Car reviews - Volvo - V40 - T5 R-Design
Chic styling, punchy engine with a distinctive warble, well-made and stylish cabin, automatic is smooth – albeit a trifle too relaxed, good ride compromise, brilliant (optional) adaptive cruise control
Room for improvement
Not as engaging as a 1 Series or Golf GTI, lack of steering feel, propensity to understeer, unwieldy turning circle, pricey extras, thirsty when pushed
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2 Apr 2013
Price and equipment
THE T5 R-Design kicks off from $49,990 plus on-road costs, about on par with the Mercedes-Benz A250 Sport ($49,900) and BMW 125i ($49,177) – both of which it outpoints on power.
However, it would be rather easy to exceed this, with a range of extra-cost options there for the taking. Some of these should be standard ($100 for a sunglasses holder? $1500 for keyless entry and start?), and some seem quite unnecessary (the $125 remote for the audio system).
Our test car was fitted with a $2650 sunroof, $1550 metallic paint and a $5000 Driver Support Package, which adds adaptive cruise control with collision alert and full automatic braking, blind-spot warning, driver alerts and front/rear parking cameras.
Standard equipment includes USB connectivity, Bluetooth streaming, satellite navigation, reversing camera, cruise control, rain-sensing wipers, seven-inch display, electric seats, climate control, a chilled glovebox, City Safety including autonomous brakes, 18-inch alloys, LED daytime running lights and Active Bending Lights.
A HIGHLIGHT. Volvo has outdone itself with the V40’s cabin, frankly, melding ergonomic design with funky materials and top-notch build quality.
The typical Volvo hallmarks are there – the floating centre stack, square buttons and busy (perhaps a trifle too busy) interface – while the front seats blend excellent support with the armchair comfort of the larger V60 sedan and wagon.
A TFT instrument display behind the leather steering wheel is excellent – among the best we’ve seen – with a bright and concise layout, three adjustable modes – normal, eco and sport – and a big digital speedometer perfect for avoiding over-zealous speed regulators. As a centrepiece, it works a charm.
The centre screen is bright and clear, but the dial to adjust it is situated on the dash, which is not as practical as the BMW i Drive-style dial on the transmission tunnel.
Black leather seats, black headlining and metallic pedals give the T5 an attitude of its own.
As mentioned, the front seats are superbly comfortable, with plenty of adjustability, deep bolsters and good headroom.
Things are less roomy in the back thanks to the narrow bench and raked roofline, not helped by the closed-in feeling rendered by the narrow rear window and high beltline.
Boot space is 335 litres, which is a touch below par for a small hatchback, although there are a few bag hooks, and the seats fold flush for those visits to that other Swedish staple, IKEA.
Engine and transmission
FIRST of all, any engine with an odd number of cylinders is going to set a car apart. The 2.5-litre five-pot used here has always been a gem, having done service in cars such as the previous Ford Focus XR5.
The familiar off-kilter warble remains, although in its chase for refinement, Volvo has stopped much of this racket from pervading into the cabin – to our ears, this is a detriment.
Still, with 187kW at 5400rpm and 360Nm between 1800 and 4200rpm (400Nm with overboost), nobody could call the T5 underpowered. A zero to 100km/h sprint time of 6.1 seconds is nothing to be sneezed at, either.
Nor is its ability to chirp the front Michelins off the line – despite the brand’s advancements in the fields of sex and style, it still feels somewhat incongruous to be making such a racket in a Volvo.
More importantly, the power delivery is linear rather than peaky, and the fat torque curve suits the rather relaxed six-speed automatic.
The self-shifter is not as snappy as modern dual-clutch units, but it also lacks the twitchiness around town. We lamented the absence of paddle shifters, though, especially when powering through the twisty alpine roads east of Melbourne.
Sports mode holds a lower gear for longer, adding extra perkiness, but it's a token gesture.
Volvo claims combined fuel consumption of 8.1 litres per 100km, but we found it easy to climb above 10L/100km – that extra cylinder yields an extra cost at the bowser, it seems.
The idle-stop system is relatively inoffensive, as far as this sort of system goes, but we still switched it off each time we got in the car.
Ride and handling
OK, LET’S lay it down. The R-Design is not as pin sharp as a 1 Series, or a Volkswagen Golf GTI for that matter.
Sending that much power through the front wheels always posed the risk of torque steer, and the Volvo is a worse offender than many others.
Furthermore, the inert steering removes a layer of confidence from the driver in tight situations, and it’s never easy to be certain exactly where one’s front wheels are pointing.
We experienced an element of understeer when approaching turns too hot, which is to be expected from a front-driver, but we are less forgiving of the ESC system that doesn’t just bring the car back into line, but also does its best to kill the mojo.
We found the turning circle a little cumbersome at 11.7 metres, with the V40 feeling more bus than hatch in tighter carparks. Get used to upping your daily three-point turn quota.
One area where Volvo has done well is the ride, which is a good compromise between sportscar-firm and luxury car soft.
Safety and servicing
THE headline act here is the V40’s world-first pedestrian airbag, which pops up from underneath the bonnet.
But being a Volvo, the story doesn’t end there.
Other standard gear includes an autonomous emergency braking system that can detect pedestrians and other hazards.
The $5000 Driver Support Package fitted here adds adaptive cruise control – one of the best we’ve sampled – with collision alert and full automatic braking, blind-spot warning, driver alerts and front/rear parking cameras.
The V40 attained the second best-ever overall score of 36.67 out of 37 in ANCAP testing, beaten to the post by the Mercedes-Benz B-Class.
Volvo offers a three-year/100,00km warranty and service intervals of 12 months or 15,00km. Check with your dealer for costs.
1. Mercedes-Benz A250 Sport.
The new baby Merc hot hatch mixes a punchy 155kW/350Nm turbo engine with sharp look, heaps of features and a sharp $49,900 starting price.
, 2. BMW 125i.
The rear-drive layout brings packaging issues, but adds superb balance and dynamism. Couple this with a gutsy 160kW/310Nm turbo engine and a $46,100 price, and you have a formidable adversary.
, 3. Alfa Romeo Giulietta QV.
An outsider’s choice, combining a 173kW/300Nm 1.7-litre engine with a dose of Italian charm and style.
MAKE/MODEL: Volvo V40 T5 R-Design
ENGINE: 2497cc five-cylinder turbo
LAYOUT: Front, transverse
POWER: 187kW @ 5400rpm
TORQUE: 360Nm @ 1800-4200rpm
TRANSMISSION: Six-speed automatic
TOP SPEED: 250km/h
SUSPENSION: MacPherson front, anti-dive, anti-lift rear with f/r anti-roll bars
STEERING: Electromechanical rack and pinion
BRAKES f/r: Ventilated discs/discs
PRICE: From $49,990 plus on-roads
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