Of all the European hatchbacks, and possibly any car for that matter, the local version of the Volvo V40 is a model that has seen more engine changes than a 1980s turbo-era Formula One car.
While the latter saw power units as just another consumable, the V40’s approach has been less about insanity and more about economy.
The V40, which is also sold here in the Cross Country variant, has had a carousel of different powerplants under the bonnet through its lifetime.
The D2, a 1.6-litre turbodiesel at launch in 2013, when COE categories allowed for the proliferation of low-power Cat A-friendly diesels.
It was replaced by a petrol 1.5-litre T2 122hp, then an R-Design model with no ‘T’ engine designation, but a 180hp version of the same 1.6 inline 4.
Like all of Volvo’s modern engines, the cover is made of soft, noise-absorbing foam rather than hard plastic
2018 sees a 1,969cc turbocharged inline 4 engine beneath the bonnet of the V40 R-Design. As seen here, the R-Design sportiest variant of Volvo’s small hatch, and this one is dubbed T4.
It’s a direct replacement for the 1.6-litre, 180hp version, and it debuted in the car’s 2015 facelift but hasn’t been seen in this car, in Singapore, until now.
Back in 2016, we had a spin with it in the V40 Cross Country, the mildly crossover-ised version of the V40, also with approximately 190hp.
That model has also been phased out, with the normal V40 T4 offered here in Momentum trim, alongside the R-Design.
The R-Design represents a $10k premium over the normal V40, and that includes dress-up (18-inch wheels, front and rear bumper kits, twin chrome tailpipes and diffuser, silver side mirror caps), interior niceties (panoramic sunroof, R-Design scuff plates and floormats, an 8.0-inch adaptive instrument display, sport steering wheel and gearshifter).
Almost 200hp in a small hatchback body is always a recipe for good fun, and the 300Nm of torque makes that power figure loom front and center for the driver.
The grunty, direct power unit – and auto gearbox – delivers a wallop of extra velocity with a small twitch of the right foot.
In fact it’s almost like a sprinter with fast-twitch muscles, and always ready to do, so drivers who want to prioritise smoothness can engage the ‘Eco+’ button to dull the blippy throttle response.
While it has plenty of forward momentum, it’s less accomplished in the important areas a hot hatch should be, that is, handling and ride.
There’s less precision than say, a Golf R-Line (not to mention a GTI), and the 18-inch wheels deliver a thumpy, busy nature to the car’s ride quality.
The foibles of the V40 still remain, though: The boot at 324-litres, and with its small loading aperture, is merely decent, the same can be said about rear passenger room.
While it’s been out since 2013 (globally 2012) it feels older than it is, in part because the latest Volvos like the three XC models have evolved quite radically.
That leaves the V40 it as the last ‘old school’ Volvo with visible links to the bad old Ford days – the interior still packs telephone keypad.
At least the V40 is as safe as it ever has been, being packed full of the usual list of Volvo’s safety tech, however we’d still recommend the regular V40 over the R-Design – it’s $10k cheaper, as mentioned, but most of the onboard equipment will appeal only to those who want overtly sporty accoutrements.
Volvo V40 T4 R-Design
|Engine||1,969cc, inline 4, turbocharged|
|Power||187hp at 4700rpm|
|Torque||300Nm at 1300-4000rpm|
|VES / CO2||C1 / 128g/km CO2|
|Price||$152,000 with COE|