The most eagerly anticipated launch of this year in my eyes has been a battle between two cars, both in the premium hatchback sector.
The Mercedes Benz A-Class has been teasing potential buyers with its ‘New Generation’ campaign, whilst another manufacturer has sat back, quietly confident in its new model rival. Step forward Volvo. The Swedish brand held its most important launch in the past 20 years for a new 5-door model, the V40.
Volvo is a pioneer when it comes to safety and this car, replacing the S40 saloon and V50 estate, is packed to the brim to show how this aspect is so important to them.
City Safety, is designed to help you avoid collisions with cars up to a speed of 31mph by calculating the distance and speed of the car infront and then engaging the brakes accordingly should a crash be imminent.
Also coming as standard is a world first, the Pedestrian Airbag, which does exactly what it says on the tin and will deploy in the windscreen area if you’re unfortunate enough to actually hit one. Although with Pedestrian Detection, you would hope this might never happen.
A Lane Keeping Aid gives the steering wheel a gentle vibrate should you start to veer out of a lane, while an automatic Road Sign Information on the instrument display informs you of the speed you should be doing. Ideal when you forget what the national speed limit is here or abroad.
BLIS (Blind Spot Information System) warns drivers with LED indicators, whilst alerting of any fast approaching vehicles up to 70m behind.
Cross Traffic Alert uses rear sensors to alert drivers to any crossing traffic when reversing out of a space.
So with all this safety gadgetry in the V40, does the styling and driving experience live up to expectation.
Even though it’s a five-door, the low V-shaped bonnet and low roof make it reminds one of a coupe. It is even 29mm lower than the sportier C30. The big, black grille, emblazoned with the Volvo badge dwarfs the front of the car and with the added LED daytime running lights at the corners of the front end, it is visually quite a looker. The only negative is the Adaptive Cruise Control sensor which is attached on the front grille and I did want to just rip it off as it detracts.
Angled lines running down the side lead up to the sculpted hexagonal rear, with an added gloss black finish to give it an extra factor to make it stand out from rivals such as the BMW 1 Series and Audi A3. Both these cars were available to drive at the launch, and had nothing on the V40 in the styling department.
Available in three trims: the standard ES, SE and the SE Lux, the interior is well thought out to bring a pleasurable driving experience.
Seats are comfortable, although only the driver’s one is electronically adjustable, and a mixture of leather, T-Tec (a material inspired by wet-suits) and textile are available for the inside.
The floating centre console, which is a trademark of the Scandinavian brand features brushed aluminium, while little things like the rimless rear view mirror and LED illuminated gearstick all add quirky features to the car.
The SE Lux offers a panoramic roof and immediately the car feels more spacious and the flooding natural light adds an airiness to the interior.
With bluetooth as standard in its class, the 5” colour screen shows all information relating to navigation, media and My Car which lets you control all the safety aspects.
With a power button the car then gives you the option of how you want to drive it. The dash gives you ‘themes’ to choose from: Eco turns it green and assists you in driving more fuel efficient, Elegance turns brown and gives you a calming feel, whilst Performance turns bright red, a rev line appears and you feel like you want to turn into a wannabe Swedish rally driver.
Driving the car on the varied roads around North Wales on the launch and you are assisted by the speed warning flashing up on the dash, whilst an orange grill effect reflects on the window as you approach vehicles ahead. This will turn to red and emit a beep if you get too close to the car.
For those that struggle with parallel parking and I will admit, I’m one of them, the Park Assist Pilot will make it look so easy. With sensors scanning the size of the space you want to reverse into, all you have to do is follow the onboard instructions on the dash, control the speed and you can take your hands off the wheel and it will have you parked up in a jiffy. It was such an eye-opening experience the first time we used it and although it is an option, I would definitely add it.
With a range of diesel engines available, the 1.6-litre D2 is the first Volvo diesel with CO2 emissions of just 94g/km, but needs a bit more low-end torque. My choice, the D3 is available in both manual and automatic transmission producing 150bhp, whilst the D4 has a nice sounding 2-litre engine. The petrol engine 180bhp T4 is quite noisy and arriving later on this year is the T5 which is expected to produce a staggering 254bhp.
The low centre of gravity of the V40 offers great ride comfort and is extremely agile. Driving it along the single-lane roads of the Welsh hills the steering is responsive enough to feel at one with the road. It is a great fun car to drive.
With the D2 likely to be the most popular, customers can expect to pay £19,745 for the most basic model. The 177bhp D4 will set you back £7050 more, but Volvo is renowned for its build quality and longevity which makes the Volvo V40 such an appealing prospect. My car of the year without a doubt.