Chris Miller road tests and reviews the Volvo V40 T5.
The premium small car market is a crowded segment with flashy offerings from Audi, Mercedes and BMW, but Volvo’s V40 stacks up as one of the best of the bunch.
Beautifully styled, the V40 is arguably the best-looking Volvo on the market at the moment, and with a great Swedish build quality, innovative safety features and an engaging drive experience, it ticks lots of boxes.
Pricing for the V40 kicks off at $34,990 before on roads, although the top-spec Volvo V40 T5 as tested opens the batting at $49,990, with the press car also fitted with the optional $5000 Driver Support Pack.
Under the bonnet in the T5 is a familiar engine; a 2.5 litre turbo charged DOHC 5-cylinder producing a very healthy and very usable 187kW and 360Nm. Still found in some Ford models, and powering some of Volvo’s larger and heavier SUV’s, the 5-cylinder is a tried and tested unit that gives the V40 a unique, loveable character with plenty of punch.
The 6-speed adaptive Geartronic transmission is intuitive and always seems to be in the right gear. There is a manual shift option, but no flappy paddles.
The five-cylinder is reasonably economical and Volvo’s claim of 8.1 litres per 100km is achievable, but with the alluring reserves of power it’s hard not to be tempted, and in the case of our test car 9.5 -10 litres per 100km was more the norm, even with the standard stop-start technology.
On the road the Volvo is a delight. There is the occasional appearance of torque steer (when the power delivered through the front wheels tugs on the steering wheel), but it’s not something that’s overly intrusive.
It’s a nimble car that easily changes direction and has a balance that is hard to upset. It corners flat with little evidence of body roll while at the same time has a relatively plush ride that only the worst roads can disrupt.
Coil springs with MacPherson struts up front and independent rear suspension is well tuned to Aussie roads and provides a confident, capable little car.
It’s quick too with 100km/h flashing up in just 6.1 seconds and a limited top speed of 250km/h. It pulls up just as well with front and rear ventilated disc brakes that continue to perform time after time with no evidence of fading.
Inside the cabin luxury touches remind you this is no $20k drive away special. A brilliant fit and finish, high-grade plastics and swathes of high quality leather, combined with intelligently placed switchgear, decent visibility and big supportive electric seats ensure you’re in doubt of the Volvo’s pedigree.
The central control panel for the audio and climate systems is busy, but logical and easy to adapt to. The digital gauges behind the steering wheel change appearance and layout depending on the mode you’re in.
Sports mode has the rev counter front and centre with a large speed readout in the middle, while eco mode does away with the tacho all together and provides fuel economy stats and a more traditional looking speedo.
The theatre lighting and illuminated gear shift knob add to the drama while the premium sound package is a rocking ten speaker unit with the ability to make your ears bleed.
You’ll also find auto Bi-xenon headlights with automatic high beam and an active bending light function, meaning the lights always point in the same direction as the steering wheel, a memory function for the seats, auto dimming rear view mirror, and electric and retractable wing mirrors with built in puddle lights.
The auto wipers function was about the only annoyance as they turn themselves off every time the car is turned off, meaning you have to turn the auto function back on every time the car is started.
The V40 is not a big car but the interior space is impressive, particularly up front with plenty of head, leg and shoulder room. The back is compromised a little with the sloping roofline and tight legroom unless the front pews are pushed all the way forward.
Cargo space isn’t bad but it’s not class leading.
The V40 ups the ante in the safety stakes and is undoubtedly the best in the segment. City Safety will automatically brake the car from speeds of up to 50km/h if it detects an object, brilliant in avoiding the most common nose to tail accidents, although boom gates can spook it into operation.
The V40 also boasts the world first Pedestrian air-bag technology along with two full-length inflatable curtain air-bags, and SIPS (Side Impact Protection System) which includes air-bags in the front seats and a driver’s knee air-bag.
The optional Drivers support pack provides a blind spot warning system, adaptive cruise control with collision warning and full automatic braking function, and a cross traffic alert which is brilliant when reversing out of car parks with limited vision.
There is also a Park Assist pilot, which will automatically park the Volvo for you, and it is one of the best examples of this technology in the business.
The Volvo V40 is a ripper car, but it is up against some serious competition. The great thing about it is, it takes up the fight with an impressive arsenal of engineering and equipment, and for something a little left of centre yet equally as accomplished as its rivals, the V40 would be a clever choice that won’t disappoint.
NUTS and BOLTS
Engine: Turbo-charged 2.5 litre 5-Cylinder developing 187kW and 360Nm
Transmission: 6-Speed Automatic
Safety: 5 Star ANCAP
Warranty: 3 years
Price: From $34,990