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How much? £19,475
On sale in the UK: Now
Engine: 1560cc 8v turbodiesel 4-cyl, 113bhp@ 3600rpm, 199lb ft @ 1750-2500rpm
Transmission: Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Performance: 12.3sec 0-62mph, 118mph, 78.5mpg, 94g/km
How heavy / made of? 1381kg/steel
How big (length/width/height in mm)? 4369/1802/1445
Need to know

CAR's rating

Rated 4 out of 54

Handling

Rated 4 out of 54

Performance

Rated 4 out of 54

Usability

Rated 4 out of 54

Feelgood factor

Rated 4 out of 54

Readers' rating

Rated 3.5 out of 53.5

Volvo V40 (2013) CAR review

By Georg Kacher

First Drives

21 January 2013 09:36

This is the new Volvo V40, a five-door family hatchback that Volvo wants to challenge the Audi A3 Sportback and Mercedes A-class.

Is this the first Chinese Volvo?

No, despite Volvo being Chinese-owned. Confusingly, the new car was conceived in 2008 when Volvo was still owned by Ford, so there’s plenty of residual Focus DNA in there (the Chinese don’t fully get their way until the next XC90 in 2015). But Ford would have pitched the V40 a class above the Focus, as an Audi A3 Sportback or BMW 1-series rival, so the bar is set high. Can it compete?

It certainly looks the part – pretty, slippery and functional, with a rather cool Nordic interior blending high-quality materials with trademark styling cues and decent packaging. But it lacks a truly modern approach to ergonomics  – instead of offering an intuitive single multi-functional controller, it has the same over-crowded multi-button centre stack as its sister models.

Do lots of buttons mean plenty of tech in the Volvo V40?

There’s no shortage of tech, though, including so many optional driver-assistance systems you almost don’t need to be there. Barely a moment passes without a beep, flash or tug at the wheel confirming that the car has everything under control. There’s lane assist, an automatic parking aid (which swivels you in and out of tight spaces), fatigue sensor, rear-mounted radar sensors, active decelerate-to-stop cruise control, and an emergency brake function with pedestrian recognition, to name but a few.
It’s not all nannying though; some of the driver-assistants are designed to assist the driver in actually enjoying the drive. The extra-cost adjustable steering force device (selected through the ‘My Car’ sub-menu) offers Low, Medium and High settings, the latter striking an okay balance between steering input and response. And the new TFT instrument cluster can be personalised: Elegance presents a mix of classic analogue readouts, Performance switches the speedo to digital and lights up in red, and Eco turns the display green and ‘bigs up’ average mpg information, ‘rewarding’ pussy-footed drivers with a glowing E crowned by a stylised diamond.

What's the Volvo V40's engine line-up?

There are four petrol and three diesel engines in the V40 range, from the potent 252bhp T5, via a 213bhp T5, a 178bhp T4 a 148bhp T4, 175bhp D4, 148bhp D3 all the way down to the 113bhp D2, which is fitted with a remarkably economical 1560cc turbodiesel. Whereas T4 and D2 are available with the six-speed Powershift dual-clutch transmission, both T5s come with a standard torque converter auto ’box which is an option for D3 and D4.

What are the Volvo V40's engines like on the move?

The D2 is not a bad engine, a happily thrumming, low-end oil burner, but it struggles with a 1400kg car and doesn’t much fancy pulling away in second at low revs. The D4 is better, and its automatic ’box is quite good, changing up quite late when in Sport mode. Paddles would improve it though. The petrol engines all share a cute overboost function, which whips up 10% more torque under full throttle over a wide rev range, inching the V40 into perky territory.

How does the Volvo V40 handle?

The ride is nicely compliant and supple, providing exactly the right mix between contact and comfort, despite the high-end 18in wheels. Dynamically, there is not much wrong with the V40. Just about our only complaint concerns the electronic dimmers which have infected the stability programme, traction control and, to an extent, the electric power steering. It’s a Volvo thing: yaw control, corner traction control and advanced stability control are coveted active safety wizardries, not artificially flavoured killjoys. Reducing the DSTC interference helps (you cannot switch it off completely), and so does choosing a more defensive line, selecting a more progressive torque feed and changing up to a higher gear whenever possible. These driving-style adjustments suit the character of the car which is very non-aggressive, fluent and homogenous. Steering, brakes, throttle, clutch and transmission are well matched in terms of effort and response. It feels right. The handling is neutral but not at all boring, there’s no steering fight, and grip and traction are strong. A likeable drive.

Verdict

The V40 is indeed a sensible car, good enough to challenge its rivals and also Chinese successors yet to come.

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Average rating: Rated 3.5 out of 53.5 (12 votes)

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bertandnairobi

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bertandnairobi says

RE: Volvo V40 (2013) CAR review

Overcomplex front graphics and sculpting: check

Tiny rear window: check.

Sharply raising waistline to make children in the back feel like they are trapped in a well: check.

Space-wasting tumble home: check.

Fussy door casings: check.

Busy and cluttered IP, disimprovement on previous model: check.

Stupid big wheels to make ride "sporty": check.

Well done, chaps. Styling triumphs over design, again. Well done Volvo.

22 January 2013 14:22

 

jer

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jer says

RE: Volvo V40 (2013) CAR review

 I like this hatch but with a decent motor the prices are silly.

22 January 2013 11:16

 

typos1

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typos1 says

RE: Volvo V40 (2013) CAR review

Whats new about this ? Its been out for ages

21 January 2013 20:48

 

Ray_A

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Ray_A says

RE: Volvo V40 (2013) CAR review

A bit of a rubbish review. How big is the boot? What's the ride like in the back? What's the build quality like?

 

Anyway, I agree with CarMobster and others. This is a classy car. I'd take it over the Merc A Class (overwrought), BMW 1 series (ugly) and Audi A3 (boring) as well as the VW Golf (just). It's just more interesting. Just not in white, though. It may not be able to carry domestic appliances, but I'd rather my car didn't look like one...

21 January 2013 16:48

 

oopnorth

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oopnorth says

RE: Volvo V40 (2013) CAR review

 I'm a bit confused as to why Mr Kacher is describing this car as new to the market when Car has had one on test (12 registered at that, so roughly 6+ months on the market so far?) for a few months?

21 January 2013 16:32

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