Volvo V40 T5 tested

By CARSIFU | 5 February 2014


Years have passed since we last drove the Volvo S40 sedan and the V50 wagon. The details are a blur. But we recalled the two models generally gave a good account of themselves at a time when life was simpler, the competition less intense and Volvo was its own boss and not yet a part of China’s Geely group. It’s now 2014. The ageing models have since been retired and replaced by the V40. Now the V40 has a mighty task on its hands. It tries to straddle the wagon/sedan divide while looking for new, younger and affluent buyers (isn’t every car maker gunning for them?).


So the shape and driving dynamics have to appeal to three target groups. Volvo calls the V40 a hatch but its design is reminiscent of a wagon when seen sideways. This 5-door hatch has been cast in the mould of a modern and trendy car that retains its Euro roots despite Asian ownership. The top brass at Geely recognised the “Scandinavian Design” as a selling point and left it well alone.


It can’t be denied that the styling on the whole is athletic and attractive. Taut, sculpted lines define the V40 form. The front angles slope down and the body extends up rearwards to a corrugated rump framed by boomerang taillights that heighten the aesthetics and make the car appear as if crouching to leap forward. We preferred the three windscreen washer nozzles to be hidden away rather than sit atop the bonnet because they disrupt the clean surfacing. The interior is a picture of solid build quality and ergonomics. The design is typical Scandinavian with a simple, fascia layout. Buttons and knobs are mainly gathered on the “floating” centre stack. Leather seats are well formed to support occupants and enhance comfort for a long drive. Rear legroom is enough but headroom is snug for anyone well over five feet tall. Although the rear row has head restraints for outer seats, it still provides sufficient rearward vision for the driver. Storage spaces are everywhere, from the averaged-sized glove box to centre armrest compartment, to pockets on all four doors, rounded off by pockets behind the front seats. A nice touch is the ability to cool two cans of soft drinks in the glove box. Sadly, sat-nav is absent but is available as a RM2,700 option. At 335 litres, boot space is modest but should be adequate for most people. Rear seats fold flat if more storage space is needed. The T5 gear-shifter and instrumental cluster are worth highlighting as the V40 strives to stand out.


The chunky lever knob, while nice to grasp, has a white illuminated see-through face showing the gear position with a light surround. A green marker denotes what gear the car is in. More noteworthy is a new digital instrument cluster that changes colour and the type of information displayed. Accessible via the left stalk behind the steering wheel, the TFT (Thin Film Transistor) crystal display switches between one of three themes: amber-coloured Elegance, green ECO and red Performance. The default Elegance theme features a large centrally located speedometer, with ancillary information on both sides. The ECO theme keeps the speedo but changes to a different palette of information to show such things as an ECO meter, and the current and accumulated fuel consumption figures. The driver is “rewarded” with a green light when eco-driving is optimal. The Performance theme switches the centre dial to a tachometer and vehicle speed is shown digitally in the centre of the display. The side displays includes a power meter to show the driver how much power is available and how much power is being used at any given time. Volvo Car Malaysia released the V40 in three variants last year. All are semi knocked-down, meaning initial assembly was done in Europe, so they are priced rather sensibly. Apart from the RM190,888 T5 unit under review, the others are the base RM173,888 T4 and the RM200,888 T5 Cross Country, an elevated and more rugged version of the T5 that is expected to double up as a mild offroader. Note that the test unit comes with the R-Design package option for a more aggressive appearance. The pack adds aerokit, 18-inch wheels and styling effects. You can also opt to pick through the pack instead of taking it wholesale. Being Volvo, the five-seat V40 is a reassuring space to be travelling in, and Euro NCAP agreed by giving it a 5-star collision safety rating. It has a long list of safety features, including six airbags plus a driver’s knee airbag. An improved blind spot alert system is standard; so is City Safety that helps the V40 to avoid a rear-end collision with the vehicle ahead by automatically applying the car’s brakes at speeds up to 50kph. What’s new also is Cross Traffic Alert which uses the radar sensors at the rear of the car to alert the driver to crossing traffic from the sides when reversing out of a tight parking bay.


They are all invisible to the V40 occupants and like life insurance, springs into action only in the hour of need. The pedestrian airbag, a world first, debuted in the V40 and is available in Europe, Australia and New Zealand, but is removed from the Malaysian specifications for cost reasons. The car can parallel-park itself on either side, reminding us that it shares platform with the Ford Focus, which has that capability, too. The T5 is powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged engine that delivers 213bhp and 300Nm of torque to the front axle. Paired to a six-speed automatic transmission with Geartronic, the T5 promises a 0-100kph dash in a brisk 6.9 seconds. Fuel economy is aided by an auto start/stop system and covered alloy wheels that reduces drag. On the move, the V40 comes across as an agile vehicle with a stout engine. There’s never a moment when you find it deficient; it pulls strongly from low revs and makes light work of extended ascents. It has a measured pace about it and is not easily flustered when directed to change direction quickly. Suspension is firm but supple enough to offer a ride befitting a premium car. Body roll is minimal even in fast corners. What is lacking is the visceral effect that a sporty 5-potter is supposed to impress you with. The engine growl is just too insulated and kept at arm’s length from the cabin. In that sense, the T4 variant, whilst also having a competent block, offers a rawness missing in the T5. Wind noise is well damped but tyre noise becomes intrusive at high speeds. The steering wheel feels meaty in the hands and the car offers steering wheel force in three settings and like the meter cluster colour scheme, is aimed at adapting the car to the driver’s mood of the moment. At the lowest setting, the steering is as light as a feather, but even at the highest setting it is not so wound up that a woman driver, for example, would find it unmanageable. Torque steer is detectable at times but is easily subdued. With such stand-out styling and performance, the younger set wouldn’t be embarrassed being seen driving the V40 T5 at all.





CarSifu's Rating: 7.8