Volvo V40 is a Safe Fun ride for high profilers

 2014 Volvo V40 T4, reviewed by Volvo Cars Malaysia recently gave us a weekend test run privilege of one of its latest variants, the Volvo V40. The latest Volvo 40 series is a relatively new iteration of a classic that had both sedan (S40) and estate (V40) forms, that were introduced in 1995.

Nearly two decades later, Volvo decided to streamline the 40 series into a single body design with the last of the S40 sedans leaving its plants in 2012 to be replaced by the new 2012 V40 lineup, unveiled at the 2012 Geneva Motor Show. It took Volvo Malaysia just around a year of production planning to bring the new 40 series flagbearer into the country in CKD form, assembled at its plant in Shah Alam, which is proudly the only plant outside of the EU that assembles Volvos. In fact, the Shah Alam plant assembles the rest of the Swedish marque’s range of passenger vehicles sold in the country, which is no mean feat considering the measure of quality and assembly control demanded by the parent company.

By the way, the V40 is the first Volvo variant produced under new owners Geely (China) after having successfully taken stewardship of the brand from former owners Ford, so the V40 is quite special in that sense, carrying within it a host of Ford-derived DNA with input from Geely towards the end of its development stages (the V40’s blueprints had commenced during takeover talks in 2010). American designer Chris Benjamin and British designer Peter Horbury are both responsible for creating the V40 using Ford’s C1 platform (modified). The original Ford C1 platform was shared amongst Ford, Volvo and Mazda to create notable compacts since 2003, which we have come to know as the Mazda 3 (2004), Volvo S40/V50 (2004), European Ford Focus (2005), Ford Kuga (2008) and more recently, Mazda Biante (2008).

Volvo V40: Designed for active, urban lifestyles

The move to a singular bodyshell design for the 40 series is a bold move forward, aimed at bringing in the masses of young urban go-getters with lots of coins to spare, who’ve achieved some measure of success in a highly challenging environment, requiring a cocoon of tranquility and comfort while dashing at speed from one corporate building to the next in style. The 2012 Volvo V40 seems to fit the bill quite well, with its beautifully honed facade exuding beauty and grace while projecting an image of solidity and refinement beyond its reasonable asking price.

The front end of the V40 carries that solid Volvo image in line with its current stable of passenger vehicles, and with a quick glance at the front one could easily mistake it for its bigger sibling the stonking V60. Perhaps it is no coincidence, rather a deliberate move to entice potential customers who may be attracted to the V60 but just couldn’t bring themselves to spend in excess of RM200,000, even for a Scandinavian machine. As such, at a mere RM173,888.00 you could obtain a passport into the world of solid, safe and luxurious continental motoring in the form of the Volvo V40 T4 without breaking the proverbial bank.

The external fascia of the V40 T4 is largely similar to its pricier sibling the V40 T5, save for different sized sport rims, with the former running on 16-inch Matres alloys while the latter is equipped with 17-inch Segomo wheels. The T4 comes with bi-xenon projectors complete with dynamic bending capability and daylight running lights for active safety. A solid hexagonal grille with a prominent Volvo logo dominates the nose, while the beautifully designed headlamps rake upwards and back, to be met by the muscular wheel arches for a sharp, taut and menacing business end of things, providing a hint of potent muscle lurking within.

At the side, the V40 looks like a cross between a hot hatch and a compact estate, which adds to the car’s sporty demeanor, all the while suggesting that there is room for adults in the rear seats unlike a thoroughbred hot hatch with comfortable seating for two adults and a couple of children. All in all, the side profile of the V40 projects a very exciting and young image that should appeal to young urbanites and the young at heart. If I were to nitpick, I’d reckon the V40 needs at least 17-inch wheels to fill up the massive wheel arches, a situation easily rectified by a visit to your nearest aftermarket wheel shop. Right round the back, the “boomerang” tail light cluster design perfectly complements the angular arches of the hatch, while the rear diffuser rises up from beneath for a snarly overall demeanor, perfect for those times when a slowpoke finally lets you pass after hogging the road and you flash that angry face at him after you manage to pull away. The twin tailpipes on either side of the tranversely mounted muffler box adds to its ferocity.

Volvo V40’s interior refinements

The impeccable quality of the Volvo V40 is evident from the moment you pull on the handle to open the door, which closes with a reassuring thud. The leather appointed seats are supple yet firm, and as explained to me by Volvo Malaysia, said leather and most of its interior materials including plastics etc are hypoallergenic in nature, i.e., they are safe and do not emit harmful gasses. An Interior Air Quality System is also put in place to keep out harmful airborne contaminants, so you are assured of you and your passengers’ safety at all times. This is something you won’t find in many other manufacturers’ list of features and is something very unique in the world of motoring.

Though not very capacious, the interior space of the V40 is adequate for 4 full-sized adults or 2 adults and 3 children riding in the back. The front seats are very ergonomically designed, which some people may regard as being a little cramped, but not so for the V40, which I found to be more than adequate with which to plant my oversized derriere. The driver’s seat features memory settings for up to 3 separate drivers, while the front passenger also gets electric seat adjustments.

The leather clad steering wheel (featuring EPAS – Electrical Power Assist Steering) feels reassuringly solid with good feedback from the wheels, a good testament of the engineering prowess at Volvo. Incidentally, this is the first implementation of EPAS on a Volvo and it works as advertised. You can switch between 3 different EPAS programs to suit your driving; City mode for the least steering effort, Normal mode for a good balance between effort and feedback, and Sport mode for when the urge srikes to gun it down the highway on the wrong side of 110km/h. Personally, the system works great, but I would have preferred an easier way to toggle between the modes, perhaps like a dedicated button on the steering wheel like how it’s done by a certain Korean manufacturer.

