The Volvo V40 D3 is one of those cars where you struggle to find an Achilles heel. It’s good-looking, well built, has a 150bhp diesel engine with enough torque to give it some zip and returns around 65mpg on the combined fuel consumption test. 114g/km emissions and five-star safety also count in its favour.
Need a cast-iron guarantee of how well this car drives? We’ve got that covered. The underpinnings of the Volvo V40 are shared with those of the Ford Focus, for as long as most can remember the best drivers’ car in the family hatch sector. While it’s true that Volvo aren’t owned by Ford any more, having come under the aegis of Zhejiang Geely since 2010, the V40 D3 nevertheless benefits from that Ford chassis expertise in offering good steering, excellent body control and a decent ride quality.
The 148bhp 1.6-litre diesel engine sits between the 115bhp D2 and the 177bhp D4 and offers excellent refinement at typical motorway speeds. It’s a little chattery on cold start ups, but there are very few diesels that aren’t. With 350Nm of torque from a mere 1,500rpm, it feels very responsive and a quick prod of the throttle pedal gives a charismatic five-cylinder off-neat thrum. The standard six-speed gearbox feels a little long in the throw but it’s hard to wrong slot a gear and the brakes are enormously reassuring. There’s also an automatic Geartronic version available should you find the idea of a clutch pedal a bit overwhelming. Performance? The sprint to 60mph comes and goes in 9.1 seconds on the way to a 130mph maximum.
Aim directly at Audi’s A3 and BMW’s 1 Series and you’ve got to come equipped with quite some hardware. The Volvo V40 has the showroom appeal to meet and beat both of these vehicles. We recently had the opportunity to compare the interiors of these three cars back to back. The latest A3 shades the 1 Series in terms of interior look and feel but the V40 aces them both - and by quite some margin. Some serious styling has gone into the V40’s interior. It’s not perfect. Some of the stalks feel a little cheap and headroom is a little pinched in the rear with narrow rear door apertures, but features such as the rubberised microswitch tailgate release, the optional full TFT graphic instrument panel and the deft piano black framed door mirrors keep the design balance well into credit. The boot is a decent size at 335-litres and features a hidden underfloor section to keep documents and valuables out of sight.
Most cars are good. Or they’re original. Rarely both. Here’s an exception. The Volvo V40’s excellence is, to a certain degree, down to the spadework done by Ford’s chassis engineers, but credit must go to Volvo in creating a body and interior that lift the V40 way beyond the mainstream. It looks a genuinely class act. It also looks at its most attractive with the D3 engine. Yes, you could fork out another £1,000 and get the more powerful D4 powerplant, but if you’re honest with yourself, do you really need the additional horsepower? Probably not. In this market sector, paying more usually means incurring more in the way of depreciation. For that reason as much as any, the Volvo V40 D3 looks to be where the smart money goes.