When someone mentions “Volvo”, the first thing that may spring to mind is the evergreen boxy 240 sedan that our parents used to own. Most people might have forgotten that Volvo also produce smaller cars than the 240. Volvo’s modern compact model can be traced as far back to the 300-series in the late 70’s.
The 300-series started out as a hatchback but eventually a saloon bodystyle was offered. The rear-wheel drive compact gave way to the front-wheel driven 400-series in the late 80’s. In the 90’s the 40-series Volvos replaced the old 400-series and it comes in two guises, the S40 sedan and the V40 wagon. The second-generation S40 introduced in 2007 but the wagon version was confusingly named the V50. After production ended in 2012, both the S40 and V50 are replaced by the sole hatchback V40.
Like the previous S40/V50 duo, the current V40 is assembled here in Malaysia by Swedish Motor Assemblies Sdn. Bhd. (SMA) in Shah Alam. The V40 comes with two engine options; the 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder T4 priced at RM173,888, or the 2.0-litre turbocharged five-cylinder T5 at RM190,888. The Biarritz Blue V40 you see here is the range-topping T5.
|Name||Volvo V40 T5|
|Engine||1,984cc; five-cylinder turbocharged|
|Max Power||213 hp @ 6,000 rpm|
|Max Torque||300 Nm @ 2,700-5,000 rpm|
|Price||RM190,888.00 (OTR without insurance)|
First time I saw the V40 in person was August last year during the launch event. Half a year went by and the V40 still looks fresh like it was just launched yesterday; maybe because of its rarity on the road. The front is dominated by the long overhang and sculpted bonnet which rises up to the base of the A-pillar. The trademark Volvo iron mark takes center stage in the trapezoidal grille flanked by the almond-shaped Xenon headlamps on each side. There are no front fog lamps but the LED daytime running lights are neatly hidden at the edge of the lower air intake.
From the side it’s pretty bare but the prominent shoulder line rises up towards the back meeting the thick D-pillar giving it a hunched-down look. The back houses one of the curviest taillamps on any car in the market today. You do get rear fog lamps and those twin pipes jutting out on each side of the rear bumper give the V40 a sporty look. Eccentric touches like the finned roof spoiler with extended winglets and the optional Ailos 18-inch rims with lime green detailing may sound tacky but somehow Volvo managed to pull it off tastefully.
You can lock and unlock the car via the buttons on the Personal Car Communicator (PCC) but you can also approach the car with the PCC in your pocket, reach the door handle with your hand and the car will unlock itself. Locking the car is just by touching a tiny sensor on the door handle and the side mirrors whirrs itself to their folding position like a Transformer while the puddle lights illuminate the floor. My nephew and niece even bicker over who gets to lock and unlock the car just to see the mirrors in action.
As you settle yourself in the driver’s seat, you will notice that the built quality of this locally-assembled Volvo is top-notch. The dashboard design is minimalist but oozes Scandinavian coolness. The fully-digital instrument panel will definitely catch your eyes and can be customised to three preset themes called Elegance, ECO, and Performance.
Elegance is the default theme with the main binnacle houses the speedometer with tachometer on the right side and temperature meter on the left. Switch to ECO and the temperature meter is replaced with an EcoGuide bar to display how economical is your driving style. Performance theme moves the tachometer to the center and you get a PowerMeter on the right so you can see how much power you’re extracting from the engine.
The powered front seats give ample adjustments for you to find your desired driving position and the steering also adjusts for reach and rake. The five-inch screen in the center console displays everything from the parking sensors, the car’s settings, to audio and climate control but it doesn’t come with satellite navigation. However the controls are not quite intuitive, as the buttons for each function are separated individually instead of just a single main controller a-la BMW’s i-drive. Surprisingly Volvo still retains the good old handbrake lever but it’s positioned at the passenger side instead of the driver
The deep cubby under the center armrest is where you will find the USB port and a 12v power outlet, and there’s another 12v power outlet in the center twin cup holders. The glove box is chilled and decently-sized. Worth mentioning is the tiny pouch just in front of the seat base, where you can stash your Smart Tag or phone discreetly from prying eyes.
However, the rear passengers are not as lucky as the front occupants. They don’t get their own air conditioning vents and the rear windows roll down only two thirds of their height. Rear space can be pretty tight, so it’s best to carry only two passengers at the back for longer trips, because the middle seat is best suited for a small child. Cargo space is also limited at just 324 litres, although the 60:40 split folding seats are easy to operate and folds flat to give you 1,021 litres of space.
The V40 T5 is no slouch, not when it’s equipped with a sweet-sounding 2.0-litre turbocharged 5-cylinder engine. Producing 213 hp and 300 Nm of torque, this car will reach 100km/h in just under seven seconds. Keep the lusty engine within the torque’s sweet spot at 2700rpm to 5000 rpm and you will get the power surge that catapults you into the horizon, or the car in front, or the barricade wall; depending on where you point the steering wheel.
With all the power channeled to the front wheels, you do get torque-steer so have to be careful with your right foot, especially when exiting mid-corner. The gearbox is a conventional 6-speed auto which doesn’t shift as instant when pushed, but in city driving it shifts smoothly. It does have a sports mode with manual override, but sometimes you just can’t help but longing for a nice pair of shift paddles behind the steering wheel.
