The Volvo V40 came to be in 1995, as a wagon version of the then-new S40, which replaced the 440/460 series. The name was retired in 2004, when the second-generation wagon was renamed V50, but it returned in 2012. The new V40, however, was developed as a hatchback instead of a full-fledged wagon, and was aimed at the likes of the BMW 1 Series and Audi A3. Volvo also launched a Cross Country version with protective body panels, bigger wheels, and an increased ride height for crossover enthusiasts. Four years have passed since the modern, hatchback V40 arrived in dealerships and Volvo has prepared an updated iteration for the 2016 Geneva Motor Show.
Just ‘cos we knew you’d balk a little at the thought, we went ahead and got us this gorgeous V40 R-Design in Rebel Blue – to show you how its done. The result – traffic (human as well as motorized) came to a standstill as she glided into the parking lot. This curvy beauty has got some hot lines and the right details to teach a thing or two to people whose world of exotics ends with all things Italian. One glance and you’ll be sold – the V40 really is that heart-achingly pretty. So besotted we were with her sexy curves that we hardly got any sleep that night, having spent it dreaming about those looks. We were up with the first rays of the sun and boy, did she take our breath away. It was going to be a Happy Friday indeed!
Long, wide and low; the V40 seems to hug the road as she goes. Our car had the R-Design package, which included the 17inch Ixion’s in Matte Tech Black. Volvo’s designers have not missed a single step in penning these beautiful lines and as a result, there’s no way you can spot a bad angle when gazing in her direction – flawless beauty, that’s the V40. The car is an ideal blend of both beauty and subtle aggression that we found ourselves staring at her for hours.
The tear-drop shaped headlights are the first thing you notice when approaching the V40 from the front. The eyes then follow in multiple directions at the same time. You notice the way the bonnet bulge flows into the wheel-arch at the front, the eyes following the belt-line down the flanks and into those mesmerizing boomerang shaped tail-lamp units out back. There’s an almost coupe-like feel to the V40, thanks to the swooping roof line.
There’s the R-Design specific grille with subtle-chrome, the specially designed bumper and those uniquely shaped DRL’s. A slimmer number plate would have worked wonders rather than the current one that gives you an eye-sore, but then you can’t quite argue with statutory regulations. All-in-all, the V40, particularly in this R-Design package feels like she’s going at warp-speed, even as you’re still sitting there at the signal or in the parking lot. The designers have done exceedingly well in injecting just the right amount of aggression into the V40’s visual cues to give the impression of a powerful, yet breath achingly sophisticated animal ready to pounce at any moment. Move over A-Class, you’ve got some serious Scandinavian competition.
The interiors feel familiar and aren’t quite as radical as what you see outside. Volvo’s trademark floating centre console continues and it has those likeable humanoid shaped aircon controls. The driving position is comfortable and all the controls fall to hand well. I like the fact that the seats not only manage to be both soft and enveloping but also offer good support in the corners. The all-digital instrument cluster with swappable themes was state of the art when it debuted a couple of years back and it’s still very nice but not quite as sharp or comprehensive as the fantastic unit in the new Audi TT. In an attempt to lower costs, the V40 gets a smaller 5-inch screen on the centre console against the Cross Country’s 7-inch display.
Also, there’s no reverse camera — that comes for an extra Rs71k. But the Volvo does come with a usable automatic parallel parking feature that makes all the steering and throttle inputs for you while you just have to control the brakes. It may not have the extroverted design of an A-Class but this is a high quality and well thought out cabin.
The dramatic roofline and tiny windows don’t make for a very comfy rear space. Head room is at a premium and knee-room is just about acceptable. A high centre tunnel also makes it cramped for the middle passenger. I wouldn’t mind spending an evening around town in the back seat but long drives would get tedious. Boot space is reasonably spacious and should swallow light luggage for four.
