Friday, 15 February 2013

REVIEW - Volvo V40 SE Nav

The latest addition to the Volvo model line up is the V40. This is a focus-sized car with an aim of getting into this segment which Volvo hasn't really done for a while. The closest they came was with the C30, but this is more aimed toward the Scirocco-sized cars with 4 seats. The prospect of the V40 is exciting enough on paper, and when it arrived the realism was even better. Finished in an awesome looking 'Raw Copper' it looked amazing, and knowing that it had a 1.6-litre turbo engine I couldn't wait to take it out for a spin. Read on to see what I thought...


Looks - 10/10

What a great job Volvo has done in styling the V40. It has that familiarity of a Volvo which can be seen across the current range, but also gives off a bold, revolutionary sense of style as well. On the outside the whole car looks low, wide and sleek. There's great attention to detail as well. From the shark fin aerial to the colour coded washer jets on the bonnet, every little thing has been thought of. The washer jets were particularly interesting as there are three of them. It's a little touch but they make big impacts. The rear-end styling is as bold as the front end, and the gloss black blends nicely with the tinted rear window. The diffuser and twin exhausts on my test model were a nice touch too, it could have just used some nicer alloys. These are available as an optional extra and can really add a finishing touch to the exterior styling.

On the inside the modernity and boldness continues, again with the touches of familiarity from other Volvo models. For example, the centre console with the gap behind can be found on several models. The clear finish on the gear stick is similar to that in the XC60 I recently reviewed. Yet there are bold differences too. The instrument panel is one unlike any I have ever seen before. Completely digital, it's stunning. It is functional and practical as well, and you can customize it to an extent (choosing average figures over instant or trip figures for fuel consumption etc). Another impressive feature is the ability to choose the colour of the ambient interior lighting. There are several to choose from, and it's not something you'd notice if you couldn't change it. But you can, and that's cool. The materials are all high quality and there are some nifty storage areas such as the rear cupholders which add a nice classy touch.

Handling/Performance - 10/10

This V40 was the first petrol-engined Volvo I had ever come into contact with. I love their diesel engines but was a bit reserved knowing a petrol was coming. Would it be a match for the diesel units? Could it offer as good a driving experience? The answer to both of these questions is a big fat yes as it turns out. My test car was fitted with a 1.6-litre turbocharged T4 engine. This means you get a lovely 180PS and 240Nm of torque. Not too shabby for a 1600. 0-62mph will take a respectable 7.7 seconds and the top speed is 140mph. So on paper the V40 certainly looks relatively exciting; how would the real life compare? I can tell you that you will never be disappointed when you put your foot down in the T4. There is virtually no lag, and once the revs climb the power seems endless. Accelerating at low revs is responsive, get past 4,000rpm and you really move. The 6-speed box means you can work the engine nicely and always have that oomph if you need it. Whilst the usual 5-pot diesel noise is gone, there is still a nice note from the engine.

What about the handling? Well I found the V40 incredible to drive. You can tell this car was designed with a quality drive in mind. The steering is nicely weighted, with a sharp turn in. This means you can stick the nose of the car into the bend exactly as you wish to. The V40 offered lots of grip and you had a good feel of what the wheels were thinking; when they were about to let go. Understeer is subsequently avoided by utilising this communication from the road and adjusting throttle accordingly. That said though, you would have to be travelling somewhat to get the V40 to lose grip, because you can stick it into corners at quite impressive speeds. The sports suspension was firm, but not uncomfortable. On the motorway you can cruise easily, but on a country road at speed you can feel the bumps, which is good. The best thing about this car was that keeping it on the power band, you really could have an awesome time. A good A-road blast in the V40 cheered me up to no end, and I appreciate any car which does this well.

Economy - 8/10

The V40 T4 is not as thirsty as you might imagine from a turbocharged petrol engine. Partly this is down to it only being a 1.6-litre and partly down to Volvo and it's clever technology. This car has start/stop technology which helps save the fuel when you're in traffic. What I do believe is the biggest advantage of this technology though, is the resulting reduction in CO2 emissions, leading to lower road tax. On to the figures then. The T4 petrol emits 129g/km CO2, putting it in VED band D. 12 Months road tax will cost you £100 and that's not bad at all for a car that performs like this one does. The T4 also sips fuel on a combined cycle at a rate of 51.4mpg which is very reasonable too. Do be warned though, that being heavy with your right foot will see this figure drop somewhat. Overall the T4 is good and scores an 8, simply because you would have to use the power sometimes! It's too tempting.
 
Practicality - 10/10

Another area where the V40 excels is when it comes to practicality. The cabin is full of space as you would expect from a car this size. All passengers will be comfortable, and I had no issues in the 'sitting behind myself' test. Whilst at 5'9" I am not the tallest person in the world it is still a valid test I assure you! The boot is large and my car came fitted with the versatile boot floor whereby there is some hidden space but then a flat loading area which can be extended (but remains flat) when the rear seats are folded.

Other elements of practicality are the parking sensors and host of other gadgetry such as bluetooth, adaptive cruise control, heated seats, auto wipers, lights, lane warning, Volvo's clever blind spot information system and keyless entry/go. The list could continue but you may be several years older by the time it finished. Instead I trust you can ascertain the V40 is well equipped...

Fun - 8/10

In case my comments about blasting down A-roads wasn't enough of a clue, I shall make it clearer; the V40 was great fun to drive. Once you were in it and found a nice road you could have a great time. Where it fell down (slightly) was in that it never really made you want to drive for no reason at all. I like a car that urges you to grab the keys at every opportunity, and the V40 just didn't quite do it. The gadgetry means that any drive will be heaps of fun and getting to know them all is a good experience; it nearly took my whole week with the car! I think an 8 is a good score here, and should be message to the non-believers out there that Volvo are no longer cars for crumblies. They can offer the style and substance to cater for modern man and a much younger demographic than in previous years.

Concluding Remarks

Overall then, the V40 ticked a lot of boxes for me. It was stylish, sleek and crammed with technology to the point of bursting. I like the direction Volvo are heading and hope it continues with future models. Having raved about all the diesel engines in the past, it was nice to finally experience a petrol model. Those of you out there who prefer petrol will be glad to know that Volvo have great engines here too, and are well worth considering if the diesel isn't your cup of tea. So go on. If you like modern, style and quality, then the V40 will be right up your street. For any more information head over to Volvo's website or go to a dealer. Test drive the V40 in petrol or diesel, just go out there and experience that drive. In summary, the V40 could just become a revolutionary style icon in Volvo's model history.

Total Score - 46/50

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