The Volvo Car Corporation selected Verona, Italy as the launch location for its all-new V40 – a stylish rival to the like of the Audi A3 and BMW 1 Series. It’s stylish and packed with innovative safety technology, but does it have what it takes to usurp its well-established German rivals?
Volvo has gone to great lengths to banish the legacy of staid, conservative designs that characterised its cars for many years, and the V40’s sharp styling will certainly appeal to young, trendy and individualistic buyers. There has been some confusion regarding the V40’s positioning in the Volvo line-up; Despite wearing the V nomenclature often reserved for the company’s station wagon offerings, it is not set to battle the likes of the entry-level Audi A4 Avant and C-Class Estate, but rather the A3 Sportback and BMW 1 Series. In this respect the V40 has its work cut out for it, but its packaging seems to indicate that it’s on the right track.
The interior is typically Volvo, with the floating centre console and good levels of perceived quality, but it still manages to look fresh. There are a number of stand-out styling touches, perhaps the most eye-catching are the illuminated gearshift, which is standard on the Elite trim level, but optional on the other two trim levels (Excel and Essential) and the option of a TFT instrument panel display with different colours and themes to differentiate eco- from sport settings.
The engine line-up spans from the D2 turbodiesel (86 kW/270 N.m), which has a claimed fuel consumption of just 3,6 l/100 km and CO2 emissions of just 94 g/km, to the turbocharged T5 petrol engine with 189 kW and 400 N.m of torque and accelerates from 0-100 km/h in 6,5 seconds. Between these two performance poles sit a pair of four-cylinder 1,6-litre petrol units in two states of tune: T3 (112 kW/240 N.m) and T4 (134 kW/240 N.m plus 30 N.m on overboost). A choice of six-speed manual and automatic transmissions are offered.
The first car I sampled was the D2 with a six-speed manual transmission. This model featured a module that enables the driver to select light, medium or heavy settings for the steering and, having sampled the heavy steering in the V60, I tried the medium setting. The steering was accurate and provided enough feel to satisfy enthusiastic drivers. The ride was well damped and considering we were on what I would call the “squishiest” roads I have ever been on (and by this I mean as narrow as the Italians are passionate) the car handled well. The shift action of the manual gearbox was positive and smooth, making progress a relaxing affair.
The following day we stepped into the T4 and then the D4, both with automatic transmissions. The T4 could do with paddle shifts as I found the gearbox a little slow in reacting to throttle inputs. This time I went with the heavy steering option and, to be honest, there was only a slight difference in terms of feel compared with the medium setting. There was enough power in this 1,6-litre engine to make overtaking a hassle-free exercise, but I am still keen to see how the 2,5-litre 5-cylinder T5 will perform.
As with most Volvo models, the V40 bristles with state-of-the-art safety technologies. In the case of the V40, these include a revised version of the company’s City Safety radar-actuated braking module, which now operates at speeds of up to 50 km/h, blind spot assistance and an all-new pedestrian airbag. It forms a large cushion at the base of the V40’s windscreen onto which the pedestrian can fall (see attached video at the top the of the article). The bag is U-shaped so as not to interfere with the driver’s line of sight when deployed.
Details of each trim level as well as local pricing will be revealed at the local launch in November, but early indications suggest that we can expect pricing to commence at just under R300 000 with the range-topping model coming in at under R400 000. The T3, T4 (both manual) and D2 (Geartronic) will be available in South Africa in November 2012, going on sale from the 1st of December. Late January will see the arrival of the T5 and the D3, as well as Geartronics for the T3 and T4 models.
Model: Volvo V40 D2 manual
Engine: 1 560 cm3 four-cylinder turbodiesel
Power/Torque: 86 kW/270 N.m + 15 N.m on overboost
Fuel consumption: 3,6 litres/100 km*
CO2: 94 g/km*
* manufacturer’s claimed figures