BY: Nicol Louw
Any new car launch is an important event for an automaker, but none more so than the new V40 for Volvo, a brand that is associated with vehicle safety but not always with exciting styling or dynamic ability. Can this new kid on the block capture the imagination of the public and elevate the Volvo brand to the next level? I attended the local launch in Knysna to experience the possible game-changer first-hand.
The hatchback (the â€œVâ€ does not denote a station-wagon in the case of the V40) enters the premium segment with a truly Scandinavian luxury look, according to Volvo. Design cues were taken from previous models like the C30 and even as far back as the P1800. This can be seen in the strong shoulder lines, rising belt line and hexagonal tailgate. The end result is a vehicle that looks stylish while portraying dynamic ability.
Inside, the theme continuous with Volvo pushing conservatism aside â€“ especially with the new-look thin-film transistor (TFT) instrument cluster fitted to my test vehicle. The layout is clear and functional, and definitely still premium. The centre console is pure Volvo with a mostly traditional layout. Materials used are all pleasant to touch and of good quality. The fitment of a large panoramic sunroof also adds to the ambience of the cabin because of the natural light it allows to flood in.
The list of configurations and styling options on the V40 is vast and Volvo mentioned that the vehicle can be designed around the needs of the individual simply by checking the appropriate boxes on the option sheet.
The model sampled was fitted with Volvoâ€™s five cylinder, 2,0-litre turbodiesel unit and six-speed Geartronic transmission. The engine produces 110 kW and a very healthy 360 Nm. It is the latter figure that is immediately felt after the slight lag when pulling away â€“ effortless motive force accompanied by an aurally pleasing soundtrack due to the five-cylinder layout. The extra cylinder also helps to reduce vibrations compared to a four cylinder unit. The six-speed auto transmission is well matched to the engine and shifts smoothly when required, which means that the driver does not miss the absence of gear change paddles behind the steering wheel.
The driving position is excellent and helped by the vast range of positional settings on the seat and steering column. Volvos have sometimes been guilty of providing vague steering feedback to the driver but the V40 is definitely much better in this regard. Handling wise the vehicle should not be dynamically compared to a hot hatch but the level of grip and poise in the turns are comparable to the competition. The ride is supple but also firm as a result of the dynamic intentions. One negative was the intrusion of tyre noise into the cabin but it may have been the specific road surface tested on.
The V40 has managed to achieve the highest score yet recorded by Euro NCAP on its way to a five-star rating. The list of safety features (some optional) is unrivalled by any other car in the segment:
- Lane-keeping aid helps the driver to stay in the intended lane by applying steering torque;
- Enhanced blind-spot informatio radar-based system assist driver by checking blind spots when changing lanes;
- Cross-traffic alert alerts driver of crossing traffic when reversing out of a parking bay;
- Road-sign information the last speed restriction passed is shown in the cluster;
- Active high beam automatically dips the main beam when traffic approaches;
- Adaptive cruise control;
- Pedestrian protection;
- Pedestrian-airbag technology a world first;
- Collision warning and auto brake the vehicle will automatically brake in order to avoid an accident;
- Driver alert detection and warning tired drivers;
- A new knee airbag to complement the standard airbags and crash structures.
Volvo is adamant that the V40 will square up against the likes of the BMW 1 Series and Audi A3. This is serious competition in a cut-throat segment of the market. Only time and sales figures will tell if the product has the right credentials to be a success. If showroom interest in the new V40 is anything to go by, however, Volvo can sleep easy.
Model: V40 D3 Geartronic Elite
Engine: 2,0-litre five cylinder turbodiesel
Power: 110 kW
Torque: 360 N.m
Fuel consumption: 7,9 L/100 km
CO2: 136 g/km
Top speed: 205 km/h
Acceleration (0-100km/h): 9,3 secs
Price: R353 700