So, Volvo (you know, those Swedish guys who make REALLY safe cars), got a hold of me a few weeks back and asked if I’d like to take their new V40 for a spin. Being the complete free-shit slut that I am, I didn’t even hesitate coming out with a “hell yes” and the fine people delivered one to me to drive around for a weekend.
(1) Va Va VOOM!
The first thing you’ll notice about the Volvo V40 is that it’s so unlike any other Volvo on the road, and the looks you get when you drive this car around the suburban streets of North-Western Jozi say it all: “This is not an old-man’s car”.
The Volvo V40 is a design masterpiece. It has quite a geometric look about it. Instead of rounded curves, the car has a lot of straight lines, edges and corners, which is infinitely better looking than any other car in its class on South Africa’s roads.
Volvo is not the soulless old man’s car that it once was.
The model I had on review for a few days was the biggest and best of everything. Volvo sent me the almost-range-topping D3 Elite, which is kited out with a 2.0l Turbo Diesel motor, Geartronic automatic gearbox, and every single gadget and convenience you could imagine.
I don’t know how much lay-people care about “kilowatts” and “torque”, but this car puts out 110kW/350nm. Quite frankly, I don’t give a rat’s ass about numbers. All I want is to sit in a car, put my foot down and feel the car go. If my face distorts because of the G-Forces, even better.
There’s no other way to put this, the D3 motor in the V40 FUCKS OFF. You just have to look at the accelerator and you’re doing like 300km/h (not really, but when all you’re used to is a 1.4l Jetta, you get the point).
And it helps to have a really responsive, smooth automatic gearbox that seems to know exactly what you want the motor to do. Even going up those steep hills around Roodepoort, the V40 just charged forward, unhindered, like a Leb in a fight at gym.
You might think that “themes” died with bad 90s music software, but the V40 has an interesting take on giving you a choice of how you want to drive your car. Instead of the usual dials on the dashboard, the V40 gives you a fully-electronic TFT Crystal display that you can change according to your driving preference. The model I reviewed had three settings: Eco, Elegance and Performance.
Eco basically encourages you to drive economically by showing you how well you’re doing on the fuel consumption front and rewarding you with a bright green “E” on the dashboard when you attain the optimum level of eco-friendliness. The car’s computer also tweaks the car’s performance and responsiveness to conserve fuel and reduce emissions.
Elegance is rather bland, just giving you the basics that you need to know like RPM, speed and temperature in a meh brown colour. I called it the “Corolla mode” because it set the car up into a comfy, sensible mode that’s not particularly mind-blowing at average speeds, but gives you the power when you need it.
Then you get the “Performance” mode. Or, as I call it, “Psycho” mode. This mode turns your dashboard red, gives you massive POWER meter on the side and turns your frugal diesel motor into a raging beast form Hell. In Performance mode, you take your life into your own hands as there’s no measure of restraint that will prevent you from racking up enormous piles of speeding fines.
The Performance Mode ruined cars for me because now I just cannot in good conscience buy a vehicle in the future that DOESN’T have a 2.0 l turbo diesel motor and an auto gearbox. And that’s going to prove to be very expensive.
(4) Echo! Echo! Echo!
Volvo usually keeps the “V” designation for its station-wagon models. The previous (read much older) V40 was a station-wagon, as well as the current V60 model and the outgoing v50. But the new V40 is a hatchback, which, apart from the C30 coupe, is Volvo’s only current model that comes in hatchback.
That said, the V40 isn’t short on space. The driver’s compartment is spacious, but it wraps nicely around you to keep you feeling “one” with the vehicle. The real selling point for me was the leg-room in the back seats.
There’s a monumental amount of leg room behind the driver and passenger seats, which meant that my 7 foot 2 brother in law could easily fit in without having he knees wrapped around his ears. Volvo very kindly included a baby seat for us as well so we could cart our son around, and he loved the space too.
Usually (read: In my Jetta) his feet are pressed up against the back of the passenger seat, which results in dusty/muddy foot prints on the upholstery. But in the V40, he would have to grow for another two or three years before he would be able to defile the leather in the same way.
The cabin space does come at a price though; the boot is not as big as I would like it to be in a hatchback. Firstly, the boot isn’t that deep and secondly, the spare wheel takes up a lot of the space in the boot, so you’re only left with about 330l of storage space. The rear seats do fold down but the shape of the boot is awkward and the relatively small mouth opening will make it difficult to get larger items into the boot.
It’s adequate for a single person or a small family, but you’d need additional storage (like a Thule on the roof or a trailer) if you plan to go on holiday.
Driving the Volvo V40 D3 Elite is much like what I imagine driving one of James Bond’s cars is like. There’s a load of buttons that do a load of things. And a bunch of features that just work without you having to do anything.
The model I drove had keyless entry, auto wipers, auto adaptive headlights (that bend around corners I shit you not!), cruise control and this neat technology called “City Safety”.
City Safety uses a bunch of sensors on the front of the car to detect other cars and pedestrians, and if one of those happens to stroll into your path, the car automatically hits the brakes to avoid an accident.
There’s also an option to give your car a full collision avoidance pack and something called “Adaptive Cruise Control” which will automatically brake and speed up depending on what the car in front of you is doing. You set a speed and if the coast is clear your car cruises along at that speed, but if you reach a signature Job
Joburg traffic jam, the car will automatically reduce speed and stay with the flow of traffic until you’re out of the jam and you can resume the original speed you set.
This is the closest to auto-pilot I’ve seen in a car. Well, that, and the automatic parking assistance which will…wait for it…park your car for you without having to touch the pedals or the steering wheel!
These are all optional extras that will end up breaking your car budget, but…damn… if money was not an option I’d be spending almost half a million buck on this car.
Speaking of which, it’s not a cheap car to buy. Although the base model (with nothing added) will set you back R281,000, once you start adding extras you’ll quickly start teasing the R350,000 mark, even for the base model 1.6 petrol model.
The Volvo V40 is sex on wheels. There’s no other way to describe it. It’s one of the best-looking cars on the road, and if you opt for one of the high-end models with a D3 or T4/T5 motor, you’re going to get a car that will, literally, require you to change your pants on a regular basis.
With that said, you need to be prepared to fork out a kak-load of money if you want a V40 loaded with features that will set it apart from its big competitors. If you can only afford the base model, it’s just a fairly average vehicle.
I loved it though. I’ve never felt more alive, driving a car. If I had the cash to drop, this would be my first choice.
Model (as tested): Volvo V40 D3 Elite + Premium Pack
Price (as tested): R 375,150
Wash is our resident uber-geek. He sleeps on a pile of comics, speaks fluent Klingon and spends his weekends unleashing all manner of Hell on the battlefields of his PC. If it’s related to gaming, comics, sci-fi or any other form of geekitude… chances are Wash has his sticky paws all over it.