The noise emitted from the engine is subtle, perhaps too subtle. You can still hear the turbo spooling in the background but you have to drive with the windows down to fully appreciate the trademark 5-cylinder rumble. Powering uphill winding roads is an easy task with the huge amount of torque and the brakes provide decent stopping power.
The steering is on the heavy side but still delivers sufficient feedback upon attacking the twisty roads. Body roll is minimal but even with the Dynamic Stability & Traction Control (DSTC) is in Sport mode, you will still feel the car understeer round the bends. It’s not really a hot hatch to be thrown around the corners, it suffices to say that the V40 is better suited for the long highway where you can just pile on the miles effortlessly.
Driving around town is a standard affair, it is comfortable most of the time but the ride can be a bit jarring at times when running over uneven surface. That could be due to the optional 18″ wheels with 225/40-profiled tyres. The turbo lag is present at lower revs but the automatic start stop function cuts in and out with minimal jerk. The turning radius is so wide that you will need to do a three-point-turn where you normally don’t. The view out from the driver’s seat might be an issue especially out of the rear three-quarter but the V40 got this covered by a Swedish nanny; and by Swedish nanny I mean a host of driving aids and safety features that comes with the car.
There are front and rear sensors that constantly scanning the distance between you and your surroundings. The Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) indicators let you know if there’s a vehicle in your blind spot and this is always helpful especially when you’re attempting to switch lanes. There is also City Safety, whereby a laser-based sensor at the top of the windscreen able to sense a car in front is slowing down or stationary.
It is claimed to work at speeds up to 50 km/h and it will brake the car for you if it senses a possibility of a collision. If you have trouble parallel-parking your car, you’ll be glad to know that the V40 comes with Park Assist Pilot (PAP) to guide you. I’ve used it in a few occasions and it worked brilliantly by magically steering the car into the available parking space.
After a session of driving on the B-roads, the V40 also turns out to be a quite serene highway cruiser. Set the cruise control at 110 km/h, the T5 will pull along lazily just above 2000rpm and you’re on your way to a relaxing drive. Wind noise is not an issue although the constant hum of the optional low profile tyres is noticeable, you can always drown it out with your favourite tune blasting out of the eight speakers. You probably won’t be seeing a V40 tailgating other vehicles, because if you’re driving one you just wouldn’t be bothered about how fast you need to travel but if push comes to shove you can always summon the 300Nm of torque anytime just by flexing your right ankle.
And if you do that, be prepared to see the fuel bar severely depleted in no time. If you’re not careful, the fuel consumption will be north of 20 litres per 100km but driven sedately, 9.0 litres 100km average is still achievable around town. I managed to get 8.6 litres per 100km at best and that’s still way off the official claim of 7.5 litres per 100km.
IS THIS CAR FOR YOU?
If you’re looking for something out of the ordinary, this car will suit you to a tee. When was the last time you see a V40 on the road? People might question your choice but only you will know what you’re getting with the V40. It’s a car for those who secretly enjoy a quick blast down the highway and it looks so unassuming that most people will be caught off guard by this compact hatch’s ability to leave them in the dust. If you rarely take passengers, the V40 is fine but if you really need to transport cargo frequently then maybe the V40 is not for you. This Volvo does not belong in the Ikea car park.
The usual suspects are the Germans. Current favourite Volkswagen Golf GTI may still be on top of the list, while the Mercedes-Benz A250 Sport is slowly gaining popularity. Bear in mind you can’t go wrong with any of these, but it takes more than gut feeling to choose the V40 over the others. The Volvo might not give you an entertaining drive as the Germans, but it has its own strengths. Depending on your preferences, if you want prestige and like to show off, A250 Sport is for you.
If you want the most powerful of the bunch, Golf GTI is your car. But I’m telling you that none of the Germans come with a 5-cylinder engine. When everybody is downsizing their engines, you may not see another 5-cylinder-powered car in this price range in the future so this is your chance to own one while you still can.
|Volvo V40 T5||Volkswagen Golf GTI||Mercedes-Benz A250 Sport|
|Type||5-cylinder direct injection turbo petrol||4-cylinder direct injection turbo petrol||4-cylinder direct injection turbo petrol|
|Type||Electrical power-assisted||Electrical power-assisted||Electrical power-assisted|
|Transmission||6-speed Geartronic||6-speed Direct Shift Gearbox||7-speed Dual Clutch Transmission|
|Type||MacPherson struts / Multilink||MacPherson struts / Multilink||MacPherson struts / Control Arm & Wishbones|
|Front||Ventilated disc||Ventilated disc||Ventilated disc|
|Rear||Solid disc||Solid disc||Solid disc|
|TYRE & WHEELS|
|Tyres||225/45 R17||225/40 R18||235/40 R18|
|DIMENSIONS & WEIGHTS|
|Max Kerb weight||kg||1521||1370||1445|
|Luggage Capacity (VDA)||L||324||380||341|
|0 – 100km/h||sec||6.9||6.5||6.6|
WILL I BUY IT?
Well, I’m not quite sure actually because for a few thousand Ringgit more, there’s the more attractive version of the V40 called the V40 Cross Country. It comes with the same engine but rides a bit taller than the normal V40 and looks twice as good with the additional body kit. Either way, I’ll be glad as long as it has that charming 5-cylinder engine under the bonnet.