortable and on my way, whilst our photographer settled himself comfortably in the V40’s rear seat. Adjusting the mirrors is similarly pain-free as all controls fall to hand. The only weird thing I find is the rev counter’s vertical sweep as opposed to a normal circular sweep, but it becomes unobtrusive soon enough. I play with the manual shift in Sports Mode for a while as well and it is very nice to use, it would be even nicer with steering-mounted paddles. However, the Geartronic’s brain is highly developed so that you can let it do the shifting for you most of the time and you will not be left wanting for more power, or wishing for it to upshift. The engine noise is similarly unobtrusive; at the higher registers a muted roar enters the cabin with a sporty note to it, but it never becomes a nuisance.
The manufacturer specs state 6.9 seconds from zero to hundred, and we are inclined to agree with them. You do not think it is producing a mere 190bhp at 4,700rpm. Of course, the torque of 300Nm delivered in a widely useable 1300-4000rpm band helped no end on our expressway sprint, where the car just takes off all the way to the 6,000rpm redline if so desired. We also did a 0-100km/h run, and felt just how snappily the car takes off when you flatten the throttle, and transmitting noticeable torque steer through the steering wheel which writhes like a puppy in your hands. Seven seconds is not unreasonable to expect.
Unless you are as intensely meticulous as a certain shaggy-haired gentleman from a trio that used to present a car show and then moved across an ocean to present another, you will not bother with mundane aspects as Speedo Error, GPS timing, etc… Street cred is what matters to most, when your meter shows 100, it’s 100. And in this instance, the V40 shows you that number quite quickly. Quietly too, it’s all too easy to overshoot your desired speed as the cabin insulates noise very well.
The ride is on the firm side, but not uncomfortable. Driving the V40 on some concrete roads at 50 km/h, you are made aware that the surface is hard and pockmarked, but it does not jar your spine, and it gives you confidence when cornering the car hard. The tyres will squeal a bit but you do not get the impression that they are going to let you down. In sports mode, the stability control allows some wheel slip before tidying things up, and it does not cut in abruptly.
We must also mention that the little economy meter was a useful aid, much more so I feel than the digital readouts of most cars, as you can immediately see how economical your right foot is being and adjust accordingly. We did try to keep it in the green at some points (and failed, mostly), but it can be done. The cruise control is another unobtrusive thing; you set it and forget it. It maintains a narrow window within the set speed – we set to 100 and we saw it fluctuate between 96 and 102 on gradients, otherwise held rock steady at 100.
Living With It
The V40’s cabin presents a relaxing, lounge atmosphere. The tartan seat trim may not be to everyone’s taste, but there is a wide selection of trim options available for prospective buyers, and as with the S60, buyers are advised to avail themselves of the trim options before making a decision, as there is something for everyone. The dashboard is well laid out with knobs controlling major functions such as media volume, HVAC temperature and fan speeds, whilst buttons control everything else. The screen sits centrally on the dash and looks a tad smallish – maybe Volvo should have gotten rid of the indented screen surround and made the screen itself large. However it was easy to read, clear and sunlight did not create too much glare on it. The multifunction steering is also button-laden, and you can control the media and cruise control from here. As it is a European car, the wipers are on the right stalk and indicators on the left. This car was engineered for Left Hand Drive, as can be witnessed by the position of the handbrake, and the bonnet release being in the passenger footwell! The driver’s seat is electric, whilst the passenger seat is not; adjusting the backrest angle is done by rotating a dial as opposed to pulling a lever. But these are all things you learn once and then adjust to from the second time onwards.
Rear seat space is decent for a small hatchback, as can be seen in the pictures. The seat is set for my driving position and then moved a tad more backwards. The width of the seat means that it is more suited for two persons on long journeys (with the centre armrest down and cupholders opened if desired). There are three 3-point seat belts in the rear. There are no rear AC vents on the B-pillar as on larger Volvos, but the V40’s cabin is small enough to not need them. The boot is also reasonably sized at 324 litres, and of a regular shape, plus the cover flips up with the bootlid. The downside of this is, objects in the boot cannot be easily reached from the cabin, but the upside is, you can keep your freshly bought fish and meats in the boot without the smells wafting around the cabin.
If I were to properly write this section in order to cover every single aspect, it would be as long as the entire review itself! Volvo throw the entire kitchen of safety goodies at their cars, and the V40 is no exception. So you get airbags all round, the aforementioned Traction and Stability Control, brake readiness alert. Other options include Park Assist where the car will steer itself to park, and also assist to get out of a tight spot, a pedestrian airbag (yes, on the outside of the car that will cushion someone should they hit the bonnet), City Safety package which includes auto braking, adaptive cruise control, blind spot information system, cyclist detection and driver alert control to name a few.
Fuel Economy and Price
The Volvo V40 is rated for a fuel economy of approximately 8 kilometres per litre in city running, but you may see less in our ultra-chaotic Colombo traffic. Highway running will see much better than that, in the 13-14 kilometres per litre range. What must be remembered is, this is not a hybrid nor is it marketed as a fuel-sipper. It’s a premium hatchback with a turbocharged engine that pumps out nearly 200 brake horsepower, and those who only care about kms per litre need not apply. Driving the V40 T4 like a fuel miser will be like going to the Cinnamon Grand buffet to eat only red rice and brinjals. The V40 range starts at Rs. 9,900,000 onwards for the T2 model.
If I were to sum up, the Volvo V40 is like a current-generation Clarks shoe (ps: they do make driving shoes as well). It is stylish, dependable and an able partner that will carry you places at a decent pace without needing excessive attention. Yet, it will draw some attention to it (particularly in T4 guise when you can surprise quite a few vehicles on the Expressway). And in that vein, the V40 is a good partner for the fast-paced Corporate man or woman who needs some soothing on his or her way to the next meeting, yet the knowledge that a flexing of foot will bring forth a grin.
Engine 2,000cc 4-cylinder / Direct injection / Turbocharged
190 bhp @ 4700rpm
300 Nm @ 1300-4000rpm
Transmission Front wheel drive
6-speed Powershift / Paddle shifters
Suspension Front – MacPherson Strut
Rear – Multi link
Brakes Front & Rear Discs
Width 2041mm (incl. mirrors)
Height 1420 mm
Turning Circle 10.8 m
Kerbweight Approx. 1500kg
Fuel Tank 62 L
Performance 0-100km/h in 7 seconds
210km/h max speed