I like the idea behind Volvo’s cars. It’s always aspired to design a car starting from the most important bit. I’m going to make you guess, so here are the options: A. Performance B. Economy C. Safety
If you guessed it was any of the above, then you’re wrong. The answer is ‘D. people’ (see what I did there?). Volvo has always designed its cars around the people who will use them. They do not try to shove a person into a car that has been designed to handle the best or accelerate the hardest. They’ve always designed the car for the end user and then made sure that it performed to its best. The V40 is no different. Volvo designed the V40 as a versatile automobile that you can take to work every day and on the weekends, take it out to the countryside and have yourself a merry little picnic. It is no surprise then that the ‘V’ in V40 stands for versatility. Well, not really, but you know what I’m getting at.
Looks and features
The V40 has always been a great-looking car. The design might be a bit understated when compared to the A-Class, but on the V40 it works really well. It is one of those shapes that look fast even while standing still. The front end might look a lot like some of the other Volvos, but the tail section is quite a thing of beauty. And in the Rebel Blue colour with those 17-inch Ixion wheels, this Volvo can turn heads wherever you go. Add to that the fact that there aren’t many Volvos running around in the first place, attention is something that you will never find a lack of. That said, in the regular colours (silver, dark blue, black, grey and white) the car doesn’t look as good as it does in bright red or the blue you see here.
Like I said before, Volvos are designed around the people who will be using them. Where that becomes really evident is inside the car. The insides feel really special and don’t feel like a watered-down version of the more expensive cars that they make. The materials are all top notch with the leather and plastics feeling like they come from a much more expensive car. The steering wheel is typically Volvo and beyond it is that full-colour instrument console that is good enough to watch your favourite movie on. And there is that seat — the V40’s seat is one of the best seats ever, as is every other Volvo’s. So much so that Kartik claims that it has therapeutic qualities that help his ailing back. Aside from that, there are all the little bits that you would expect from a car such as this. There is sat-nav, an excellent entertainment unit, enough airbags to build a hovercraft, multiple colour ambient lighting and safety tech that will make sure that you do not kill yourself or anyone around you. Oh, and there is also that nifty little Park Assist Pilot for those of you who cannot parallel park to save your life. And this particular one being the R-Design variant, there are some leather and chrome bits thrown in to make it more special.
When you compare the V40 to a lot of its competition, one thing that really stands out is that it can seat four people in comfort. The A-Class, for example, makes me feel like I’m stuck in a dumbwaiter whenever I sit at the back. The Volvo is a lot roomier and with that massive panoramic glass roof above, you never feel claustrophobic.
Engine and performance
The V40 uses an inline four-cylinder diesel motor that makes 150 bhp and 35.7 kgm of torque and is mated to a 6-speed automatic ‘box. Funny thing is, when you’re in the car you cannot tell it is a diesel thanks to the lack of noise. It is completely silent. The car accelerates quite briskly and feels a lot quicker than it actually is. In fact, when I was testing it, I was expecting a far quicker time than the 9 seconds it took to hit 100 kph. But, that said, it isn’t exactly slow. It’s just deceptive, which isn’t really a bad thing. The gearbox can be a bit slow to deliver kickdowns and there is a small delay (even in Sport mode) before it drops a gear when you slam the throttle. But in Manual mode, the gearbox gives no trouble at all and is quite brisk. This is nice, especially on the highways where the V40 does pretty much everything you need it to. It won’t do incredible speeds since it is limited to 210 kph. But that is plenty to keep you happy on Indian roads. And that’s not all. Thanks to the Drive-E engines, the car also delivers reasonable fuel economy. The ARAI claim is 16.8 kpl. For a car that offers the performance of a much bigger engine from a four-cylinder motor, this isn’t bad at all.
Ride and handling
Now this is where this Volvo really comes into its own. The V40, a product of excellent engineering and clever electronics, is one of the nicest handling cars you can get your hands on. The centre of gravity on the V40 is nice and low making it super planted through the corners. The suspension is quite stiff and over Indian roads, you can feel every bump and dip. This means that if your passengers aren’t inclined towards the sporty driving, they will moan and cry.
But, if you’re in the driver’s seat and enjoy your cars to give you lots of feedback, you will enjoy the V40. The EPS is well tuned to give you tonnes of information about the kind of surface you are driving on, to the extent that you can almost feel the gravel crunching under your tyres. It is nice and direct and every little adjustment from your hands is transferred immediately to the wheels. The result of this combination of suspension and steering is why most enthusiasts will enjoy the V40 a lot.
There is also one other thing that makes this car so enjoyable. Unlike a lot of its peers, the V40 gets a manual emergency brake. So if you’re in the habit of pulling that handbrake around corners, then be prepared to have a whale of a time in this Volvo. But if you’re one of those who love driving but haven’t yet mastered the art of opposite lock like Tomi Makinen, don’t worry. The Corner Traction Control (which it gets as standard) will make sure your car is well behaved when you’re tearing down your favourite mountain road. It is one of the least intrusive stability control systems that I have experienced in any car. You just cannot feel it working. There is only that flashing light on the console that reminds you that your behind is constantly being saved. Of course, leaving it off only adds to the fun for all the Makinens out there.
The V40 still remains one of my favourite premium hatchbacks in the market today. The Merc might look better and the BMW might have rear-wheel-drive, but there is just something about these Volvos that makes them special. The V40 never feels like an entry-level model from a manufacturer that would rather be making limousines. The quality is just as good as any other car Volvo makes. It performs reasonably well and when it comes to handling, the V40 punches way above its weight. The only wrench in the works is that there has been a lot of inconsistency with old dealers shutting down and new ones cropping up every now and then. There has also not been a real push from the manufacturer in terms of marketing. And of course, there is the lack of a propeller, four rings or a star on the hood. But if you don’t mind that, I’d recommend this car any day. It does get a manual handbrake, after all.
Displacement: 1984cc, i-4, turbodiesel
Max power: 150 bhp@3500 rpm
Max torque: 35.7 kgm@1500-2760 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Type: Rack and pinion with EPS
Front: McPherson struts with coil spring
Rear: Independent with coil springs
(F/R): 225/45 R17
L/W/H (mm): 4369/1857/1420
Kerb weight: 1615 kg
0-60 kph: 3.9 seconds
0-100 kph: 9.0 seconds
Top speed: 188 kph
PRICE: Rs 27.7 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi)