herald

Wednesday 23 July 2014

... But will the Volvo V40 spoil the uber party?

TALK about perfect timing ... ?

It's more than a little ironic that the very week I'm in Monte Carlo (yes, there is a downside to this job) testing the new Audi A3, it's nemesis is sitting waiting for me at the airport.

No, I'm not talking about the 1-Series BMW but the dark horse in the compact executive segment -- the mighty Volvo V40.

Yes, this Scandinavian beauty is a breath of fresh air in a scrap that has been dominated by the two German giants and surprised as much as it thrilled.

Billed as the a sporty five-door hatchback that "sets new ride handling, fuel efficiency and safety standards in its class", for once the marketing blurb wasn't too far off the mark.

The first thing that grabs your attention is the sleek styling which is clearly taken from the chunkier V60 with its sloping bonnet, stretched bumpers and sharp creases that run the length of its lean body.

Inside the ergonomics are simply breath-taking with a clean, fluid dash nestled together with an aluminium-brushed floating centre console which is home to a raft of technology.

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And what an Aladdin's cave our test model proved to be as she came with LED daytime running lights, heated seats, snazzy Xenon headlights, Sat Nav and multimedia package, cruise control and colour reversing camera.

Very impressive, but before you get too carried away Volvo can certainly match Audi when it comes to goodies with all of the above attracting a premium.

But the V40 plays to its strengths and it's trump card is -- safety. She is truly leading the class with standard kit including DSTC (Dynamic Stability and Traction Control) and torque vectoring , Whiplash Protection System, Side Impact Protection system and even a Pedestrian airbag which inflates under the bonnet to buffer the impact on the person.

The options list also carries a list of driver aids like Lane Departure Warning, Active High Beam with road sign display and Blind Spot info System which detects overtaking vehicles.

So, how does this giant airbag on wheels drive?

Exceptionally well, as you'd expect considering it shares the same chassis as the Ford Focus, but the V40 has a finesse that the Blue Oval lacks.

Maybe it's the punchy, 150bhp diesel powerplant which was never short on grunt and had enough torque to pull a house down.

Perhaps it was the smooth as silk Geartronic Auto gear box which gave a real feel of luxury to the whole V40 experience.

Or could it be the smug satisfaction that as you drive one is saving the planet with your lightfootedness highlighted by an array of glowing colours congratulating your econess. In real terms that means a CO2 count of 136g/km or €280 Road Tax.

Leaving aside the fact that it has a smaller boot and is a little more cramped for rear seat passengers, the V40 may just throw a spanner in the Durch Technik works.

Prices for the V40 start at €26,995.

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