Safety is often found at the top of car buyer’s priority list. For families, it is one of the single most important aspects when buying a car. You want peace of mind that you, your family and those around you are protected if the worst happens. Well readers, if it’s safety you’re looking for, then the Volvo V40 is the car you need. Returning from Euro NCAP’s safety rating with the highest ever mark, it is the world’s safest car.
That’s all well and good, but what about the rest of it? How does the Volvo stack up in the other categories? We pitched it against some of its rivals and tested it in every other consumer area. The Volvo finds itself in the premium range of hatchbacks. They are larger and more executive than the traditional Golf or Fiesta. It also comes with a range of diesel or petrol engines and, of course, the option to upgrade to a sport version.
First impressions are very good for the Volvo V40. For all its talk of practicality and safety, we were pleasantly blown away by its speed and power. It’s fun! Despite all the fun, it’s remarkably fuel efficient too – among the highest in its class. It looks great too. Naturally, there are a few compromises to be found here. Some buyers won’t quite be convinced that its high price tag is justified. For a hatchback, it is also missing some essential practical space, particularly in the boot. All in all, it’s a fantastic premium hatchback.
The Volvo finds itself among good company. The executive hatchback range is in fine form and only a truly great car can compete. Looking around, the V40 finds itself in the company of the BMW 1 Series, the Audi A3 and the Mercedes A Class. You might also class the Volkswagen Golf GTi a competitor in terms of performance. However, the Golf is a good £2,000 cheaper than the V40. The premium hatchback market looks to provide great fuel economy and strong practicality. They are city cars with a little bit of class. However, the best ones retain all the elements of fun and excitement found in a hot hatch.
We’ll start with the safety features as they are the Volvo’s calling card. Small cars and hatchbacks have previously been passed off as unsafe. Their small size makes them inherently more likely to crumble and offer little protection. In the last decade, this has changed completely. The Volvo scored an unprecedented 98% in the adult protection category. It also scored 100% in the safety assist category. This is thanks to a sophisticated autonomous braking system. The car detects hazards up ahead and applies braking measures in order to avoid danger. Finally, the V40 contains a pedestrian airbag that pops out from the bonnet. It covers the windscreen and the pillars to protect pedestrians.
The Volvo V40 starts at around £17,000 which is right at the brink of what you’d expect. It’s a little cheaper than the BMW 1 Series and the Audi A3, but not much. It comes with a wide range of features as standard which go some way to justifying the price. Does it stand up against the price tags of the BMW and the Audi? It’s borderline.
Volvo isn’t known for its stunning or beautiful designs. They aren’t the coolest manufacturer. However, with the V40, they’ve struck a chord and found a stylish design that works. The car is sleek and curves in the right places. It has a wonderfully aerodynamic nose and smooth finish. We’re impressed. Having said that, we think this stylish design is what cuts out some of the practical space at the back.
Anyone purchasing a city car like this needs to know it will return good mileage. This is another aspect where the Volvo really excels. There are a range of options on offer with the V40. But, if you’re looking for fuel economy, we suggest picking up the 1.6 litre diesel option. On a good day, you’ll get a staggering 74 miles to the gallon. Even the less efficient engines will hit over 50mpg with no problem. Volvo have mastered the art of a clean, efficient engine.
That clean, efficient engine must impact the performance, right? Wrong. Very, very wrong. Surprisingly, the V40 is still wildly exciting in the engine department. Of course, the best performance will be found at the top of the range. The T5 engine here will produce 242 brake horsepower and do 0-60mph in just 6 seconds. Of course, the mid engine option like the T3 combines the best of both worlds. Have a look at the full range at www.harratts.co.uk and you’ll see what we mean.
Volvo have opted for a front wheel drive engine with the V40. Given its credentials, we think this is a choice rooted in safety. However, it has also had a positive impact on the car’s handling. The front wheel drive chassis makes it responsive and intuitive. The ride is smooth, but eager and exciting. Dare we say it, Volvo have made a fun car.
Volvo have a habit of producing consistently reliable cars. They fall short when it comes to the impenetrable reputation of the German engineers. But, third place to BMW and Audi is no bad thing. One downside is that the servicing requirements come in more regularly than others in its class.
You have to really look hard to find the downsides in the Volvo V40. It lacks a little of the boot space you might need as a hatchback owner. The car is advertised as a five seater, though it gets a little cramped with five squeezed in. If we’re being particularly critical, the dashboard feels a little dated. But that’s because the A3 dashboard is so good. All in all, we don’t think buyers will find too much to moan about here.
The Volvo V40 will always bill itself as the world’s safest car. It is an attractive selling point that others can’t match. Having said that, the premium hatchback is much more than that. It’s powerful and fuel efficient. Most importantly, it’s fun! And we never thought we’d say that about a Volvo!