Purchasing a premium luxury hatchback is an emotional decision, more so because you see the car as an extension to your own personality. A decision you are willing to take over practicality, space and even performance, despite what your fathers and his friends will advice you to do. Today, we make our case on this very point with the 2015 Volvo V40 diesel, the most affordable offering from the Swedish manufacturer in India that will strike an emotional chord with you. Well, that is what happened with us, after driving this magnificently crafted hatchback for over 200 kilometres. Don’t feel us yet? Read on and you will find out.
How Does It Look?
We won’t beat around the bush on this one. A simple glance at the Volvo V40 and you are sold for good. Having not forgotten about the Mercedes A-Class, it is easily the most beautifully designed car in its segment. You just can’t find an angle that makes the V40 look dull or mundane. In fact, our electric blue finished V40 was the star where we went with the kids admiring its design while the rest made sure to turn their heads while we rolled down the road. We also couldn’t say no to the countless selfies and the occasional thumbs at the red light.
Stretched as much as a Honda City in length, the Volvo V40 is long, wide and grabs lots of presence. The hatch looks fast and agile, while the overall character lines add a certain aggression to the design. The car sits low with a ground clearance of 133 mm and the long nose starts receding as you move to the back. The familiar Volvo grille stands poised at the front complemented by the slim headlamps that feature projector lights. The bulging bonnet adds up to the bulk of the hatchback, seamlessly integrating into the pronounced wheel arches at the sides.
Move along and the strong yet poised shoulder line looks sharp, while the sloping roofline and narrowing window line come together at the C-pillar to form a coupe-like design. At the rear, the V40 looks all beefed up with well-crafted body showing up on the curved rear windscreen that meets the concave curved boot-lid. The mid-section gets a gloss black finish with the ‘Volvo’ badging resting with pride, and breaks the ice on this otherwise all-blue package. What’s even more attractive is the equally flamboyant LED tail lights that extend right from the mid-section up till the roof of the hatch, and is complimented by an LED stop light on the rear spoiler. The showstopper here is the black diffuser that reduces the visual down bulk and is complimented by the twin exhaust setup.
Our test car came with the sporty R-Design package, further accentuating the V40’s styling characteristics featuring sportier bumpers, a panoramic sunroof and larger 17-inch 5-spoke alloy wheels (16-inch on the standard model). We also particularly liked Volvo’s decision to avoid chrome throughout the exteriors, which seriously makes a point about grabbing attention without the need to go bling (rappers take note!).
How Is The Cabin?
Night Mode: ON
As radical and outlandish as the exteriors are, the 2015 Volvo V40 gets a familiar layout on the inside, as seen on other Volvo cars. It is also one of the most ergonomically enriching cabins we’ve been in, and offers lots of support to its passengers. Despite the low height of the V40, ingress and egress is not a dramatic issue even for the tallest of us. Our road tester who was frequenting in and out of the car was at ease, and much of that comes from courtesy of the wide doors at the front and rear.
Step inside though, and the well-appointed cabin greets you with the premium touch that you would have expected. Quality levels are top notch throughout and the all-black cabin with silver finished inserts looks sporty and rich at the same time. The TFT digital instrument cluster is an absolute pleasure to use, and instantly greets the driver with its great user interface. The unit is also customizable so you have the Eco, Elegance and Performance themes, to change the colour options while you can even customize the information that you need to have on display. It is very well crafted, and your eyes barely take any time to adjust to the console.
The floating centre console comes with a familiar design with everything on your arm’s reach. You do tend to miss the “one-unit-controlling-everything” feature seen on the rivals, but Volvo’s derivative does the job as well. We weren’t really happy with the 5-inch display unit, and it felt extremely small for the car of this size while also distracting, since there are times you have to strain your eyes to read the information. The 7-inch unit from the Cross Country would do the trick here and so will the inclusion of navigation. While you do get parking sensors, a reverse camera has been given a miss, but it can be installed as an optional extra.
We particularly liked the soft leather upholstery on the seats of the Volvo V40 and it comes with contrast white stitching. The sports seats exclusive to the R-Design are extremely comforting and offer a snug fit in all areas of the body. Thigh support is excellent for the front passengers and seldom do you feel the need to take a break to ease out. Boot capacity is at its practical best and will stow anything from a large suitcase to multiple duffle bags.
The sloping roofline does compromise on the front and rear headroom but a little tinkering on the electrically adjustable front seats will provide the right fit. Talking about legroom, the V40 has sufficient at the front and just about right at the rear. Given the high centre tunnel, three can be a squeeze at the rear but nothing too uncomforting within city limits. The rear windows allow lesser light inside the cabin, because of the elevated design of the window. Given the all-black interiors, folks suffering from claustrophobia may not be entirely happy in the back seats. Nevertheless, the huge panoramic roof introduces a lot of light inside the cabin.
How Does It Drive?
