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How much? £23,545
On sale in the UK: Now
Engine: 1984cc 20v 5-cyl turbodiesel, 148bhp @ 3500rpm, 258lb ft @ 1750-2750rpm
Transmission: Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Performance: 9.6sec 0-62mph, 130mph, 65.7mpg, 114g/km
How heavy / made of? 1484kg/steel
How big (length/width/height in mm)? 4369/1802/1445
Need to know

CAR's rating

Rated 4 out of 54

Handling

Rated 3 out of 53

Performance

Rated 3 out of 53

Usability

Rated 3 out of 53

Feelgood factor

Rated 4 out of 54

Readers' rating

Rated 3 out of 53

Volvo V40 R-Design (2013) CAR review

By Ollie Kew

First Drives

29 January 2013 13:59

Volvo is rolling out its sporty trim level to the V40, with the launch of R-Design models. Think of R-design as Volvo’s answer to Audi’s S-line trim, or M Sport on a BMW. They look meaner, and punters are lured to them: 25% of British V40 hatch buyers on our shores are expected to tick the R-design box (compared with 10% of overseas punters).

CAR drove the Volvo V40 R-Design in D4 diesel and T3 petrol form to advise UK punters whether to tick the upgrade box.

What’s different about a Volvo V40 R-Design?

Outside, there’s a more aggressive front bumper with new LED running lights, and dummy rear diffusers sandwiched by twin exhaust pipes. Two-tone 17-inch wheels are standard-fit, with tasty diamond-cut 18s an option. Depending on the engine/model variant, R-Design will set you back an extra £430-2300

Inside you find a more sculpted steering wheel, attractive aluminium pedals and not-so-nice aluminium/blue striped dash inlays which look more like a foil chocolate wrapper ironed into the fascia surface than a crisp metallic highlight. Note to Volvo: your cabins do not require go-faster stripes. Still, you do get part-leather upholstery for the typically comfy seats. And gratuitous ‘R-design’ badging, naturally.

So the Volvo V40 R-Design gets no mechanical upgrades?

Just one in fact: you can have sports suspension for £500, which buys stiffer springs and a 10mm lowered ride height. More on how that affects the V40’s handling in a moment. But in short, R-design trim doesn’t turn your V40 into a hot hatch: you can spec it on everything from the lowly 94g/km, 78.5mpg (claimed) D2 diesel right through to the 178bhp T4 turbo petrol version.

The closest you’ll get a to a truly sporting V40 R-design is the £31,390 T5 model. Using a 250bhp petrol-fed turbocharged five-pot, it’s good for 62mph in 6.1secs, but its thirst and high entry price will make it a very niche choice in the UK.

Go on then, how does R-Design affect the Volvo V40’s drive?

For a start, save yourself £500 and don’t bother with the sport chassis option. While not exactly a bone-shaker, the lowered V40’s ride does suffer over Britain’s pockmarked network, and never really settles down and behaves at speed in the more composed way a regular V40 does. It’ll corner with less roll, and the V40 never feels like it’s going to get deflected into the scenery like some of its hard-riding German rivals, but it’s still a car set up for the family rather than B-road warriors.

Stick with regular R-design trim though, and the story’s rosier. Even on the 18-inch rims of our test cars, the V40 didn’t trade much ride comfort, or turn up road roar volume unduly at motorway speeds. Yes, it feels slightly less cushy than a lowly D2 on tiny 16-inch castors, but it’s perfectly acceptable, and besides, the body kit nicely enhances the V40’s doe-eyed styling.

Talk me through the rest of the Volvo V40 package

CAR tried the entry-level T3 petrol motor and top-spec D4 engines. To read our long-term running report of a regular V40 and the parsimonious D2 motor, click here.

Its brawnier five-cylinder D4 brother certainly sounds more appealing, and its 175bhp and 258lb ft look plenty. However, the maximum torque band only lasts from 1750rpm to 2750rpm, after which you’ll feel the urge surge tail off noticeably. Still, it requires less downshifting for overtakes and hills than the 113bhp D2 or 148bhp D3. Incidentally, that slick manual gearchange is a highlight of the V40’s dynamic repertoire, and more than reason enough to avoid the six-speed £1485 Geartronic auto, which slurs changes smoothly enough but doesn’t half pause to consider its options first.

Don’t automatically default to the diesel: there’s much to be said for the entry-level 148bhp T3 petrol. The four-pot turbo is naturally smoother and quieter, and doesn’t feel stressed by the V40’s 1380kg heft. It’ll hit 62mph in 8.8sec, and just about return 40mpg if you’re careful. It’s also £600 cheaper than the equivalent diesel.

