The extra attention
Yesterday while cruising through some bustling and café-laden side streets, I realised that my current test vehicle must nudge the upper limits of cool and trendy. Some may disagree but I’ve experienced plenty of rubber-necking and made two new friends thanks to the Volvo V40.
Not a Ferrari, not a bright orange KTM X-Box, just the new medium-size estate from the old Swedish company with new Chinese owners. They’ll be quick to point out that this car is (and looks) more like a hatchback and its striking design is surely to blame for all the extra attention it got us.
A week ago we tested a blood red V40 T3 and our fearless lady writer was chased into a parking lot by a highly enthusiastic and friendly Volvo fan who just simply had to have a closer look. A similar event took place while I was photographing this steel blue D2 version when an inquisitive C30 owner stopped.
Most passers-by look at our test car, some comment and very few stop. This friendly gent did all of the above and after asking politely, jumped aboard to investigate every single button, lever and display. Both our new buddies were brand ambassadors more than fans and smothered the respective V40’s with praise.
Launched earlier this year and designed by Peter Horbury (Sir, you are a genius), the beautiful Volvo V40 slots in underneath its V50 and V60 estate cousins to offer an irresistible entry into the world of practical, simplistic and cool-as-ice Swedish cars. It also aced the Euro-NCAP crash test ratings recently.
Yep, this Volvo is supremely safe and clever with a comprehensive collection of driver aids and City Safety fitted to every model. This system brakes if it detects a looming obstacle, something we confirmed with a few friends and a blanket. Optional safety items include adaptive cruise control and a pedestrian airbag.
You get loads more safety, comfort and power-assisted goodies so you best consult your nearest dealer as the V40 comes in various models with differing specifications and optional packages. The car you see before you is a V40 D2 Elite, making it the smallest turbo-diesel with the best specification level.
It’s got electric front seats and auto wipers but what makes it way more interesting is the illuminated gear lever, frameless interior rear-view mirror, fine LCD instrument cluster, DVD/mp3/ipod/USB connectivity, active Bi-Xenon lights, seven interior lighting colours and high-performance 8-speaker audio system.
All V40’s offer 14 colours from sedate to vibrant, tasty wheel options and even more delicious interior trim combinations. Speaking of which, both our test cars impressed us with solid, spacious and comfortable interiors that offered just enough toys to keep driver and passengers happy.
Some people weren’t fond of the minimalist layout or remarked that a brand-new car should have more gadgets and screens but we disagree. The Volvo V40 cabin is bang on and suits the car’s attractive exterior. The plush leather seats are comfortable and the central screen is reasonably intuitive.
The up-spec LCD instruments are pin-sharp and offer three display settings: Eco, Elegance and Sport. All V40’s have a gear-shift indicator, multi-level trip computer and (barring this model’s Sport display mode) a central speedometer flanked by vertical Eco and rev gauges.
A start/stop system is standard on all models and the annoying gear nanny soon makes sense as the new crop of small turbo-charged engines bring a lot of clout with them. This D2 is a 1,560cc turbo-Diesel four-cylinder which develops 84kW (114hp) or 240Nm.
Only available with a slick 6-speed manual gearbox, the V40 D2 is just as easy and pleasant to drive as its T3 sibling, not just because of the responsive controls and great suspension. It can be caught off-guard when it drops off boost (about 1,600rpm) but otherwise shines with linear power delivery.
Performance isn’t overwhelming, 0-100km/h takes 12.3 seconds and top speed is 190km/h. Happily, this power is sufficient for daily commuting and only gets you sweating when you need to overtake into oncoming traffic. High-speed cruising and power reserves are also adequate.
The D2’s party piece is its claimed consumption of 3.6L/100km, which is slightly optimistic as we eventually averaged mid-5’s with a mixed driving style. If you slow down and hyper-mile a bit, it could be done. Also, thanks to a smaller fuel tank (52L vs the other’s 60-odd), you get a little more space.
Prices start at N$281,200 and go to almost 400k, this D2 Elite coming in at N$315,200. We think that’s very competitive as this car quickly made NamWheels’ list of favourite cars for 2012. Should you require a new family car but want something cool, end your search right now. You won’t find much better.