Volvo V40 green car reviewJuly 17, 2012
17 July 2012 by
Model/Engine size: D2
Fuel economy combined: 78.5 mpg
Beating Spirit rating: 9/10
Volvo V40 Introduction
The all-new Volvo V40 is – at last – the company’s contender in the vital C-segment hatchback class, and in the case of the D2 it combines low emissions of just 94g/km CO2 and 78.5mpg with an upmarket feel.
Volvo V40 Summary
• Upmarket feel
• Very low emissions in the case of the D2
• Rest of the diesel engine range offers smooth, five-cylinder power delivery, still with low emissions
• Top spec models look good, but 94g/km version suffers visually with small wheels
Volvo V40 Background
Almost unbelievably, until now Volvo hasn’t had a car in the vital five-door family hatchback segment. However the V40 changes all of that. The V40 replaces the S40 and V50 (the C30 three-door hatch continues) and is Volvo’s first all-new product since the company’s ties with Ford ended, and ownership by Chinese company Geely started. Volvo is very much pitching the V40 as a premium product to rival the likes of the BMW 1 Series and Audi A3.
Volvo V40 Design & Engineering
Design and styling is a subjective thing, but
the V40 seems to be generally accepted by most observers as a good-looking car
. We’d agree that the top-spec models look good, but the 94g/km D2 model still suffers from small wheel syndrome, with its standard 16-inch wheels marking it out as an eco-special car.
The exterior is instantly recognisable as a Volvo, with the brand’s design cues that have been translated successfully into a modern family hatchback package. The interior has a genuine upmarket feel compared to virtually all rivals in its class, and a sense of understated individuality. The rear-view mirror without any form of surround is a perfect example of the fresh Scandinavian design that Volvo is so proud of . In terms of interior technology, we did have difficulty trying to reset features such as the trip meter, the fuel economy readout and the dash display colours – it would be good if such controls were more intuitive.
Of course the terms ‘Volvo’ and ‘design and engineering’ can’t appear together without mentioning safety. True to the brand’s core values, the V40 has a long list of safety features to aid the driver, although it is possible to delve into the car’s menu and turn many of them off if you find that they intrude too much on the driving experience. The V40 is also the world’s first car with a pedestrian airbag , which deploys in order to protect the head of an unlucky pedestrian from striking the windscreen and A-pillars. The V40 is also the only model in its class to have City Safety as standard and Pedestrian Detection, effective at speeds of up to 22mph. There’s also a Cross Traffic Alert radar system which helps you see traffic coming from the side in the event of having to reverse out of a parking space.
Volvo V40 Driving Experience
Our main focus on the V40 launch was the D2 model, as this is class-leading in terms of economy and emissions (and will be the best-selling model). The V40 D2 has a 115hp 1.6-litre PSA-sourced diesel engine, and although performance is adequate, it certainly doesn’t feel effortless. This is in contrast to the other engines in the diesel range, which, thanks to their five-cylinder configuration, make a great noise and feel powerful and refined – yet they still have relatively low emissions.
The V40 launch took place in Snowdonia, and although the D2 model proved to be a pleasant and comfortable and place to be, it was only when the higher-powered 150hp D3 and 177hp D4 models were tried that the V40’s full driving capabilities were unearthed. The soundtrack of the D3 and D4 engines make the V40 feel from a class above the C-segment. Apart from the welcome five-cylinder burble, the V40 is well insulated from exterior noise. Its chassis also seems to do a good job of insulating the car’s occupants from road imperfections; its comfortable ride is another feature which helps to provide an upmarket ambience for a car of this class. The more powerful engines allowed the V40’s impressive handling to be exploited, and even the steering has more feel than would normally be expected from a Volvo. We also tried a D3 with automatic transmission, and this again heightened the premium feeling.
On the launch, Volvo was very brave, and provided a range of competitors’ cars to drive for comparison purposes. There was even a BMW 1 Series. It would be a tough act for the V40 to beat the rear-wheel drive 1 Series in the area of outright driving dynamics, but the majority of people who buy cars in this class don’t have rear-wheel drive handling at the top of their wish list. So taking this issue out of the equation the V40 is probably the most comfortable all-round car in class, and it actually does a pretty good job of being a convincing upmarket alternative to the current players.
Volvo V40 Economy and Emissions
The Volvo V40 D2 emits just 94g/km CO2 and returns an official 78.5mpg. These are the figures for the car with 205 tyres. With 225 tyres, the emissions are 99g/km with 74.3mpg. After some progressive driving through Snowdonia, the D2 returned an average of 51mpg, which is impressive in such an environment. For ‘premium’ family hatchbacks, this is a class-leading figure, and with low Benefit-in-Kind rates, this car should appeal to company car drivers, as well as Londoners while the current Congestion Charge exemption rule applies .
So the D2 is our favourite model then? No. The D3 model has a power output of 150hp, and the D4 produces 177hp, yet both emit just 114g/km CO2 and return a highly respectable 65.7mpg. They’re smoother, more powerful, and they sound great. If you can afford the extra purchase price, the D4 would be our choice as it combines low emissions with a much more enjoyable driving experience. It should be noted that with automatic transmission, the emissions of the D3 or D4 climb to 136g/km.
Volvo V40 Price, Equipment and Model Range
The Volvo V40 comes in five-door hatchback form only, with a choice of petrol or diesel engines, manual or automatic transmission, and in three different trim levels – ES, SE and SE Lux. The entry level ES has City Safety, Pedestrian Airbag, Bluetooth hands-free, High Performance Audio, Electronic Climate Control, leather steering wheel and a cooled glovebox as standard. Most V40s are expected to be diesel, in fact Volvo reckons that 63% of all UK purchases will be the 94g/km D2 model. Most V40s are also predicted to be company car purchases. Presumably related to this, all models get Bluetooth as standard. Prices start at £19,745 and rise to £26,795 for the D4 SE Lux Nav. Volvo claims that the V40 is the cheapest car in its class when it is specification-adjusted, and residual values are predicted to be strong.
Volvo V40 Conclusion
The Volvo V40 is a comfortable family hatchback with a distinctive brand and design style. The 94g/km D2 should appeal to company car buyers. However the 150hp D3 and 177hp D4 models have engines that are much smoother, more powerful, and with their five-cylinder soundtrack, they sound as though they are from a class above, yet with 114g/km CO2 and 65.7mpg they still have low emissions and great fuel economy.
So if we were buying a fleet of company cars to live their life up and down the nation’s motorways, we’d choose the D2. If it was our own car then we’d choose the D3 or D4, and with larger wheel sizes, they also look better. For offering a genuinely appealing alternative to the existing cars in this class, along with low emissions, the Volvo V40 gets a Beating Spirit rating of 9 out of 10.
Car Facts and Figures
Volvo V40 D2 data
Fuel economy extra urban: 83.1 mpg
Fuel economy urban: 70.6 mpg
CO2 emissions: 94 g/km
Green rating: VED band A – £0 first year
Weight: 1381 Kg
Company car tax liability (2012/13): tbc
Insurance group: tbc
Power: 115 bhp
Max speed: 118 mph
0-62mph: 12.3 seconds
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