An automotive segment was almost created anew when two cars were launched last year back to back – the Volvo V40 and Mercedes A 250 Sport – the premium hatchbacks, with a sporty twist to boot. While the Audi A3, Golf GTI, BMW 1 or even the Alfa Romeo Giulietta would feature in the competitor list, thanks to novelty and immediacy, the cars that found themselves at the receiving end of one-to-one comparisons were the two at the top. While they meet in some quadrants of the buying decision, what separates the A 250 Sport from Volvo’s offsring of the S40 and C30 union is the mutually exclusive character of these cars!
The Volvo V40 is a fine hatch with comfortable and spacious interiors, family friendly boot space, driver friendly interactions, intuitive storage space and a very easy and smooth handling convenience; yet it also happens to be a fine example of what I call ‘conveyor belt motoring’.
UPSIDE: Smooth manoeuvering, Impressive fuel efficiency, Comprehensive safety features as standard, Good cabin dynamics
FLIPSIDE: Lacks road connect, Restricted cabin vision, Priced like Volvo’s Crossover
THE PRICE: AED 154,900 – AED 177,900 for R-Design; AED 166,900 for AWD Cross Country model
Somewhere in between the impressive design appeal of the C30 and the practicality of the S40 stood the first impressions of the Volvo V40. The V40 is quick and light footed. 213 hp and 300 Nm in a car that weighs less than one and a half tonnes is a combo that ought to work to the advantage of the driver. Even so, while the easily manoeuvrable steering effortlessly holds a steady line or a curve, the suspensions and the overall driving dynamics restricted the ‘connect’ between the driver and the car. The tires felt like they hardly said hello to the road though their tendency to slide marginally as you take corners perhaps made the V40 drive a tad more fun – in a ‘skating on ice’ sort of way. Even with the suspensions offering a fair amount of wheel travel – I could feel the car go up and down its hinges on undulating roads – the ride is a bit bouncy.
The 2.0L engine proved to be efficient and quick with just 9.3 litres vaporized per 100kms (10.6 kms per litre). The car picks up so well and maintains the thrust, but again, even though the instances of surges were few, the power-train often feels like an overflowing tap mainly due to its glossy road connect.
That said, the mind-boggling list of standard safety features and driver assistance package in any V40 is good enough to make you feel cocooned in its cozy Volvo cabin.
The Volvo V40 does make a design statement among hatchbacks with an almost equal divide between family values and speed dynamics. The rear looks especially nice with a wavy twist to the rear lamp ensemble. While the V40 has nicely ascending window lines, the side view mirrors are not designed to allow manual blind spot monitoring. On the other hand, though the rear windscreen view in the mirror looks as though it is impeded by the rising headrests on both sides, that never came across as an issue! Yet, overall, the Volvo V40 design suffers from a vision handicap that is at loggerheads with a brand that celebrates safety through an exceptionally conscientious package.
Cabin and Controls
Once behind the steering wheel, you realise that most of its sporty pretensions pop up on the digital dashboard, and stay there. Facing you on the instrument panel is a large, monocular tachometer with red rims flanked by two unusual gauges with a backdrop of red. While the left gauge is just indicative of fuel availability, the one on the right is all about the power generated at each point, with a needle pointing to the share of total power available.
The cabin material is of Volvo quality. A dash of hard rubber and hard plastic with a touch of brushed aluminium do the trick in making the cabin feel premium. The music system is reasonably good. A seven-inch screen operates the media, the radio and the car settings.
While the design flaunts a moulded styling in the rear and an elegant modern appearance in front, this Volvo is more of a comfortable car than a sporty one. This is where the steering’s ignorance of road dynamics turn into pure bliss for the passengers. The family will be pleased with its generous rear leg room and the large hatch space as well.
Bubble-wrapped in a plethora of safety features, including the Park Pilot Assist and Volvo City safety, this is a car that can be reliably assigned to busy moms for school runs, while the cross country model even lends you a hand in suburban getaways.
Safety features: ABS (Anti lock brake system) with EBA (Emergency brake assist) / Advanced Stability Control / CITY SAFETY collision avoidance technology / DSTC (Dynamic stability traction control) / Airbags, driver and passenger / Knee airbag, driver side / SIPS airbags (Side Impact Protection System) / Inflatable curtain airbags / Whiplash protection, front seats / ISO-FIX child seat provision
The Essential Volvo V40
In the evolving premium hatchback segment, the Volvo V40 stands aloof from the almost harsh yet sporty drive of the Alfa Romeo and the more balanced yet primarily sporty nature of the A250 Sport. It comes across as one of the smoothest drives among hatches with a whole array of premium trappings, especially for family comfort and convenience, topped with the choicest pickings of Volvo safety. If that makes up your mind, the V40 is available in a selection of interestingly resplendent colours.
Drive Courtesy: Volvo Middle East/Trading Enterprises
Pictures: Sudeep Koshy/Madhu Kunhappan