The battle of the premium hatchback is about to step up again as a brand new model arrives on the scene. Up to now the BMW 1 Series and Audi A3 have had the market more or less to themselves, with the three door Volvo C30 the only other premium model to threaten them.
The problem for the C30 is that it’s only available as a three door (albeit a very good one, as I found out) and for buyers looking for practicality that can be an issue. So step forward the new Volvo V40, a car that Volvo hope will appeal to more buyers thanks to its combination of five-door practicality and cutting edge safety equipment.
Looking like a scaled down V60 (no bad thing), the V40 is a more compact shape that blurs the distinction between hatchback and estate in the same way as the Audi A3 Sportback. Not only does the V40 bear a visual similarity to the V60, it also shares the same array of safety equipment designed to both protect occupants in a crash and also try to prevent the crash from happening in the first place.
Technology such as City Safety, SIPS, WHIPS, dual-stage airbags, blind-spot detection and adaptive cruise control with collision detection are packed into the V40, but there’s one new safety that’s unique to the new hatchback. In a first for a production car, the Volvo V40 offers a pedestrian airbag. That’s right, an airbag for people outside of the car.
In the event of the Volvo driving into a pedestrian the bonnet pops up and deploys an airbag around the windscreen. It’s a much softer landing than bouncing off a hard sheet of glass and should help to significantly reduce injuries and deaths. So if you’re going to get run over by a car, try and make sure that it’s by a Volvo V40.
On top of the safety technology there is a host of other new features. Drive Pilot brings hands-free parking to the Volvo range, while the V40 also gets a smart new TFT instrument display that can switch between three different modes. With a choice of Eco, Sport or Dynamic, the instrument display changes colour and displays slightly different information, as well as looking very smart in the process. Bluetooth is also added as a standard feature across the range, helping drivers to connect their mobile devices to the V40′s systems.
Not only is the Volvo V40 sporting some very clever technology, it’s also aiming to be a bit greener. If you want low CO2 emissions and high economy then look no further than the D2 diesel. It might only have 115bhp but it sips diesel at a rate of 78.5mpg while emitting only just 94 g/km of CO2, meaning it’s free to tax. Just don’t expect performance to be anything other than leisurely as it takes the D2 12.3 seconds to reach 62mph.
For those of you who want to travel with more haste there will be a faster diesel with 177bhp and petrol engine that generates 180bhp from its turbo-assisted 1.6-litres. The diesel will stretch a gallon of fuel to 62.8 miles and accelerate to 60mph in 8.6 seconds, while the 180bhp petrol does a respectable job of returning 47.9 miles to the gallon and hits 60mph in 7.7 seconds.
However, for performance fans (like me) the best is kept until last – there will be a five-cylinder turbocharged petrol model available later in the year. Bearing the T5 badge, it sticks with a 2.5-litre displacement and produces 254bhp and 360Nm of torque (400Nm with overboost), enough to allow the V40 to reach 60mph in just 6.5 seconds.
As with all V40 models the T5 uses Start/Stop and engine brake energy charging technology to boost its economy figures. As a result the T5 scores 35.7mpg, very impressive when you consider the C30 T5 that shares the same engine configuration can only manage 28.5mpg.
So the V40 has got something for everyone. Good looks and lots of technology with a choice of excellent economy or high performance. Personally I can’t wait to try one. Preferably a T5 with a Polestar badge on the boot.