Volvo V40 review - can the alternative premium hatch beat the best? - Ride and Handling
Smaller and less engaging than a Volkswagen Golf, the Volvo V40 has style and safety as its key strengths
Ride and handling
It bodes well for the Volvo V40 that it shares its core platform with the Ford Focus, though the Swedes are responsible for the set-up, giving the V40 its own springs, dampers and power steering calibration. Starting with the latter, it's not a bad set-up at all, going with electric assistance. Response is linear, the gearing is direct enough to make it pleasant to point the car's nose into the apex of a corner and yet there's no nervousness around the straight-ahead. Neither, sadly, is there any genuine communication between the tread blocks of the front tyres and your hands. That's brought into sharp relief when the higher powered models all too easily spin the inside wheel when exiting tighter corners and your first knowledge of it is the noise or the flash of the stability control warning lamp. A three-mode variable assistance system allows drivers to choose their favourite weighting, but it does nothing for feedback.
Wheel spin is all too easy to elicit in the faster V40s, as they have an issue with traction. It's noticeable in the dry, but downright irritating when the road is wet, reducing driver enjoyment and confidence in the chassis. Indeed, the V40 drives best in its more basic formats. The ride comfort and chassis suppleness shine through on modestly proportioned wheels and tyres, though the chassis isn't completely ruined by larger alloys.
Bump absorption is pretty good and the car glides over a decent road, but push beyond eight tenths and it struggles to control wheel movements over mid-corner bumps. That further loosens traction and adds up to a frustrating experience, certainly for those expecting hot hatch like dynamics in the range-topping T5 model. The Sports Pack doesn't really help matters. Sure, its 10mm lower ride height and centre of gravity helps with high-speed direction changes and the overall feeling of agility, but away from a smooth road it's still highly compromised.