As with most things, the best products take what seems a complicated bunch of requirements and reduce them to something simple and elegant.
The Volvo V40 is just such a car. The Swedish company has built a premium five-door family hatch that looks great, drives well, makes sense on the balance sheet and which has an amazing amount of safety equipment built into it. It really is as good as it looks.
We tried the top diesel variant, the 177bhp D4. Like the next diesel down, the 150bhp D3, it’s a 2.0-litre unit and reasonably fleet, making 60 from rest in 8.2s on the way to 137mph. Most British-bought V40s though, will deliver diesel drive via a much smaller engine than this, the four cylinder 115bhp 1.6-litre unit that’s fitted to the entry-level D2. It’s no ball of fire of course - 60 takes 11.7s on the way to 118mph, but it’s as fast as most will need it to be. Low mileage buyers need to factor in the possibility of petrol power too, especially if they don’t like the rather clattery diesel noise you get on start-up. T3 and T4 variants use a 1.6-litre four cylinder unit, respectively putting out either 150 or 180bhp, the most powerful version of which is good for 60 in 7.3s on the way to 140mph. If that’s not enough, there’s a flagship 2.5-litre five cylinder T5 model putting out 254bhp.
All models come with alloy wheels, electronic climate control that also cools the glovebox, plus leather-trim for the gear knob and for a steering wheel that has audio controls for an eight speaker stereo with USB and iPod inputs, operable via the same 5-inch colour screen you can use to set up the Bluetooth connection for your ‘phone. Safety-wise, there’s a world first – an under-bonnet airbag that springs out to protect pedestrian in the event of an impact. It also allows for so a lower bonnet, part of a lean, wide coupe-like stance in a shape very slightly longer and wider than rival BMW 1 Series or Audi A3 models
Pleasantly different then, an observation equally applicable in the cabin. Of course, it needs to be good if sales are to be stolen from the likes of the BMW 1 Series and the Audi A3. The idea is that, like IKEA furniture, this cabin should be typically Scandinavian, comfortable, simple, intuitive and visually pleasing. And broadly it is.