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First drive: Volvo goes A-Class hunting with V40

A-Class above: With a price list reminiscent of a certain competitor from Mercedes-Benz, Volvo has packed value, technology and performance into its new V40 hatchback.

Aussie premium small segment hots up with arrival of value-packed new Volvo V40

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18 Feb 2013

PRICED from $34,990 plus on-road costs in Australia, the new Volvo V40 hatchback manages to limbo-dance the sharp $35,600 opening price of a Mercedes-Benz A-Class – and comes with three years’ (or 60,000km) free scheduled servicing to sweeten the deal.

Entry to the V40 range is via the manual-only diesel D2 Kinetic, meaning there is no direct rival for the base Benz A180 petrol (which comes standard with a dual-clutch automatic transmission), but above entry level, V40 pricing is almost lineball with the equivalent A-Class.

The V40 is also offered with a slightly broader mix of specifications, engines and transmissions than the Benz, comprising three trim levels, two diesel engines and two petrols.

Volvo Cars Australia managing director Matt Braid said he expected between 800 and 1000 V40s will be sold here this year – significantly less than the XC60 and XC90 SUVs – and described the premium segment as the “new battleground,” predicting growth above the market average.

The V40 is pitched as the world’s most technologically advanced hatchback, with innovations like the well-publicised, world-first pedestrian airbag, customisable digital instrument display and the latest version of Volvo’s City Safety autonomous braking (that now works at up to 50km/h) all standard equipment.

But to genuinely attain that ‘most advanced’ status requires the $5000 Driver Support option pack that is only available on high-spec Luxury and R-Design variants, priced from $45,990.

The pack includes adaptive cruise control (which can halt and re-start the car in traffic jams, detect pedestrians and emergency brake to avoid collisions), self parking, road sign recognition, lane-keeping assistance, automatic high beam and blind spot monitoring that warns of vehicles in ajacent lanes and can detect vehicles crossing the rear of the car from up to 30 metres away when reversing.

Standard equipment across the V40 range comprises an eight speaker audio system with five-inch colour display, USB input with iPod compatibility, Bluetooth audio streaming, climate control, cruise control, rear parking sensors and electric driver’s seat adjustment with memory.

The list goes on to include a multi-function steering wheel, automatic wipers and headlights, a self-dimming interior mirror, a chilled glovebox, LED daytime running lights, interior ambient lighting with seven colour choices, electric folding mirrors with puddle lights and alloy wheels.

Euro NCAP awarded the V40 its highest yet safety rating (translating to a maximum five star score from the Australasian equivalent), achieved with the help of seven airbags and an alphabet soup of electronic safety aids.

Upping from basic Kinetic spec (available with all engine choices apart from the hot T5) to Luxury (exclusive to the D4 diesel and T4 petrol) adds satellite navigation with seven-inch screen (that doubles as a display for the reversing camera and DVD player), leather upholstery, electric passenger seat adjustment, adaptive Xenon headlights and an automatic transmission (on the D4).

Kinetic trim with the D4 diesel or T4 petrol engine costs $41,990 (or $39,990 for the manual D4) while upping to Luxury spec costs $45,990.

The fire-breathing $49,990 T5 comes exclusively in the sports-oriented R-Design trim level that expands on Luxury spec with sports seats trimmed in perforated leather and suede-like nubuck fabric, sporty interior and exterior embellishments and uprated lowered suspension.

All V40 engine variants manual and automatic are fitted with idle-stop and regenerative braking.

But the driveline combinations are relatively low-tech compared with the Ford-derived four-cylinder turbo-petrol units with dual-clutch transmisisons available in Europe.

As well, Mercedes, Audi and BMW all offer dual-clutch or eight-speed automatic transmissions that are more modern than the Volvo’s six-speed Geartronic setup.

The eco-focussed D2 claims the segment’s lowest diesel consumption at 4.2 litres per 100 kilometres on the combined cycle and has slightly lowered suspension to aid the tweaked aerodynamic package.

Producing 84kW at 3600rpm and 270Nm between1750 and 2500rpm, the manual-only 1.6-litre eight-valve, four-cylinder turbo-diesel D2 accelerates from 0-100km/h in 11.9 seconds.

The five-cylinder, 2.0-litre D4 delivers 130kW at 3500rpm and 400Nm from 1750 to 2750rpm, resulting in 0-100km/h in 8.6 seconds for the six-speed manual and 8.3s for the automatic, while combined fuel consumption is rated at 4.9L/100km (manual) and 5.3L/100km (auto).

Compared with rivals like the Audi A3 2.0 TDI, BMW 118d and Mercedes A200 CDI, the Volvo has the most power and the quickest 0-100km/h time.

Also five-cylinder and displacing 2.0-litres is the auto-only turbo-petrol T4, developing 132kW at 5000rpm and 300Nm at 2700-4000rpm for 0-100km/h in 8.7 seconds and 7.6L/100km on the combined cycle.

Despite a power advantage over its rivals, the T4 lags behind the A3 1.8 TFSI, 118i and A200 for 0-100km/h acceleration.

However, the tables are turned with the T5, with a 2.5-litre turbo-petrol that punches harder than premium price rivals with 187kW at 5400rpm and 360Nm from 1800-4200rpm and outguns them at the traffic lights with triple digits attained in 6.1 seconds on the way to a 250km/h top speed, while fuel consumption is rated at 8.1L/100km.

The all-wheel-drive Volkswagen Golf R packs an extra kilowatt (but 40 fewer newton metres) and slightly brisker acceleration for the same $49,990 but costs extra for an automatic and chews through 0.6L/100km more fuel.

Volvo racked up 5375 sales in Australia last year, up 2.0 per against a market that grew 10.3 per cent, and sales slumped 2.3 per cent in the first month of 2013 with 463 units registered.

2013 Volvo V40 pricing*
D2 Kinetic$34,990
D4 Kinetic$39,990
D4 Kinetic (a)$41,990
T4 Kinetic (a)$41,990
D4 Luxury (a)$45,990
T4 Luxury (a)$45,990
T4 Kinetic (a)$41,990
T5 R-Design (a)$49,990
*Plus on-road costs

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