I’m particularly fond of the floating center console that houses the air-conditioning controls etc. Since the controls are all electronic with a small footprint, it makes sense to free up the space behind the console for stuff that you’d like to stow away from plain sight, making for a cleaner looking, clutter-free center stack. Storage compartments are to be found everywhere within the cabin, so owners with small children will need to do some spring cleaning once in a while. Being a hatchback, boot space is a little on the stingy side, but should the need for space arise, the rear seats fold down flat. As mentioned, rear seating space isn’t class leading, but unless you’re a six-footer you should be able to sit comfortably snug at the back with a friend of the same size. You can forget about taking a long drive with 5 adults on board, and for the record there are hardly any C-segment cars that could comfortably seat 3 passengers at the back anyways. In fact, even most if not all D-segment barges can’t accommodate 3 adults in comfort at the back, so it’s no deal breaker really.

Volvo V40: Powering a fast-paced life

A Ford-derived 1.6-liter GTDi four cylinder turbocharged powerplant resides within the V40 T4 churning out a healthy 180hp @ 5,700rpm with full torque (240Nm) arriving at an early 1,600rpm to deliver a near linear performance especially in the top 3 gears. An efficient Getrag-sourced dual-clutch Powershift gearbox puts all that power down to the wheels with minimal transmission losses, allowing the 1.54-ton V40 to complete the century dash in 8.5s on to a top speed of 225km/h, not bad for a mass-produced 1.6-liter four potter.

How does that translate to real world performance? Well, right from the get go, the V40 pulls strongly as the Getrag tranny rows near effortlessly through the six available cogs, with the sweet spot between gears 2 to 4 where the full accelerative effects of the low inertia Borg Warner turbocharger comes on song to deliver a very punchy drive with loads of grunt and speed. Towards the highest ratios, the Ecoboost engine begins to lose some of that seat of the pants feeling as the sub-200hp lump pulling more than 1.6 tons of man and machine begins to reveal its weakness. Regardless of available torque, 180hp is just nice for zipping around town in a hurry but in the end, horsepower matters the most. For that, you’d have to seek out the T5.

The MacPherson struts up front are mated to a multi-link setup at the rear to deliver a taut yet somewhat pliant ride quality that showcases its continental pedigree. Driving on our “super smooth” public roads seemed quite pleasant and undramatic, with just the right amount of damping and rebound to mask most tarmac imperfections. However, don’t get me wrong, the V40 isn’t a boat as it is able to maintain its composure during hard cornering or while changing lanes in a hurry at speed. Switching to Sport mode on the EPAS fits the car’s dynamics perfectly during spirited drives. For the most part, I left the steering on Sport mode which didn’t feel too heavy even during parking maneuvers while providing excellent feedback and a meaty feel at most other times.

Volvo V40: Safety at its core

Safety is always a top priority for Volvo, and it’s good to see that Geely China saw fit to continue along that tradition. If it had been 10 years ago where a Chinese automotive company were to take over the helm of the safest car in the world, they’d bear the brunt of bad jokes for who can forget the videos and images of Chinese built cars doing the rounds at NCAP? A lot of positive things have happened in such a short period of time, where Chinese manufacturers have begun to produce high quality products (brands like Geely, GWM and Qoros come to mind) and realize the importance of quality over quantity. Geely China has done a lot for Volvo by not doing much to dissolve the main tenets of what the brand stands for. A Volvo under Geely is as good as any Volvo under Ford or any other continental steward, and should this trend continue, we will see even better Volvos in future.

If I were to list out and explain every bit of safety kit embedded in the Volvo V40 T4 this review will end up a few pages longer, so we’ll just stick to some of the more pertinent ones. City Safety employs laser beams to track any obstacles in front of you and apply emergency braking automatically (works up to 50km/h) should you be busy texting a friend. Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) uses radars installed in the rear to warn you of impending obstructions on your left and right sides, while Cross Traffic Alert (CTA) makes use of said radars to warn you of crossing traffic as you’re about to back out of a parking space. A total of 7 airbags (including driver’s knee airbag) come as standard on all variants.

Volvo has been a stalwart in the automotive industry since before many of us were born, creating safe but usually boring juggernauts on wheels. It’s been said before that a Volvo never dies, it just keeps on going and going. Well, a good couple of decades have come and gone from the venerable days of the Volvo tanks to what they are today, churning out solid performers that look good, drive great and feature class-leading safety features and luxurious accoutrements for today’s demanding motorists.

After all is said and done, RM173,888.00 (excluding insurance), is not exactly chump change. In that price bracket the V40 T4 will have to compete with the Japanese barge brigade a.k.a. Honda Accord 2.4, Toyota Camry 2.5, Mazda 6 2.5, Nissan Teana 2.5 and undercutting continental rivals Mercedes (A-Class), BMW (1-series) and Audi (A3). Having said that, the Volvo V40 T4 is solid and doesn’t cut corners where driving dynamics, active and passive safety, performance and style are concerned. All these superlatives come together to create a strong and valid proposition for your hard earned moolah, in a way that only Volvo can. Shedding its tank-like facade will only improve perception towards the brand, all the while holding steadfast and true to their calling of building the safest cars in the world. What’s not to like?

Volvo Cars Malaysia offers the V40 in three versions: the V40 T4 at RM173,888, V40 T5 at RM190,888 and V40 Cross Country T5 at RM200,888 in eight body colors; Biamitz Blue, Caper Green, Electric Silver, Silver Metallic, Black Stone, Caspian Blue, Ice White and Twilight Bronze. You may even customize the car further with various approved add-ons within and without.

Volvo v40 images

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