Downgrading that big family saloon to a more compact hatchback doesn’t necessarily mean you have to compromise on elegant design, superior interior comfort and excellent practicality. The big German marques all have a quality hatchback on offer: The Audi A3, the BMW 1-series and now the all-new Mercedes A-Class are available to discerning customers and then, from Sweden, there’s this… the often forgotten Volvo V40.   

What is it?

This well-made, almost luxurious hatchback is a great alternative to the usual German suspects as it is offered in a wide variety of petrol and diesel engines and a great array of trim levels. Our particular test model was the sporty R-Design that is decked out in striking Rebel Blue, features chunky alloys and boasts a firmer sports chassis for a more involved driving experience. It’s all a little bit pointless when mated to the tiny D2 four-cylinder diesel engine but more about that later.  

What is it like to drive?

The V40 is a very comfortable, extremely well put together piece of kit that provides both a very easy and extremely relaxing drive. The 115bhp D2 diesel engine in our test model was brilliantly frugal (we managed a fantastic 52mpg average) but it felt underpowered. The lack of torque meant the gearbox needed to be worked fairly hard – which was no bad thing given the slick action of the stumpy shifter – but it began to frustrate when overtaking or when requiring punch out of a slow corner. Perhaps the biggest bugbear comes in the form of numerous nannying drivers’ aids that insist on bleeping, bonging and flashing at the merest hint of a problem. Plus, being a Volvo, many of these features cannot be switched off so we’d recommend a long test drive before you fully commit to the cotton wool clutch of the Swedish machine.     

What is it like inside?

The V40 was already an extremely nice place to be with its simplistic button layout, plush fabrics and sturdy dashboard but the R-Design package takes things even further. The seats are sporty yet decked out in luxuriously soft leather, while neat little R-Design touches are scattered around the cabin to remind occupants of its limited edition appeal. The centre console is surrounded in neat, brushed aluminium panelling and there are multiple cubbyholes for storing coins, bottles, sunglasses and other documents. Passengers in the rear will enjoy plenty of head and legroom, while the centre armrest between backseat passengers folds down to create a leather-topped table complete with cup holders. It has an upmarket, executive feel that rivals even the highest specced German offerings.   

Is it practical?

Room in the boot isn’t enormous as legroom for rear passengers has clearly been a priority but it will happily swallow a buggy and a medium-sized shop. That said, the plush leather rear seats can be folded completely flat which creates a cavernous space for longer, bulkier items. Although the surfaces are swish in appearance, they are also extremely resilient to bumps and scrapes and being a Volvo, it offers a list of drivers’ aids and safety functions longer than most Dan Brown novels. Lane assist, collision detections, blind spot sensors… you name it, it has got it.

Should I buy one?

If you want something that not only looks good but offers a superbly comfortable drive and a track record for reliability, then yes. It’s a superb alternative to the glut of Audis, BMWs and Volkswagens out there and if you can accept the fact it’s a little on the pricey side and maybe not as practical as some of its rivals, then it won’t fail to impress.

Don't want to buy new? You can browse for a used Volvo V40 in our classifieds here.

The facts

Volvo V40 R-Design D2

List price: £23,845
Engine: 1.6-litre, four cylinder diesel
Power: 118bhp
Top speed: 125mph
0-62mph: 11.9 seconds
Fuel economy: 74.3mpg (urban), 91.1mpg (extra-urban) 83.1mpg (combined)
Emissions: 88g/km CO2
Euro NCAP rating: 5 stars (98% adult occupant, 75% child occupant, 88% pedestrian safety, 100% safety assist)

Leon Poultney


June 28, 2013

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