Review: Volvo V40 T5 Polestar, the underdog with a surprising bite


Volvo purists are tested with every passing generation of their beloved automobiles. First, the disappearance of rulers and set squares from the design studio. Next there was something called the C30 which didn’t make sense to them, because it was not a station wagon and thus not the vehicular equivalent of the word “utility”. Most recently, their tears fell once again at the death of their beloved five-pot engine.

This updated V40 is the culmination of all of those incidents. It has curves, is a hatchback and carries the Drive-E 2.0-litre mill in a strength setting of T5. And then some. Because now, Volvo’s in-house tuning arm, Polestar, is offering add-on packages which also reach under the hood and through the chassis for a little added spice to the standard Volvo fare.

QUICK FACTS

NameVolvo V40 T5 Polestar
Engine1,969cc; inline-4 turbo, DOHC
Transmission6-speed auto
Max Power253 hp @ 5,500 rpm
Max Torque400 Nm from 1,500 to 4,800 rpm
0 – 100 km/h6.2 seconds;
PriceRM240,888 (inclusive of RM60k Polestar kit)

EXTERIOR

Small touches will make the aesthetic deal here. Huge star V-spoke Polestar 19s on Pirelli P-Zero (!) shoes, side mirrors finished in black, a spoiler where the roof ends and a diffuser down below. Quite how much benefit these confer on a car with these output numbers, and being front wheel drive, I cannot say; but the package does serve to turn up the menace of the V40’s looks. The icing on the cake would have been the inclusion of the Thor’s hammer headlight DRLs but alas, they are unfortunately not to be found on local spec cars.

The bigger picture is pleasant, even if it doesn’t raise your blood pressure the way a Megane RS or Focus ST might. At the rear, the character line sporting the spaced capitals of the word Volvo is a focal point for the glass of the hatch and the concavity beneath. From the side, especially with the stumpy D-pillar, this makes the V40 look like a wedge-y sports shoe. Lovely.

INTERIOR

This is probably the last time we’ll see the “waterfall” floating centre console in a Volvo. Yes, Volvo lovers, that’s the next quirky feature to go the way of the dodo. In its steady upmarket push, Volvo interiors will no longer be the stoic, matte affair that we’ve become accustomed to and the recent reveal of the XC60 has all but confirmed this.

For the time being, there is character yet in the cabin. The 8.0-inch Adaptive Digital Display instrument cluster and the 7.0-inch infotainment screen are the regions of the dash your eye will undoubtably be drawn to, but not because the rest of it is dull.

There is a calmness to this execution that feels indescribably Swedish in the best way, and for those who find things a bit too dichromatic there’s a little Polestar square on the stubby gear knob begging to be gripped hard. Elsewhere, the only other changes are sports pedals and a footrest finished with rubber grips along with Polestar door sills.

A word of caution however; if there is anyone riding shotgun, pay careful attention when you reach for the handbrake. It’s on the wrong side of the tunnel console and can lead for some awkward unintentional touching.

THE DRIVE

The note is a strange one, clearly the work of a four-pot and emanating as a constant grumble through the Polestar pipes. The gains are there however, on torque alone the Polestar-ed V40 gains an additional 50 Nm alongside about 8 hp to 400 Nm — from a low 1,500 rpm to 4,800 rpm — and 253 hp. This trims a tenth off the century sprint time from 6.3 seconds to 6.2 seconds, and completely leaves the burbly, characterful five-pot and its 6.9 seconds in the dust.

For comparison, the Volkswagen Golf GTI — the world’s go-to hot hatch — goes from 0 to 100 km/h in 6.4 seconds. Just pray you don’t run into an S60 T6 when you’re flicking the paddle shifters through the six cogs in a world of your own.

Chucking the V40 into a corner on the optional absorber/spring combo and Pirellis is a satisfying experience, but the downside (of course, with a skinny section of 235/35) is it will crash over bumps and eat into comfort. The feel through the wheel however, not so satisfying.

The electric power steering tends to shimmy playfully (torque steer) when you bury the throttle in a straight line, but if you get on the power midway through a corner there is not much in the way of direct feedback. You can, however, choose between three steering settings which mostly seem to affect steering weight.

On the whole, progress is smooth when you behave and sufficiently urgent when you don’t.

IS THIS CAR FOR YOU?

The standard V40? Maybe. But you have to be a real masochist to spend roughly a third of the V40 T5’s value to completely spec it up, as per this unit here. For some, it’s perfectly acceptable as everything that the Polestar package augments under the skin is covered by Volvo Car Malaysia warranty.

This is as left field as sporty hatch choices get, for the rebel in you who is just completely averse to going with the grain. But a sensible rebel, one for whom safety and build quality matters. So if you’re part of this small subset of car-driving society who want a very warm hatch — not hot — that may or may not pass under the visual radar with some of the best active safety systems available in a car of this price, then yes. Go for it. If you live for the Ironmark, even more so.

WOULD I BUY THIS CAR?

As a tool to irritate mainstream hot hatches, it’s hard to think of a better car. The Uncle stigma may be slowly waning but I’m willing to bet that being overtaken by a Volvo, regardless of whether or not drops of Polestar cyan dot the exterior to subtly hint that this is no average V40, would not sit comfortably with a significant set of drivers.

To answer the question: I’m a sucker for sleepers, so I just might. If I had maybe two to three other cars in the garage especially, but I digress. To keep up the façade, my ideal Polestar Performance Optimisation pick ’n mix would only include the chassis, intake and exhaust and optimisation options, leaving out the interior and exterior trim bits alongside the ludicrous RM21,000 wheels and tyres pairing. There, now I only need to spend RM30,000 to cause Swede nuisance wherever I go.

[Words by V.B]


IMAGE GALLERY


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