Unlike the S60 and XC60 that have made the switch to Volvo’s latest four-cylinder diesel engines, both versions of the V40 in India are offered with the older five-cylinder diesel engine. It’s a 2-litre engine that produces 148bhp and 35.7kgm; figures that are higher than what the 1-series’ 2-litre and A-Class’ 2.2-litre diesels make. While it’s not particularly enthusiastic in the way it revs, the engine comes across as strong with more than sufficient go available at all speeds. Complementing the engine’s characteristics well is the V40’s six speed gearbox. It’s not the fastest shifting of auto units, but gearshifts in full-auto mode are always timely. There are no paddle shifters here, but you can take manual control when needed, with the Tiptronic function. The gearbox will let you hold revs at 4,900rpm for a bit before it upshifts on its own. In terms of refinement, the Volvo’s engine does trail the competition’s motors; five-cylinder set-ups, as the one on use here, can get loud.
With engine power channelled to the front wheels, the Volvo isn’t quite as entertaining to drive as the rear-wheel-drive 1-series. That said, the dynamics here are good, there’s reassuring weight to the steering, and stability on the straights and corners is impressive. In fact, the V40 comes across as a car that can easily deal with more power. In city driving though, the V40’s relatively large turning circle can be an issue when attempting a tight U-turn.
What also goes against the V40, to an extent, is its ride quality. While the suspension is absorbent and pliant, there’s an ever-present firmness to the ride. As a result, the V40 can’t filter out surface imperfections as well as its rivals.
DRIVING DYNAMICS ;
The surprise comes in how the V40 drives. Starting out with a Focus-derived platform is a smart move, for it breeds in a high level of ability right from the off . Volvo has simply enhanced this with some well-judged tuning of springs and dampers to create one of the most likeable upmarket family hatchbacks on sale. It’s a blend of tidy handling and absorbent ride quality that few manage to hit. Under the bonnet, fizzy turbo petrol engines are fun too – both Ecoboost motors come straight from the Focus – but diesels will naturally sell best. The 1.6 is OK but the real hitis the new D4 four-cylinder engine. This exceptional engine is smooth, eager and hot-hatch fast (the 0-60 dash takes 7.0 seconds) yet somehow blends it with high economy and low CO2. Amazing.
SAFETY AND SECURITY ;
This hatchback has countless safety aspects that maximizes protection levels of its passengers. Its frontal structure is designed in a way that it absorbs the impact and reduces effects on driver and other occupants. Safety belts are offered along with pre-tensioners and load limiters, while it has dual stage front airbags along with side and curtain airbags. The firm has also loaded it with whiplash protection system, remote controlled central locking system, side impact protection bars and an alarm, which is connected to its doors, boot as well as bonnet. It comes with the city safety package that includes aspects like lane departure warning, park assist, and adaptive cruise control to name a few. Moreover, it has energy absorbing interiors wherein, all the door sides and panels come padded with tough materials that absorb energy and minimizes risk of injury to a great extent. Meanwhile, the anti-submarining protection system ensures its passengers stay safe from sliding under and out of their safety belts in case of an impact. Some advanced aspects like dynamic stability and traction control are also offered, which prevents the vehicle from skidding besides keeping it stable in different driving conditions. In addition to all these, several other significant features are available in this model. These include emergency brake lights, reinforced passenger compartment, laser assisted automatic braking, ABS, intelligent driver information system, seat belt reminder, emergency brake assist, restraint technologies, collapsible steering column, private locking and driver support package as well.
Volvo has done a clever job by introducing the V40 regular hatch after launching the Cross Country in India. The latter has got decent popularity in the country among other premium hatchbacks and the V40 further amplifies the young and sporty appeal with its athletic new styling. You get more attention than you would expect from a car at this price point and people are curious to know the brand as well, which is a positive thing. Some features are missing but there are many distinct and useful gadgets which compensate very well. Power is in abundance and you would never ever feel the need of more power. All in all, it is quite a desirable car for enthusiasts as well as people looking for a premium hatch to break the mundane.