Strong, Safe, Small(ish) and Satisfying

When Ford needed an advertising slogan in 1969 for its Capri, their marketing department, or whatever they were called marketing departments back then, came up with: “The car you’ve always promised yourself”. Eighteen years later and they’d sold nearly two million of them. The Capri was affordable, it appealed to a younger audience than the regular Ford crowd, and most of all people aspired to own one. If you can make something aspirational you know it’s going to sell.

Car manufacturers have known this since the year Dot, especially the German ones. It’s the reason a Golf holds its money longer than an Octavia, and an Audi A3 costs more again, despite the fact that mechanically they’re virtually the same thing.  Incidentally there’s a new A3 coming out soon, the new Golf is available already and if your heart’s set on buying something German but you don’t want an expensive Skoda, Mercedes will sell you a similarly  sized/appointed/priced hatch called the A-Class. Or of course, you could have a 1 series BMW.

But what if you’re in the market for something altogether less Germanic but no less aspirational? If that’s the case, Volvo’s V40 might well be the answer.

Despite its humble underpinnings -the V40 is based on a Ford floor-pan (hence my somewhat tenuous opening reference) - from the moment you tug on its chunky door handle the V40 feels as far from being a Swedish Focus as it’s possible to get. Size-wise it may be similar (the V40’s boot is a capacious 335 litres compared to the Focus’s 316) but in terms of the quality of its interior fixtures and fitting its world’s apart. There’s a satisfying simplicity in the way Volvo arranges most of the minor controls it what it calls a Floating Stack: all the switches have a nicely damped, quality feel, and the heating and ventilation switches should be applauded for their clarity. So too should the fully digital dashboard that allows you to select between its blue-lit Eco mode, the soothing amber/brown of the Elegance setting (my favourite) or the racy red that accompanies Performance.  There’s no denying either that the use of materials is first class. The leather is soft, the plastics are high quality, and the brushed aluminium adds a sophisticated touch to a cabin that feels like it’s going to last. It’s also incredibly comfortable; why can’t other carmakers produce seats that mix support and comfort in the same way Volvo does?

Thankfully the ride is equally as soothing, smoothing out all but the worst of British road surfaces with ease.  Gone too are the days when Volvo’s handled like the wardrobes-on-wheels they once resembled. The V40 is a pleasure to drive, the steering is nicely weighted, the 2.0 litre five cylinder diesel engine remains quiet whilst providing  admirably brisk performance -0-62 takes 9.1 seconds - ,and best all there’s the promise of 65mpg too.

Of course being a Volvo it’s safe as well. The V40 comes with the following as standard: safety-belt pre-tensioners, whiplash protection, driver's knee airbag, rollover protection with inflatable curtains and a pre-crash safety preparation system. There’s even a standard laser-based city safety braking system that will stop the car at speeds up to 31mph. If that’s not enough a few ticks on the options list bags you Volvo's radar and camera-based pedestrian detection system, which identifies people walking in front of the car  and warns you of their presence, applying the brakes should you not see them. In the event of an unavoidable collision an airbag is deployed under the bonnet to cushion any impact. The V40 is safe both inside and out.

I know little about marketing and probably even less about advertising slogans but Strong, Safe, Small(ish) and (immensely) Satisfying, in my humble opinion sums Volvo’s V40 up nicely.

Volvo V40 SE nav

Engine: 1984cc 5Cyl 16V turbo-diesel
Transmission: 6 speed Manual, front wheel drive.
Power:  150bhp @3500pm
Torque: 258 lbft @1500 - 2750rpm
0-62MPH: 9.1Sec
Max Speed: 130mph
CO2: 114g/km
MPG: 65.7 combined
Price: £23,795 (car driven £29,370)

Many thanks to Volvo’s UK press office for the loan of their V40



Liam Bird Liam Bird

I'm Liam Bird, a freelance Motoring Writer based in the South Shropshire Marches. I currently write car reviews and road tests for a number of regional lifestyle magazines and newspapers which are distributed throughout Cheshire, Herefordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Worcestershire, most of Wales and beyond.

As a member of the Welsh Group of Motoring Writers I'm as happy behind the wheel of a super-mini as I am in the latest super-car. I have press accreditation with most of the major motor manufacturers, meaning that as well as always being on the look out for further commissions, I always have a number of cars arriving each month ready to review.

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