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Driven: Volvo’s V40 out in SA

2012-10-10 09:22

TAKING ON THE 1 SERIES: Fantastic exterior package, classy and refined cabin - the new Volvo V40 is a serious contender for BMW's 1 Series and the Mercedes-Benz A-class.

 
One of the most important models from Swedish automaker Volvo has arrived in South Africa and it's gunning for the German triumvirate.

The all new V40, which replaces the S40 and V50, is a stunning premium hatchback that proves once and for all that Volvo can (and, we hope, will continue to) build exciting rides with an emphasis on style on safety.

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The new model is based on the Ford Focus platform but Volvo has added some of its own character through how the V40 drives and presents itself.

SPORTINESS REFINED

Like the S60, the new V40 has been built from the ground up and showcases Volvo's new design identity. It’s arguably the best-looking Volvo to date. Yes, it shares a resemblance to Ford’s popular hatchback, but the V40 is an entirely different animal – a stunning hatchback with a focus on fun through a host of technical equipment to not only protect drivers but pedestrians as well.

The Volvo V40 is sportiness refined, ushering in a new generation of fantastic-looking sporty vehicles and, i hope, remove any stigma of “stale but safe” wagons from the automaker.

In terms of design, you “know” it’s a Volvo despite looking unlike anything previously seen from the timid automaker. It’s a crossover that manages to be appealing from any angle.

Initially, Volvo is launching the V40 in petrol T3 and T4 manual, diesel D2 manual and D3 Geartronic derivatives. There three spec levels - Essential, Excel and Elite. The rest of the local line-up, including the V40 R-Design, will be available from February/March 2013, but more on that later. We have quite a few engines to go through so we might as well get stuck in.

T4 ENGINE RE-TUNED

The four-cylinder T3 is powered by a petrol 1.6 capable of 110kW at 5700rpm and 240Nm from 1600-4000 (overboost to 270Nm). The 1.6 uses a six-speed manual and fuel consumption is listed as 5.4 litresl/100km.

The T4 has the same engine but tuned to deliver132kW at 5700rpm and 240Nm from 1600-4000rpm (overboost to 270Nm). The engine can be mated to either a six-speed manual or powershift auto and fuel consumption is rated at 5.5 litres/100km and 6.2 litres/100km (a/t).

The four-cylinder D2 diesel is a 1.6 capable of 84kW at 3600rpm and 270Nm from 1750-2500rpm and drives through a six-speed manual with fuel consumption rated at 3.6 litres/100km.

SPRIGHTLY - OR BLISTERING

The five-cylinder D3 has a two-litre turbodiesel capable of 110kW and 350Nm. Combined with a six-speed Geartronic, fuel consumption is rated as 5.2 litres/100km.

The engine range caters for varying driver needs whether you’re in the market for a sprightly 1.6 or a blistering hot hatch in the form of the T5 (when it arrives). The electronically assisted steering is akin to the Focus in its responsiveness though there’s not as much feedback to the driver.

The ride is crisp and grin-inducing as the response throttle, sharp handling combine to make it an extremely pleasant drive.

It’s hard to fault Volvo’s engineering team; it's done a superb job in terms of performance and handling. My pick of the bunch would be the diesel D2 manual as its still remains on par in pricing and features with Hyundai’s Elantra and the Ford Focus though the V40 is a better drive than the former and better-looking than the latter.

DESIGNED AROUND YOU

Volvo has taken customisation to heart by allowing customers to choose from safety and style packs for all of its models.

It’s cheaper to buy the packages rather than choose individual items, though you’ll still have the option to individualise your car further. For instance, you could add the pedestrian airbag on its own for R7000. An exterior styling kit is available which includes deflectors, a twin-coloured rear diffuser, striping kit and enlarged chromed exhaust pipes. Special grey 18" alloy rims and a roof spoiler can be added separately.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the V40’s safety systems as Volvo continues to lead the way in vehicle safety. The comprehensive list includes driver's knee airbag, rollover protection with inflatable curtains and a pre-crash safety system. The city safety braking system is capable of stopping the car fromt speeds up to 60km/h if its computers predict an impact.

Optional equipment includes 's pedestrian detection (debuted on the S60) which recognises the human profile and will warn the driver and ultimately apply the brakes.

The V40 has an industry first in the form of the pedestrian air bag. If a collision with a pedestrian is unavoidable, the V40 deploys an bag from under the bonnet to cushion the impact.

A handy feature when reversing out of car parks is the rear cross-traffic detector, which alerts you to oncoming traffic.

AND IN THE CABIN

The V40 uses a blend of old and new kit from its siblings in the interior. The "floating" centre console comes from larger Volvo models, although the V40's diminutive version seemsd cramped in comparison.

The digital instrument cluster is a terrific new design for Volvo. It has circular displays for the functions and their appearance will be determined by which chassis and powertrain setting has been selected – Eco, Elegance, Performance. The fuel, speedometer and indicators are digital.

In Eco mode, the background is green and the driver is encouraged to drive economically by being rewarded with an illuminated "E" sign. The performance mode sharpens acceleration and steering - this time the speedometer is replaced with a rev counter with red backlighting.

Elegance is the default mode denoted by amber backlighting.

The system is a great touch to the interior, akin to the Lexus CT200h and GS400h. My only gripe is accessing the system via the steering column is cumbersome and would’ve been simpler to use two buttons – Sport and Eco.

The cabin has an interesting lighting feature: ambient light themes. Drivers can change the interior lighting from funky orange, porn set purple (no really) and a dozen other colours. It’s fantastic to see Volvo reaching out to wider (read younger) market with a variety of high-tech additions to its new V40.

The Swedish automaker's pitching it’s V40 against the German automaker trio – the new Mercedes-Benz A-Class, BMW 1 Series and the Audi A3. For decades, Volvo has positioned itself as an alternative to premium German models but that has never really taken off. The V40 is a vehicle that can (and I hope will) give the Bavarians pause as Volvo’s stunning hatch hopes to establish itself as serious alternative.

MORE FROM VOLVO

The stylish T5 and R-design models will arrive in South Africa in February/March 2013. The R-design adds a diffuser, spoiler, square exhausts and style enhancements. The T5 is powered by a 2.5 petrol unit capable of 187kW with a torque peak of 360Nm from 1800-4200rpm (overboost to 400Nm).The engine is mated to a six-speed Geartronic and fuel consumption is rated at 5.2 litres/100km. The engine rockets the V40 from 0-100km in 6.5 seconds.

For those seeking to brave the great outdoors, Volvo will introduce its new V40 Crosscountry in February 2013. The new model has all the features of the standard V40 but adds ground clearance to tackle rougher terrain.

Volvo V40 prices
V40 T3 Manual Essential - R281200
V40 D2 Manual Essential - R283 200
V40 T3 Manual Excel - R 299 300
V40 D2 Manual Excel - R 301 300
V40 T3 Manual Elite - R 313 200
V40 D2 Manual Elite - R 315 200
V40 T4 Manual Excel - R 316 800
V40 T4 Manual Elite - R 330 700
V40 T4 Powershift Excel - R 332600
V40 D3 Geartronic Excel - R 339800
V40 T4 Powershift Elite - R 346 500
V40 D3 Geartronic Elite - R 353 700
V40 D3 Geartronic R-Design - R 363 300
V40 T5 Geartronic Excel - R 373700
V40 T5 Geartronic Elite - R 387 600
V40 T5 Geartronic R-Deseign - R 397 100

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