SINGAPORE – If movies like Pirates of the Caribbean are anything to go by, most pirates look fierce but have a heart of gold. That much is true of Volvo’s face-lifted V40 hatchback.
First debuting in 2009, the V40 was the spiritual successor to the quirky-cool C30 hatchback. While the latter had three doors and was once infamously tainted, I mean, marketed with Stepanie Meyer’s Twilight movie, the four-door V40 was a more-than-decent offering from Volvo, and in many ways a great alternative to the superb class benchmark, the Volkswagen Golf.
Now the car receives a final facelift to bring it line with the new-gen Volvos. The XC90 and S90 are those cars, they’re new, very capable and based on SPA , Volvo’s platform architecture for all future models that are XC60 or S60 and above. The ones below it, including the V40 and a presumed XC40, will run on another platform, Compact Modular Architecture (CMA).
Until then though there’s a good year or three, so the V40 now gets new headlights that look very Thor’s Hammer-esque. We don’t mean it grows long blonde hair and a theatrical English accent but gains the T-shaped LED light bars in the headlights.
The R-Line package, which is a sporty trim level along the lines of ‘M Sport’ or ‘AMG Line’, adds go-faster looking bits but leaves the car’s mechanicals alone – this includes the rear bootlid wing, a diffuser, the front and side body panels and the lovely-looking matte-polished R-design wheels in 17-inch size.
The shiny, metallic blue paint brings to mind the Volvo V40’s sole warm-hatch model, the V40 R-Design, which had 180bhp and plenty of rort and snort, but was a small-run cult hit sort of car. When the V40 first launched in Singapore, the COE prices meant that a lower OMV D2 model with a 1.6-litre turbodiesel engine was the debut variant – later on it was changed to petrol power once more, the T3 1.6-litre turbocharged engine with 150bhp. As of 2014, it received a more modest T2 variant with 122bhp for COE Category A friendliness.
It’s not much of a difference, since Volvo’s small inline fours have always sounded and behaved much like diesels anyway – there’s a hint of injector clatter, lots of torque – in this case 1,600rpm to 3,500rpm, which is more than decent for the segment. There’s coasting at higher speeds and start-stop, so reaping frugal fuel economy figures isn’t very difficult.
Handling is good, though not particularly precise, there’s plenty of grip although there is still some of the busy ride quality that seems endemic to the older cars of the Volvo range. Here it’s perhaps accentuated by the larger R-design wheels
The V40’s interior has held up well in the ensuing years – much better than the S60’s did although they look similar – there’s figured soft-touch plastics that make a nicer alternative to leather, the signature Volvo ‘floating’ console which looks to be made extinct soon sadly. Perforated leather seats, blue stitching and an R Design logo mark out the nicer touches, and the active TFT instrument display is still one of the nicer units around, despite the V40 being one of the first small cars to tout this feature.
Safety equipment is class-leading, as is typical of a Volvo with City Safety, six airbags (including curtains) and too many other life-preserving features to mention here.
Space in the rear is bordering on decent, as one of the compromises the V40 makes is less space for passengers and cargo in exchange for more style – boot space is 335-litres compared to 350-litres for the Golf but the shape of the rear aperture back make it difficult to load larger objects.
All in all the V40 isn’t much different than it used to be, which is fortuitous as none of the major competitors (Mini or Golf or any small European hatch) have shifted their benchmarks much in the past three years either. The new Renault Megane might shake things up but that’s still on the horizon, so for now, prospective V40 owners can look forward to their captaincy without fear.
Volvo V40 T2 R-Design
Engine 1,498cc, 16V, inline 4, turbocharged
Power 122bhp at 5000rpm
Torque 220Nm at 1600-3500rpm
Gearbox 6-speed automatic
Top Speed 190km/h
0-100km/h 9.8 seconds
Fuel efficiency 5.5L/100km
Price $150,000 with COE
Also Consider: Opel Astra 1.4, Volkswagen Golf 1.4