With the introduction of the new V40 in 2012, Volvo finally brought to market an attractive medium – sized premium hatchback alternative, to compete with the usual German crowd (Audi A3, BMW 1-series, VW Golf).

It was a recipe that worked, with the V40 becoming the Swedish firm’s best seller. To keep the model fresh, Volvo carried out a minor facelift this year, featuring a new grille and ‘Thor’s Hammer’ styled headlights.

Names for the model line-up are also new: Gone are ES, SE, SE Lux and R-Design Lux, replaced by Momentum, Inscription, R-Design and R-Design Pro. A crossover-style Cross Country model is also available.

A quick glance confirms that the V40 has certainly got it covered in the looks department, with a sleek, sporting profile and distinctive rear end, reminiscent of the P1800 ES 1970s classic. Being based on the current Ford Focus platform also means the V40 drives as well as it looks, with responsive brakes and nicely weighted steering. Using a MacPherson and multi-link suspension set-up affords this mid-sized hatch with a comfortable, if firm ride. On smooth roads and motorways it can’t be faulted, but on rougher surfaces and around town it can feel a bit fidgety, although body roll is tightly controlled in bends.

Refinement levels are very good indeed for this class of car – with engine, road and wind noise all well contained.

Sitting at the bottom of the diesel-engine lineup, this 1969 cc 4-cyclinder D2 might only have 120 hp, but thanks to 280Nm of torque on tap from 1500 rpm it always feels strong - even on A-roads and motorways - where the low-down grunt provides plenty of get-up-and-go for overtaking.

As with all Volvos, despite its sleeker looks and more dynamic driving experience, safety is still a number one priority in the V40 - and thanks to a raft of new innovations, this hatchback is one of the safest cars ever tested by Euro NCAP. The arsenal of safety kit includes an under bonnet pedestrian airbag and a standard City Safety low-speed crash avoidance system, which automatically applies the brakes if it detects an imminent low-speed collision. Available at extra cost is an even more sophisticated version that incorporates pedestrian detection, while also equipping the car with lane departure warning, blindspot monitoring (BLIS), road sign information and driver alertness monitoring. Seven interior airbags also feature.

The cabin looks and feels similar to that of the larger Volvo S60 and certainly has a premium feel, with a beautifully finished dashboard (featuring the firm’s now trademark floating centre console), and sophisticated driver information display. But although ergonomics of main controls are very good, the infotainment system isn’t as well thought out; its complex onscreen menus distract your attention from the road at times, plus there are too many small buttons that are hard to tell apart at a glance. Hopefully future models will incorporate a touch-screen system similar to that found on the new XC90 SUV.

Standard equipment on this higher spec Inscription model includes: leather interior, Bluetooth, front and rear electric windows, 17” alloy wheels, climate control, cruise control, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, sensus navigation and sensus connect with the High Performance Sound audio system.

There’s a good view of the road and plenty of seat and steering wheel adjustment for the driver, while the front passenger is treated to a comfy, supportive seat and plenty of leg and headroom. Those in the rear don’t do quite as well (on all counts), but it’s still far from an uncomfortable place to be, with cup holders and centre armrest.

While the 335-litre boot is 45-litres smaller than that in the Volkswagen Golf, the Volvo does offer the neat trick of having a false floor, meaning extra items can be hidden away and the rear seats easily lower to reveal a flat load space. Plenty of storage and cubbies are also located throughout the interior.


A Volvo V40 will set you back  slightly more than the equivalent Volkswagen Golf, but it’s priced in line with BMW’s 1 Series, has plenty of equipment, and its running costs are competitive. This D2 Inscription skillfully blends performance, economy, comfort and prestige in one stylish… yet incredibly safe package.

Tech spec:

Volvo V40 D2 Inscription
OTR Price: £24,855
Max power: 120 hp
Max torque: 280 Nm
0-62 mph: 10.5 seconds
Max speed: 118 mph
CO2 emissions: g/km) 89
Claimed combined mpg: 83.1