Are you still a fan of the Volvo V40’s cabin?

It’s a Nordic treat inside, though the business-like blackness of R-design spec is less welcoming than the lighter hues of a regular V40.  Funky fully-digital instruments can be tailored to three modes: Elegance, Eco, and Performance. Click the indicator stalk and graphics for the speed, rev-counter and current MPG all trade places like a Lexus LFA’s adaptive display.

The trademark ‘floating’ centre console that stands separate from the main bulkhead remains, creating a further illusion of space and a handy hidden cubby. Though its controls are intuitive enough to use, it does look awfully buttony if you’ve sampled the minimalist delights of the new Volkswagen Golf Mk7 or Audi A3.

Space and storage is decent front and rear, though access to the back seats is hampered by teeny rear doors. And although it’s eye-catching, that fussy rear end means the boot opening is higher and narrower than you’d expect from a Volvo. Beware niggles too: we noticed slight trim rattles in every test car we tried, and the clutch pedal sticks momentarily if you rattle through a cog-change quickly.

Verdict

R-Design trim enhances the V40’s styling without ruining the ride: we give the thumbs up to the quarter of UK buyers who’ll opt for it. But R-Design V40s cost from £22,295, directly in Audi A3 Sportback territory, which boasts a roomier cabin, larger boot and that badge. That said, the Volvo V40 remains an appealing choice, if you don’t want to follow the herd flocking to the German mainstream.

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Volvo V40 R-Design (2013) CAR review

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MurphGTD

MurphGTD says

RE: Volvo V40 R-Design (2013) CAR review

This was a surprise addition to my list as previuosly it consisted of : VW Golf, Audi A3, Merc A Class and poss even the BMW 1 series. I've never really looked at Volvo's in the same light as the others but when saw the R Deisgn in the flesh - it seemed just as well built as the Golf. Will be taking one for a test drive soon but so far the appeal is, it's something different with a good interior. Just wish there was an option to choose a cloth interior on the R Design and Volvo please do something with the hand brake like the S60 R Design - it should be small lever.

08 April 2013 23:41

 

Nicolai

Nicolai says

RE: Volvo V40 R-Design (2013) CAR review

Tried a 24 hour test drive in the V40 ES ;

Moves off like a coal truck - you need to learn to anticipate traffic much further ahead than normal.

Central buttons and stereering wheel buttons are confusing - heater controls over complicated with much button pressing needed.

Front passenger has to be prepared to fight with the parking brake handle and the driver has to dislocate his shoulder to reach it.

Seat rake and lumbar support cannot be adjusted safely while driving and even static you have to break a wrist to reach the controls.

Each car should come with a surgeon to remove and re-attach the lower legs of tall rear seat passengers, and drivers and passengers need to turn 90 degrees and then use the doors to haul themselves out of the seats. The third rear seat passenger would have to be the width of a stick of bamboo to sit comfortably, and the outside pasengers are forced inwards by the wheel arches.  Rear seat passengers can not see the road behind ehen opening the rear doors, due to the reqar pillar which completely obstructs their rear view - this means that oncoming traffic cannot be checked before opening the door - dangerous!

The car is stylish in looks and handles well, quiet to drive but responsive. The control consoles provide so much information that the risk is that you will spend all your time looking at the information - not the road - this has obvious disadvantages.

I liked the idea of this car, but will not be buying one

06 February 2013 13:05

 

Brand0

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Brand0 says

RE: Volvo V40 R-Design (2013) CAR review

Volvo would do well to remind itself that it's core customers were such because they didn't want a German, so to do this is quite dangerous.  A tarted up Volvo shouldn't see ANYONE's money - not even those considering an Audi.

31 January 2013 13:48

 

Fadyady

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Fadyady says

RE: Volvo V40 R-Design (2013) CAR review

When this car came out, I thought it looked awfully old already. But since I'm begining to like its looks.

Other than the front grill which invariably reminds me of catfish, I find the rear and the side profile as well as the interior quite enticing.

Its a credible alternative to Mercedes A-Class and BMW 1-Series then - albeit rather pricey.

Because of that I suspect most people would probably settle for the Audi A3.

30 January 2013 11:33

 

Johann

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Johann says

RE: Volvo V40 R-Design (2013) CAR review

I prefer the V40 CrossCountry to this one.  BUT a decent 4x4 version of that only comes with a PETROL 5 cylinder engine and with a few options goes for £40,000.............  erm for a tarted up Ford Focus?!!?  Nah.  But choosing between this and the awful looking A-class or Beluga Whale 1-series (at the more affordable end of the range) - the Volvo gets my money.

30 January 2013 09:59

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