Published on October 21st, 2016 | by Seán Ward0
The Volvo V40 T3 R Design – Is Different Good Enough?
It’s hard to believe that the Volvo V40 is now almost five years old. It might not be the most popular hatchback on the market (ask anyone to name a small four-door car and they’ll probably say a VW Golf), but the V40 has a small group of loyal fans who like the looks, like the way it drives, and like the fact they’re driving something many people aren’t. Now the Volvo V40 has been given a very subtle mid-life makeover, so what’s it like?
To get to know this refreshed Swedish character, we spent a week with an updated V40, more specifically a Volvo V40 T3 R Design. The V40 range starts with the V40 T2 Momentum for £20,255. Prices for the T3 R Design start at £24,695, whereas our car with a few options was specced to £27,220.
Volvo has started to give the interiors of its cars a complete refresh, entirely redesigning the centre console for the XC90 a year ago and more recently to the new S90 and V90. Unfortunately the refreshed V40 hasn’t got the new interior, so for the time being you have the familiar but quite old centre console that Volvo have been using for years now.
Staying on the inside, there’s a nice R-Design steering wheel and shiny sports pedals, as well as a contrast stitching gear stick gaiter and lovely suede and leather sports seats. Volvo’s choice to throw some suede on the leather seats make a real difference to how the interior feels, and the contrast stitching is lovely.
If you wondered what the options were on our V40, almost all of them were to be found on the inside. There was the £575 Winter Pack (heated front seats, a heated windscreen, a headlight cleaning system and automatic wipers), the £450 Volvo On Call system, £550 Keyless Drive, a £150 adjustable front passenger seat, and a £100 flexible boot space with a grocery bag holder, essentially just a giant fishing net in the boot.
Outside, very little has changed from the old car, but the more time you spend looking at the details the more you’ll spot. The new headlights are probably the most obvious change, but the R Design gets some nice 17-inch wheels, a slightly different front and rear bumper, contrast wing mirrors and more pronounced side sills. Our car also had a very smart £500 optional metallic paint job.
The engines have been given a few updates, too. The T3 sits in the middle of the V40 range, with a turbocharged 2.0 litre, four-cylinder engine with 153bhp at 5,000rpm and 184lb/ft of torque from 1,300rpm. It’s a very refined engine, but the noise it makes is hardly inspiring. Truth be told, it sounds like a diesel at low revs and feels quite like one, too, as the turbo gives the engine a really strong, torquey shove lower down in the rev range that drops away with more revs.
Volvo claims just over 51mpg on the combined cycle, and 0-60mph takes 7.8 seconds and the top speed is 130mph. For a petrol hatch the economy is really decent, and the performance rather rapid.
Putting the engine to one side, the chassis is really well sorted. There is loads and loads of grip and surprisingly little roll, so you can throw the V40 into a tight bend and it just grips and goes. The steering is OK, too, and while the V40 never feels light on its toes it can definitely cover ground quickly.
The gearbox is a little rubbery but the clutch is really easy to judge, and the brakes are surprisingly strong and the pedal feel really quite good when you get on the brakes hard.
The suspension soaks up bumps very well. As I said before, there isn’t much body roll at all, and even with some quite low profile tyres there’s a smoothness and refinement to the driving experience that’s a direct result of how the suspension and dampers have been set up.
I really like the V40. The R Design package gives it some very welcome extra flare, and with a chassis this good it’s a very capable car, but the engine just needs a bit more sparkle. If you’re cruising and spending a lot of time on the motorway it suits you fine, as its very refined and really quiet, but it doesn’t reward you when you start to rev it out and nor does it make a particularly nice noise.
I’m a fan of the underdog, which is probably why I like the V40 so much. Is different good enough? Yes, I think so, because the V40 drives very well and has a Swedish charm to it you won’t get in a VW Golf or Ford Focus. I just want an engine with a bit more character.