The new Volvo V40 should prove to be a success

From all reports, the new Volvo V40 is a strong contender in what looks like a multi-manufacturer campaign to put a lot of fairly small, family-oriented and very attractive cars on the road. The V40 comes along about the same time as several others in a similar style – the Audi A3, Mercedes A-Class, VW MkVII Golf and the BMW 1-series.

The V40 is a five-door hatchback with a lower profile than most of the others and a good-looking grill that camouflages a number of safety cameras. In fact this ‘family’ car is loaded with extra safety features, not surprising as safety has always been one of Volvo’s defining characteristics. In addition to all the expected features, this one has some interesting innovations.

There’s a pedestrian airbag, programmed to inflate when it ‘sees’ a person walking into the car’s path, and presumably lessen the damage done to human flesh by unyielding metal. Another feature controls the car’s speed, braking before impact. ‘City Safety’ technology applies the brakes to stop the car from speeds up to 31 mph, designed to prevent collisions with hazards the driver fails to notice.

The V40 has probably the smoothest ride in its class, with a stronger steering column and better dampers than previous models. Even with the lower-built chassis, there’s plenty of head and elbow room in both front and passenger seats. The front seats are easily the most comfortable of all the contenders, and the interior design and quality is good.

You can choose from three trim levels, depending on your choice of Economy, Elegance or Performance in the throttle and steering levels, designated as ES, SE and SE Lux. With the ES you get Bluetooth and a 5-inch dash screen, plus a cooled glove box and leather trim on the handling parts of steering wheel, hand brake and gear knob. The SE adds features like keyless start, and the Lux goes on up to leather upholstery and bigger (17-inch as opposed to 16-inch) alloy wheels.

The trim levels can be mixed and matched with five engine options, including two petrol and three diesel. The diesels are badged D2, D3 and D4; they produce 115, 150 and 177 horsepower respectively, while the petrol engines are turbo-charged, providing 150 and 180 horsepower with the T3 and T4 respectively.

In the UK, the best seller is likely to be the 1.6 litre diesel (D2) that’s based on a Ford engine and has lots of oomph once you get over 2,000rpm. This one claims 78.5mpg and 94gm/km of CO2 emission, which puts it in the road tax-free category.

As comparison in its size bracket, the V40 stacks up well against the Audi A3, in fact sharing much of the technology with that and the V40’s quasi-sister, the Ford Focus. Ingenious little extras like a Park Assist Pilot that makes the driver look like a pro when jockeying for a parallel parking space give the V40 a little edge in that department.

Volvo’s V40 replaces two existing models, the S40 saloon and V50 estate, and the company says it’s the exemplar of their ‘human-centric, Designed Around You’ approach to building cars. President and CEO of Volvo Car Corporation Stefan Jacoby, said the V40 “. . . definitely will give our toughest competitors a headache.”

As an item of interest to the more high-performance aficionados amongst us, Volvo will shortly be coming out with another engine model for the V40. The turbocharged petrol engine, T5, will boast 254 horsepower and surge from zero to 60mph in 6.7 seconds.