Volvo will plunge into the posh part of the family hatchback market with its new V40. Priced from £19,745 it will have to square up against Audi’s A3 and BMW’s 1-Series to win customers.
It might not have the most desirable badge in the C-segment – the part of the car market where things are roughly Golf-sized – but Volvo will no doubt turn out to have built one of the safest options. Independent safety organisation Euro NCAP hasn’t yet revealed what happens when you slam a V40 into a wall, but the Swedish company will be aiming to come top of the class when the findings are announced. Volvo will certainly have sacrificed a fair few V40s in the interests of science at its own state-of-the-art laboratory, before letting anyone else fling the new car about.
And if a V40 car accident claims the life of a pedestrian, it won’t be for a lack of engineering effort. The car is the first in the world to provide an external airbag, designed to minimise head injuries that might otherwise be caused by hard parts of the car like the base of the windscreen. The pedestrian airbag is fitted as standard across the whole V40 range.
Of course the best option is not to be hit by a V40 at all, and to that end Volvo’s crash-avoiding City Safety system is fitted as standard as well. It will stop inattentive drivers hitting things at speeds up to 22mph, being capable of spotting pedestrians as well as solid or immoveable objects like cars or walls.
The V40 is available in three trims – ES, SE or SE Lux – and with a choice of petrol or diesel engines. The diesels run from a D2 providing 115bhp through a D3 with 150bhp to a D4 with 177bhp on tap. The petrol options are a 150bhp T3 or 180bhp T4. All engines come equipped with stop-start technology to reduce unnecessary CO2 emissions.
List prices for UK cars run from £19,745 for the lowly D2 ES through to £25,595 for the D4 SE Lux. There’s also a “Nav” upgrade for all the models which adds £1,200 to the list price and a seven-inch screen to the dashboard, bringing voice-controlled satnav and a DVD player.
An auto gearbox is available on D3 and D4 models only, costing £1,485, but is best avoided if you want to keep economy high and CO2 low. It adds 20g/km to emissions and sucks up 11mpg on the combined cycle.
The base D2 offers a remarkable 94g/km when optioned with 205mm-wide tyres, and a still impressive 99g/km on 225s. Interestingly, the economy and emissions figure for both the D3 and D4 engines are identical, reminding us that what separates these two five-cylinder diesels boils down to a silicon chip and a thousand pounds.
Both deliver 65.7mpg and 114g/km of CO2 on the combined cycle – pretty good considering the power offered by the D4.
The T3 and T4 petrols aren’t too shabby either, both beating 50mpg on the official test and slotting into tax band D with their 125g/km and 129g/km CO2 scores.
Volvo is accepting orders now, but volume production won’t start until May. And even the keenest UK customers will have to wait until September for the first right-hand-drive models to arrive on our shores.