What is it?
Put briefly, the V40 is Volvo’s most direct rival to the BMW 1-series and Mercedes-Benz A-class hatchbacks. It's also the car that forms the basis for the V40 Cross Country that’s been on sale in India since 2013. While this version of the V40 does not have the crossover-like cues that make the Cross Country standout, you’d be way off the mark to consider it a plain, vanilla sibling.
As seen on the Cross Country, the standard V40’s basic design is very Volvo. So, here too, a drooping nose leads into a rising and broad shoulder that eventually culminates into a high-set tail. There’s a certain solidity to the whole design, but to us the really interesting design bits are concentrated at the rear. Things such as the swoopy tail lamps and the blacked-out portion under the rear windscreen are very distinctive. Again, while the V40 looks sporty as is, the more defined bumpers, larger 17-inch wheels and silver mirrors, that are part of the top-spec R-Design trim, adds extra flash value to this 4.4-metre long hatchback.
The V40’s rather nice on the inside too. The cabin on the R-Design trim cars are all-black affairs with rich double stitching on the steering, door trim, gear lever, handbrake lever and seats. Front seat comfort, as on all Volvo’s, is fantastic and there’s a memory function for the driver’s perch too. Outside visibility is good (rear headrests can fold out of view when not needed), and the Volvo-typical dash is quite a nice sight in its own right. Sure, it’s not the most modern of designs but is definitely interesting, especially that trademark floating centre console. Just wish Volvo would declutter the centre console that looks a mass of buttons. Of the other things we’d like to see included is a larger screen for the infotainment system. The 5-inch screen looks small and the dial-operated interface does seem a bit old-school in this era of touchscreen-everything. Technology junkies will love the 8-inch TFT instrument panel though. It allows the driver to shuffle between three themes that alters the layout of the console. Top-spec V40s also feature ‘Park Assist Pilot’ that can parallel park the car for you!
Opt for the V40 R-Design and you'll get a car with a panoramic sunroof. Unfortunately, the resultant lower roof lining does compromise rear headroom for tall passengers. The heavily contoured seats also make this space best suited for two occupants only. Still, legroom is good and the large windows add to the feeling of space. The rear seats split and fold flat and help enhance the V40’s already large luggage bay.
Of course, this being a Volvo and an NCAP 5-star rated one at that, mention must also be made of the safety features onboard. In addition to the front, side and driver’s knee airbags, the V40 also features a pedestrian airbag. Yes, you read that right! On impact, the airbag inflates under the bonnet to elevate it and thereby provide an additional level of cushioning to the pedestrian’s body. There’s also the City Safety system that automatically applies the brakes if it senses an impending collision with another vehicle at speeds up to 50kph.
What is it like to drive?
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.
Should I buy one?
Volvo expects V40 buyers to largely comprise existing luxury sedan and SUV owners looking for an additional car. These buyers will immediately feel at home in a V40 because of how solidly engineered, well-equipped and comfortable it is. Those not hell-bent on a hot hatch will also be more than satisfied with the way it drives. And thanks to the way it looks, the V40 can even rival an A-class on star appeal. True, the engine can sound gruff and the ride is on the firmer side, but the other traits of the charming V40’s do make up for this.
The fully imported V40 is also priced well, relative to the other locally assembled luxury hatchbacks that is. The Kinetic version comes in at Rs 24.75 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi) while the R-Design costs Rs 27.7 lakh, making the V40 cheaper than the Merc A 200 CDI (Rs 28.4 lakh) and BMW 118d (Rs 29.5 lakh). So, if you are shopping for a luxury hatch, do give the V40 a serious thought. It’s a car that makes a rather convincing case for itself.