A drive in the new Volvo hatchback.
The V40 is the most direct rival to the A-class than its Cross Country sibling. Though this model lacks the offroading looks of its sibling, its not as simple and plain at it looks.
As seen on the Cross Country, the standard hatchback’s basic design is very Volvo. A drooping nose leads into a rising and broad shoulder that eventually culminates into a high-set tail. There’s a certain sturdiness to the whole design. 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 hatch 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 cabin on the R-Design trim models are all-black affairs with rich double stitching on the steering, door trim, gear lever, handbrake lever and seats. Front seat comfort, as with other Volvo’s, is fantastic and the driver’s seat gets memory function. Outside visibility is good (rear headrests can fold out of view when not needed), and the dash is quite a nice sight in its own right. The manufacturer just needs to reduce the clutter of buttons in our opinion. Of the other things we’d like to see included is a larger screen for the infotainment system. The current 5-inch unit looks small while the dial controlled operations feel old school. 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 models also feature ‘Park Assist Pilot’ that can parallel park the car for you!
Opt for the 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. However, legroom is good and the large windows add to the feeling of space. The rear seats split and fold flat and help enhance the already large luggage bay.
In the safety department, well, it’s a Volvo so the 5-star EURO NCAP rating is just as expected. In addition to the front, side and driver’s knee airbags, the hatchback also features a pedestrian airbag. 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.
Unlike its larger siblings 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 six speed automatic gearbox. It’s not the fastest shifting unit around, 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 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 car isn’t quite as entertaining to drive as the rear-wheel-drive 1-series. That said, the dynamics are good, there’s reassuring weight to the steering, and stability on the straights and corners is impressive. In fact, the hatch comes across as a car that can easily deal with more power. In city driving though, the relatively large turning circle can be an issue when attempting a tight U-turn.
Another downer is the ride quality of the car. While the suspension is absorbent and pliant, there’s an ever-present firmness to the ride. As a result, it can’t filter out surface imperfections as well as its rivals.
Volvo seems to be targeting luxury car and SUV buyers looking for a second or third car. These buyers will immediately feel at home in the Volvo hatchback 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. The fully imported car 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).