What is it?
The Volvo V40 T4, the fastest version (for now) of the Swedish firm’s new BMW 1-series, Audi A3 and Mercedes A-class rival. It costs from £23,730.
Like every modern Volvo, the V40 is brimming with safety kit, with lane departure and blind spot monitoring and a low-speed crash detection system amongst the technology available.
It’s a pleasing, high-quality place to sit when you get behind the wheel, particularly with the optional (£400) active TFT instruments fitted to our test car. They allow three different, computerised versions of the speedometer and rev-counter, with power or economy graphs appearing depending on which mode you’ve selected.
What’s it like to drive?
This Volvo V40 T4 gets a 178bhp 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine, and despite sounding like a diesel when it first fires into life (and when you switch it off), it has a nice four-cylinder edge to it when the revs climb. It’s perfectly happy to rev as well, and the acceptable claimed 0-60mph time of 7.3sec feels eminently achievable. The standard six-speed manual gearbox (combined with well-spaced pedals) is lovely to use, too, the shift action being weighty but slick. A six-speed automatic is optional.
The £650 Sport Pack on our car includes a chassis upgrade, which lowers the ride height and keeps body roll pleasingly in check, yet with relatively demure 17in wheels, the ride remains pliant. If you delve into the bewildering array of menus then it’s even possible to adjust the assistance given to the steering, which is accurate and quick, although far from brimming with feel.
The V40 is a well-rounded car that looks a bit different and goes down a road jolly well. But it feels more accomplished than thrilling. Perhaps a few Polestar modifications would spice it up…
How does it compare?
The rear-wheel-drive BMW 1-series remains the driver’s premium hatchback of choice, while the Audi A3 provides a top-notch interior and the Mercedes A-class is the sector’s boldest looking car. The V40 is a wilfully different choice to all three, with strengths in all three areas and relative rarity.
Anything else I need to know?
A sportier looking V40 R-design – with the option of a 251bhp 2.5-litre five-cylinder turbo petrol engine – is around the corner, and will provide the closest thing to a Volvo hot hatch since Volvo C30 T5 sales sadly ceased in 2012.