Today’s world is filled with a wide array of hatchbacks, comprising various factors such as size, performance, eco-friendliness, and advanced technology. For years, Volvo has purposefully avoided this premium 5-door segment, but has now decided to contribute to this growing class with the V40 T5 R-Design. This spirited machine is the Swedish manufacturer’s answer to hot-hatches like the BMW 125i M, the Mercedes-Benz A250 Sport, and the Volkswagen Golf R or GTI. With outstanding fuel economy, seriously great looks, and Volvo’s legacy of supreme safety features, the car-maker is boasting its ability to make a standard model just a little bit more special, and the decision to add an ‘R’ to the name is sure to send a shiver down every car enthusiast’s spine.
In the driving seat
Before even starting the car, the striking effects of the R-Design are immediately noticeable. The beautifully furnished black cloth ceiling creates a sporty and defiant feeling and the interior overall has a very clean and smooth look. Volvo didn’t discredit themselves by adding nonsense joysticks or confusing buttons on the dash, maintaining the neatness of the interior as always. The seats are sporty, half-leather, and fully automatic, offering comfort after a 4-hour drive on Mexican highways. Sadly, the on-board computer system is a little messy, presenting endless menus operated by multiple buttons that are almost indistinguishable from each other. The electronic mid-console seems a little cluttered, which is a shame when the rest of the dash is so appealing.
From the outside, the car looks absolutely beautiful, projecting a compact, speedy, and cheeky hot-hatch that just wants to have some responsible fun — it’s still a Volvo after all. The R-design adds true value when it comes to exterior, showing off dual-pipe exhausts and a racy diffuser. The combination of the 18-inch black/silver rims and low-profile Michelin tires make this car a true and worthy R-version of the modest V40.
Ride and Performance
Having a Ford Focus-derived platform, the V40’s performance level is decent. Except for the relatively large turning circle (11.7m), the chassis offers a refined balance of comfort and sportiness. It retains a sense of agility through the corners due to its wide body and low center of gravity, but the steering is sometimes stodgy.
Striking enough, the Drive-E T5 engine is also adopted from the Focus. The engine is impressive; punchy yet refined. Volvo has stuck to what it does best, making reliable, humble automobiles that distinguish themselves through safety and smooth handling. The turbolag is slightly noticeable, however, proving Volvo producers are just not truly at home in the production of high-performance streetcars. Nevertheless, it is a bit of a rocket in disguise, certainly not afraid to rev it up any opportunity.
Unfortunately this brings us to the biggest pitfall of this very capable car: the transmission. Volvo implemented a new 8-speed automatic to assure an efficient drive, almost constantly keeping the revs as low as possible. Yes, the torque is spread further across the rev range, making the engine more flexible, though when accelerating it shifts up too early. . In this sportier segment of R-versions, you just don’t expect the car’s electronics to hold you down whenever you push the throttle, an issue which is only slightly reduced when engaging Sport Mode.
Features and Safety
As predicted, Volvo scores top of the class when it comes to safety. With the V40 T5 R-design they didn’t hold back on including some amazing options. Being awarded five stars in the Euro NCAP tests, with 98% adult occupant protection rating, it is the safest car ever tested by the organization. The V40 is one of a number of cars that are introducing the new City Safety system, which detects when a collision (at low speed) is imminent, subsequently braking automatically to avoid a crash. Maybe even more ingenious is the world-first pedestrian airbag, softening the blow if a pedestrian is unfortunate enough to get in its way.
With a 10-speaker premium Harman Kardon sound system, you would think that playing some loud music would be like second nature for this car. Though comparing this same system in the new XC60, a subwoofer in the V40 would be a very welcome addition to give the sound system that little extra punch.
When buying this car, make sure it comes with all of Volvo’s cutting-edge safety and technology features, as it truly benefits the driving experience of the car. The R-Design is certainly a step towards competing with the higher-range hatchbacks, with medium to good performance and outstanding fuel efficiency. The safety, looks, power and torque of the car are outstanding, beating most of the competition hands down. Even so, it feels a tad remote to drive, with a lot of electronic interference in the driving experience. This, combined with the transmission that is just under par, does not let the V40 capture the true identity of a hot-hatch. The price puts the V40 right between the premium German models, which might be better at providing that superb driving experience.
At a glance
- Make: Volvo
- Model: V40 R-Design
- Engine: T5 2.0 liters 4-cylinder Turbo
- Power: 245 HP
- MPG: 16,9 Km/liter
- Transmission: 8-speed automatic
- 0-100 Km/h in 6.5 seconds
- 10-Speaker Harman Kardon Premium Audio System
- Steering Wheel Audio Controls
- Paddle shifters
- Navigation System
- Bi-Xenon Active Headlights
- Front and Rear Parking Sensors
- 18 inch rims
- Keyless START/STOP function
- Intellisafe Pro Pack
- Collision Warning
- Rear Camera