So, for just under a week, I drove the Volvo V40 D2 Manual R-Design Lux Nav. Got that? It’s a mouthful, but what does it all mean?
Review by Marc Stickley
Well, from the top:
- Volvo’s smallest model. A five door hatchback, disguised as a lifestyle estate.
- This car is powered by the entry level diesel engine. The 115bhp up front delivers 60mph in 11.9 seconds (of little importance in the real world…), it purports to return 83mpg (that would be nice) whilst only emitting 88g/km in the process (which means it’s nice to the environment and costs less in VED).
- You get to stir the six speed box yourself. Automatics are an option.
- R-Design. This means you get the sleek body kit, bigger wheels and generally puts the car into a smart suit. Think S-Line to Audi, R-Line to VW or M-Tech to BMW. All show, no extra go.
- This is the trim level, which means Swedish style and leather and all things nice.
- This means you get built in Sat-Nav. More on that later.
The cost….? Well, all that would come to £25,970, but Volvo decided to splash out on a few extras. Err, over £6,000 of them actually….! So, for £2,000, the Xenium pack brings power front seats, panoramic roof, park assist pilot and a rear parking camera. The £1,900 Driver Support Pack adds a whole host of functions that pretty much stop you from being a bad driver – active lane assist, collision detect and auto brake, adaptive cruise control, active high beam headlights (they dip automatically), road sign information (displaying the current speed limit on your speedo) and BLIS – BLind spot Info System, which warns of cars in your blind spot with an orange light in the wing mirror base. The Lux Winter Pack seems to be worthwhile at £350, adding heated seats and windscreen and the other options were the paint (£825) and £1,550 of other bits added on, the only one of probable use being the full sized spare wheel and jack at £150. All in, as tested this car weighs in at £32,595!
So, what’s it like to drive? The V40 is a nice place to be – the seats are comfortable and supportive and it’s easy to find a good driving position (especially with the power seats). I put about 600 miles under the wheels over the period of the test, with mixed driving – A and B roads and motorways. I also threw in a few country lanes and the car coped well. Those R-Design wheels add a bit of tyre roar, but the sound system soon quelled that. The ride is firm rather than hard, which means that you can hustle the car in the twisty stuff, but it doesn’t feel at home being driven like that. If this were a hot hatch wannabe, then that would be good, but it sits at odds with the lowest powered engine in the line up. The 115bhp diesel was adequate, with plenty of mid-range torque – good for relaxed cruising, but not that eager to rev or respond. Coupled with some of the gadgets fitted, it made the car feel most at home on a motorway.
All the creature comforts added by the various option packs were tried out over the test. Adaptive cruise (which maintains a distance to the car in front, reducing speed if necessary until the distance set can be achieved), active lane assist (which makes slight steering movements if you veer over the lines) and BLIS add up to give you a car that pretty much drives itself on the motorway – this leads to arriving after several hours behind the wheel feeling fresh and unruffled. Rather useful. I did manage to spoof the sign identification a few times – mostly when it hadn’t detected a sign. Yet another setting allows you to set the car to a speed limit, so if driving for extended periods around town, set it to 30 mph and the car will only drive faster if you really stab the accelerator – a smart feature for those who find themselves habitually creeping above the speed limit. The TFT LED instrument display (instead of analogue instruments) was smart and could be set to different styles and displays, like a glorified trip computer. The sat nav system, displayed on the central screen worked brilliantly once keyed in, but as it was not a touch screen system, data entry was via the dial control, or using the keypad like entering an old school text message. Given the tech-fest offered by Volvo in this car, the lack of a touch screen felt at odds with the rest of the layout and left the central console covered in buttons. I didn’t find it distracting on the move, as all major inputs can be via the steering wheel, but a touch screen would be a plus. The Harmon Kardon premium stereo was superb, coupled with DAB radio, it really delivered some serious sound. The R-Design styling additions included a brushed steel effect insert running down the length of the central console, which contrasted well with the dark grey dash material and leather seats.
The V40 sits in an odd position when it comes to size. There is plenty of space for driver and passenger up front and two individual seats in the back, with an occasional seat in between (occupied by the armrest and hidden cup holders). However, there is not a lot of legroom when someone or reasonable proportions is driving. The boot is shallow and not that deep (possibly thanks to the full size spare), so while a weekend away with our two children was just about possible, much more would be a struggle – I packed two holdalls, a carry on sized soft briefcase, a bag full of wellies and coats and two kids Trunki suitcases and the boot was rammed. Other stuff occupied the rear footwells. This is not a Golf sized car in reality, probably sitting half a size below. Of course, without children, the back seats can be deployed for extra storage, but if you never need the back seats, do you need a five door hatchback…?
So where does that leave the V40? In essence, the V40 is marketed by Volvo as a premium hatchback – its natural rivals would be the VW Golf, Audi A3 and the BMW 1-series. It certainly looks different to the usual Germanic offerings. But if I were a young business person, would I want a Volvo? Well, this car is frighteningly expensive. £32,000 buys you a lot of car – a Golf R or almost a BMW M235i. Don’t forget, this car had ALL the extras thrown at it. I reckon if you got rid of the nice to haves and got left with the good to have and essential (but not standard), then you could spec a V40 for much less. If you’re not doing massive mileage, then the petrol engines might be a better option – the 150bhp T3 R-Design is a little over £23,000. It loses some of the gadgets, but retains most of the really useful ones. Add in the panoramic roof, R-Design leather and the winter pack (no more ice scraping) and you would have a £25,000 car. On lease or PCP, that could be a good deal. Maybe being different could be cool.