Less is more for the new Volvo V40


The Volvo V40 is a car with some big boots to fill. It has replaced the S40 saloon and V50 estate and whereas the V used to denote an estate car, the V40 is now a five-door hatch. Based on the same underpinnings as the Ford Focus it drives well, looks great and has a superbly finished interior. Here, we’re going to look at the most affordable version, the 1.6-litre petrol T3 model.

Those who know cars will know that any vehicle that’s based on a Ford Focus chassis is going to drive well. Really well. And the Volvo V40 doesn’t disappoint. How does it feel compared to a Focus? In the way it goes, steers and stops, there’s not a lot of difference. The electrically-assisted steering is a little lighter than you might at first expect, but it doesn’t take too long to feel your way into it and you learn to trust the front end of the car, as it seems to almost magically find grip through a fast corner. And this is a car that rewards a driver looking for a bit of fun behind the wheel. Body control is excellent for a car that’s big enough to seat five comfortably and the brakes are reassuringly punchy.

My favourite engine in the whole range is the one we’re looking at here, the 150PS turbocharged T3 1.6-litre petrol unit. Sixty from rest takes 8.4s on the way to 130mph and this is a genuinely sweet powerplant that’s a good deal lighter than the five-cylinder diesels. You really feel that when stringing a set of corners together. It’s also really good on fuel and is priced well. Most customers are going to buy diesel but don’t overlook the T3, especially if your mileages aren’t going to be huge. It’s genuinely good fun and impressively refined. The only flaw in its makeup is the fact that the lower mileage drivers who would look to the T3 may well be doing more urban driving where diesel would have the edge. Oh and this variant isn’t offered with the Geartronic automatic gearbox that’ll save your left leg from constant clutch work.

Certain cars just have that instant element of rightness about them and the Volvo V40 is certainly one of them. I appreciate that beauty is entirely subjective but come on. There’s really not a bad angle on the V40. It’s rare that a car’s styling generates such universal acclaim.

As with most things in life, the best products take what seems a complicated bunch of requirements and reduce them to something very simple and elegant. The Volvo V40 is just such a car. The Swedish company has built something that looks great, drives well, makes sense on the balance sheet and which has an amazing amount of safety equipment built into it. Even in entry-level T3 petrol form, it really is as good as it looks.

Any caveats? Not many. Whereas most model ranges get better the higher you go, with the V40, the opposite seems to be true. I could take or leave the powerful D4 diesel and T4 petrol engines, but I’m hugely impressed by the lowlier D2 and D3 variants and in particular, this petrol T3 version. Less, in this case, really is more.