Unlike the international version that uses a 4-cylinder diesel motor, the India spec Volvo V40 is powered by a 2.0-litre 5-cylinder diesel but also makes 30 Nm more torque than the European version. Now, this 2.0-litre unit is impeccably good and lets out 150 HP of power and 350 Nm of torque. Believe it or not, those are segment-leading figures, much better than the Mercedes A-Class and BMW 1-Series. The motor is extremely refined and save for the expected diesel clatter, there is hardly any sound translating into the cabin. Rev it past 4000 RPM and things do get a bit audible, not that we are complaining.
Power kicks in a little after 1700 RPM, but till then the V40 does lag a bit. Nonetheless, once past the mark and the overwhelming amount of torque just gushes in with no inhibitions before dwindling just around the 4500 RPM mark. The mid-range is the V40’s strong suit and cruising all day long will hardly be an issue. Despite the overwhelming power, the V40 loses out to offering mind-numbing performance due to the slightly heavy structure weighing around 1.5 tonnes. However, the kerb weight wasn’t really an issue with 0-100 kmph coming up for us in 9.5 seconds while the hatch can be pushed beyond the 200 kmph mark.
While rivals have moved to 7-speed or 8-speed gearbox options in this space, Volvo makes do with a 6-speed torque converter that promises quick upshifts; while downshifts are swift and helps the car shed speed faster working in tandem with the front and rear disc brakes. The auto unit also comes with a sports mode that holds up the gears till the redline but does get a bit tricky if you wish to manually change the cogs. Paddle shifters would’ve done the trick here and are sorely missed. Compensating for that in a way are the fuel efficiency levels on the V40 as we consistently achieved 13.5 kmpl with the best fuel efficiency figure rated at 15.9 kmpl.
Does It Handle Well?
A bit of research prior to the drive and we were surprised to know that the Volvo V40 shares its underpinnings with the Ford Focus, given the association of both the companies in the past. Now, the Focus is a brilliant handler and without a doubt you will feel that when driving the V40 as well. The hatch simply hugs the corners and due credit goes to that sorted chassis that keeps things agile and stable at all times. You do encounter a bit of a body roll during extreme turns, but nothing out of the ordinary we feel.
Another revelation was the supreme levels of grip on offer. While sharp cornering does introduce some understeer, there were hardly any moments where we would feel out of place. The Michelin Primacy tyres offer optimum grip levels, allowing you to throw the hatch in a corner. The surprisingly heavy front also ensures that the car sticks to the tarmac in a straight-line. The electric steering feels nice to hold and is extremely responsive. Having said that, you do feel the unit to be a bit too light, especially when you want to get a bit aggressive on winding roads and does not exactly induce the same confidence, as you would want. Ride quality is reasonably pliant on all kinds of terrain, which is surprising considering the stiff suspension setup.
Is It Safe?
It’s Volvo! Their cars are sleep trained to make the occupants feel safe. The V40 too is no different with a multitude of airbags – driver, passenger, side, curtain, and knee offered as standard on all variants; while you also get the now famous Volvo’s radar based City safety system as standard and will automatically apply brakes if a collision is imminent. Then, there are the electronic aids including bending headlamps, rain sensing wipers, ABS, Advanced stability control, EBA, DSTC among others to correct any driving errors and keep the car stable. You also get cruise control with a speed limiter standard on the car, but not something we really used during testing.
Price of the 2015 Volvo V40 Diesel R-Design – Rs. 27,70,000/- (ex-showroom, Mumbai)
Should I Buy One?
There are a handful of Volvo lovers in India and you can easily point that these customers have bought the car more for the emotional connect over snob value. Either they have driven the cars overseas or are quite aware of what they have to offer over and above safety. It is this emotional connect that we found with the V40. This Swede is certainly the most dynamic looking of the lot and made sure we would look at it from the corner of an eye at all times.
The cabin is extremely practical and unlike rivals, your parents, kids and even the dog will be comfortable in the car. Most importantly, you can carry all three of them in the car at the same without breaking a sweat. The driveability is excellent and while it may not feel as dedicated as a BMW, it isn’t a compromise either which seals the deal for us. At around Rs. 33.90 lakhs (on-road, Mumbai) including the R-Design kit, the Volvo V40 makes for a perfect balance of a daily driver and performance hatch while undercutting the A-Class and 1-Series by a prominent margin. But, the reason you will purchase it is that emotional chord which you are bound to feel sooner than you realize.
What we like –
1. The R-Design body kit is worth every penny.
2. Minimal use of chrome on the inside and none on the outside and yet the styling grabs attention
3. The digital instrument cluster looks cool with lots of customizable options to play with, and is very functional with just the right information displayed in front of you.
4. The cabin is quite practical and accommodates four in comfort with the supportive seats.
5. The 2.0-litre diesel is responsive; the suspension despite being stiff offers excellent ride quality.
What we don’t like –
1. The 5-inch infotainment screen feels too small and needs to be traded in for a bigger unit.
2. Navigation and reverse parking camera as standard are highly missed.
3. Despite a friendly user interface, Volvo needs to change the appearance to keep up with modern times.