The Volvo V40 might not be the current go-to choice for car buyers in the competitive family hatchback market, but with two new class-leading engines the manufacturer is looking to shake things up.

With Swedish good looks, a beautiful interior and impressive power plants that blend strong performance and economy, the V40 makes a slightly leftfield choice for buyers looking to stand out from the crowd.

What is it?

The V40 is a five-door, five-seat hatchback, which offers ample space for all the family while not compromising on performance. As you would expect from a Volvo, it’s packed with top-class safety features and efficiency, including the world’s first pedestrian airbag, which emerges from under the bonnet.

Sitting between mainstream rivals like the Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra and the more upmarket Audi A3 and BMW 1 Series, the Volvo V40 offers a comfortable drive with a sporty edge.

For those downsizing the V40 may be compact in dimensions, but with the more powerful engines available it packs a punch when you put your foot down.

What is it like to drive?

Though Volvos traditionally place comfort over sporty handling the V40 is an extremely responsive car and will plant a smile on the face on most drivers. Surprisingly, the diesel engine in the 187bhp D4 felt more alert and racy than the 242bhp T5 petrol – soaring through the gears of the new 8-speed automatic gearbox.

However, the brand new petrol T5 is still a top performing engine, sounding fantastic and requiring just 6.1 seconds to hit 60mph. Given some open road it would have you thinking twice about whether you want one of its German rivals.

The V40 offers great handling around corners, with the low-set driving position and supportive seats leaving the driver with no doubt over who is in control. This Volvo feels incredibly capable around corners and can cope with whatever you throw at it – though rivals from BMW and Audi offer a more focused driving experience.

Volvo has invested heavily in developing new engines, with the D4 and T5 motors being two of the new units. As a result both engines provide strong acceleration along with class leading economy figures. Fuel economy stands at 47.9mpg for the petrol while the diesel returns a claimed figure of 74.3mpg in manual form though it can still sprint to 60mph in just 7.2 seconds. The D4 also has low enough CO2 emissions to warrant free road tax under current rules, something other similarly powerful cars in its class can’t get near.

What is it like inside?

This Swedish car would rival any German-built motor when it comes to quality and design. Sat inside the V40, you know this is a premium car that has been well thought out, with logically laid out controls and a good feeling of solidity.

The supportive seats offer high levels of comfort and hold you in place well around corners, adding to that racy feel.

Is it practical?

The V40 is one of the larger cars in its class and offers up good levels of space inside, along with a usefully sized boot – so you should be able to easily fit the whole family in.

Despite its sleek new look, the V40 is still hardy like Volvos of old and should be able to take a beating on the school run.

Should I buy one?

That depends. If you’re the sort of motorist that strives for individuality, appreciates classy design and wants one of the best diesel engines around, then the V40 D4 is worth a look.

Factor in excellent economy, low emissions and some entertaining driving dynamics and the V40 makes a very compelling argument for itself.

If you’re after a fast but still comfortable petrol machine then the V40 T5 also puts a strong case forward, though some rivals do offer a sharper driving experience – and lower prices, as the T5 is only available in range-topping trim.

Don’t want to buy new? You can browse for a used Volvo V40 here.

The facts

Volvo V40 D4 SE Lux Nav

List price: £27,770
Engine: 2.0-litre, 4 cylinder turbo diesel
Power: 187bhp
Top speed: 143mph
0-62mph: 7.4 secs
Fuel economy: 74.3 mpg (combined)
Emissions: 99g/km CO2
Euro NCAP rating: Five-star