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Volvo V40 T4

 

More so when you consider that the V40 is the most modern and technologically advanced model in Volvo’s range. It might be entry level, but it’s certainly not a poor cousin to the marque’s more expensive cars.

Base price: $52,990

Powertrain and performance: 2.0-litre petrol five-cylinder, 132kW/300Nm, 6-speed automatic, front-drive, Combined economy 7.6 litres per 100km, 0-100km/h 8.7 seconds.

Vital statistics: 4369mm long, 1420mm high, luggage capacity 334 litres, fuel tank 52 litres.

We like: Style, quality, engaging alternative to established rivals.

We don’t like: Fussy digital instrument panel, too much equipment is optional.

How it rates: 8/10

WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW?

You could be forgiven for thinking that Volvo was trying to confuse us all with its V40 badge. It started out on the marque’s entry-level sedan, but has since migrated to an all-new five-door hatchback – a car which is in fact a replacement for the old three-door C30.

Maybe it’s simpler to explain where it fits in relation to the competition, because that much is clear. The V40 is Volvo’s entry into the premium hatchback market and a rival for the Audi A3, BMW 1-series and Mercedes-Benz A-class. Not to mention some of the higher-end mainstream stuff like Volkswagen’s Golf.

WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE?

The V40 will be the last Volvo to share a platform with former parent company Ford: in this case it’s built on the underpinnings of the Focus.

That’s a big plus, because Focus is an astonishingly well-engineered small car and superb on the road. That’s not to say the V40 feels exactly the same: it’s been engineered for a Volvo feel, so the steering and chassis are less busy and more progressive. More premium, slightly less sporty.

The engine choices for V40 are a bit bewildering too – at least if you think a model name will tell you anything about what’s under the bonnet. Our test car was the T4, which does in fact have a 2.0-litre five-cylinder petrol engine.

In fact, every V40 for New Zealand is a five-pot: the D4 turbo diesel and the high-performance T5 R-Design.

The T4 doesn’t necessarily sound it, though. The characteristic thrum you might expect of a five-cylinder has been smoothed out quite a bit for this car. It’s a nicely linear power plant, even if the six-speed automatic can feel little lazy in urban running.

Worth noting that the D4 diesel has an extra 100Nm of torque and uses 2.3 litres less fuel per 100km. Although it does cost an extra $2000.

IS IT EASY TO LIVE WITH?

Volvo does superb interiors and the V40 is no exception: high quality materials, simple and elegant controls and fantastic seats. Oddly, the headline feature in the car’s interior is perhaps the only thing that also comes across as a bit gimmicky: a digital instrument panel that changes in layout depending on which of the three drive modes you choose. You try it a couple of times and then leave it alone.

As you might expect, the V40 is one of the high scoring-ever cars in crash tests, thanks to thorough design and clever stuff like an external bonnet airbag for pedestrian protection.

As you also might expect, it’s available with a whole range of driver assistance features that make it not only super-safe but also very easy to live with.

The bad news is that most of the really impressive stuff is optional: adaptive cruise with automatic braking and collision mitigation, pedestrian detection for the City Safe system, blind spot and lane-departure warning all come at extra cost.

As does some basic stuff (at least for a premium model) like front parking radar, a rear camera, keyless entry and gas-discharge lights. Even a first aid kit is $110!

SHOULD I BUY ONE?

The V40 certainly seems like the intelligent and interesting choice in a segment populated by established names. If you roll your eyes at the thought of an Audi, BMW or Mercedes-Benz, they might light up when you think about a stylish little Volvo.

More so when you consider that the V40 is the most modern and technologically advanced model in Volvo’s range. It might be entry level, but it’s certainly not a poor cousin to the marque’s more expensive cars.

So what’s not to like? Perhaps only the need to consult the options list so carefully (and perhaps comprehensively). True, the V40 is great value and one of the safest cars on the road already. But the really advanced safety kit, the kind that a Volvo buyer might want and expect, comes at extra cost.


EQUIPMENT CHECKLIST

Air conditioning: Dual climate

Audio: CD, iPod compatible

Blind spot warning: No

Bluetooth: Yes

Cruise control: Yes

Driver footrest: Yes

Gas discharge headlights: No

Head-up display: No

Heated/ventilated seats: No

Keyless entry/start: No

Lane guidance: No

Leather upholstery: Yes

Parking radar: Rear

Power boot or tailgate: No

Power seat adjustment/memory: Yes/Yes

Remote audio controls: Yes

Satellite navigation: No

Seat height adjustment: Yes

Self-parking technology: No

Split/folding rear seats: 60/40

Steering reach adjustment: Yes

Stop-start: Yes

Trip computer: Yes

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