In our line of work – we are lucky enough to get to try out many different cars from time-to-time and we are not going to deny it, it’s one of the better pleasures in life. Many would kill to have the liberty to drive these machines like we do but what many who are standing on the other side of the wall don’t realise is that, it’s not as straightforward as just driving the car…
How so? – Because there is a lot more to it than just driving. The car’s drivability is just one single aspect of the car and although it might stand for roughly 60 to 70 percent of what the car is like, there are important parts to the car such as practicality, safety and reliability aspects that we testers can’t judge in just a short span of time. But here’s the beauty. Some cars make it easy on you. They’re not easy to come by but when they do; you tend to appreciate it more than you think you would.
In my time as a journalist – I’ve tested and driven a selection of cars ranging from a little fun Fiesta hatchback, all the way up to the super fast McLaren 12C and the one thing I can take from that is; it doesn’t matter what you drive or how much it costs… it’s all about the way the car makes you feel. Just because it cost a gazillion bucks and goes like the clappers doesn’t mean its something you’d want in life. Or vice versa…
Which brings us down to my recent testing – the Volvo V40 T5. I’ve never liked Volvos. Not because they don’t make excellent cars but it’s all about the image that one gets from driving one. They’ve always taken pride in being the safest vehicles on the road, and to ensure your metal box is safe, they’ve always made their cars out of thick metal. Now, I really deteste weight. Weight means it spoils the performance, disrupts the handling and most of all, makes the car uneconomical by lugging about all the extra weight.
When you drive a Volvo, it usually means that the safety of you and your passenger is priority, NUMERO UNO! and to ensure this factor, you don’t mind driving about in a rather mundane metal box, lugging about the extra weight and clearly you are not entirely interested in cars or driving. A Volvo driver is someone that probably doesn’t like change very much, and is very likely not a risk taker either. Regardless, this was the typical perception of Volvos drivers.
But if you haven’t heard… Volvo has a new owner. The company is now owned by the Chinese and they are set to revive the brand into the modern age. With that in mind, they present to us the V40 – The first car to be produced under their care.
First impressions of the V40 reminds you of a “typical” Volvo. Why I put the inverted commas? Because there seems to be a general view of what a Volvo is like. It looks rather mundane and far from being close to sporty like any of the rival hot hatch on the market (despite having the R-line on the test car). It’s one of those cars that you tend to not expect much out of it, but you know it’ll be good because being European, we all tend to expect it to be well made and nice to drive.
As soon as I grabbed the keys – I stepped into the cockpit and was welcomed by a digital cluster which is definitely unorthodox. Took me a while to fathom that I was sitting inside a Volvo. Once I got myself set up with the right driving position; I took off pondering on how this car was going to surprise me…
The most important part about a car is the first 10-15 minutes of driving it. It’s the crucial timing threshold that determines your idea and impression of the car. And the perfect word to describe that short span of time in the V40 T5 was ‘Likeable’. Firstly, it impressed me with how light it was on its feet, and I was simply enjoying my time running through the different themes that the digital cluster had. The MFD (multi-function display) takes some time to learn hence why I was occupied. Once I’ve gotten my impression established, it was just a matter of driving it about like how any other person who owns one would.
There seems to be a lot of things to appreciate driving the V40 around. It may look mundane on the exterior, but it is FAR off from being ugly. And since it’s relatively new, people tend to look at you when you drive, wondering – “What car is this?”. Say what you like, we all kind of like that sort of attention. And even if you don’t, secretly inside… you do!
Nothing defines a car better than the way it drives. But Volvos of old ages didn’t have the reputation of being the by-word in performance; and till today, there has not been another Volvo that deserves the performance crown other than the legendary 850R. Even with the birth of Polestar, they’ve yet to reach out to the mainstream market.
We had the V40 in T5 variant – which means a 2.0-litre 5 pot that throws 213bhp and 300 torques at its disposal with the assistance of a soft turbo. 200 horses used to be hot hatch territory but times have moved forward, and the V40 is not marketed as a pocket rocket either. But what this means is it is bang on the money to go head-to-head with the Golf GTI.
- 2.0-litre 5-cylinder | 213bhp and 300nm
- 0-100 km/h in 6.9 seconds
- Top speed – 233 km/h (as tested) |
- Fuel Consumption – 36.2 mpg (best as tested)
All I found was two issues with the way it drove – there is a slight torque steer effect with the V40 T5, but not heavily disrupting and that it has a turning circle of a bus. Again, it’s something to get used to but not a point of downfall on the car.
Other than these things, I had nothing to complain about. The V40 has an excellent chassis and the car handles beautifully, regardless of whether it is an easy highway cruise or a spirited B-road run. There is more than enough power for what it is and if you’re looking for a little bit more response, switch it over to Sports mode and the car will deliver speed upon your request.
In the interior department – it is nothing short of superb with the V40 T5. The fit and finish is really beautiful, matched up with leather and high quality plastics that is a joy to touch and feel. Leather seats comes as standard and for those who appreciates a good seat design, the V40’s can sit right up there as one of the better seats around. They may not look that supportive and comfortable, but they are! There is enough lumbar support coupled with firmly bolstered cushion that ensures comfort.
At the same time, of course you won’t be left out in the electronics department. There are toys to keep you entertained like iPod and bluetooth connectivity that pairs up with the V40’s audio system. And a very informative centre display that provides ‘important’ information about the car too. But most importantly, this being a Volvo… are the safety gizmos. Chief amongst all was the BLIS a.k.a Blind Spot Information System that assists the driver on warning objects in the blind spot of the side mirrors. A worthy note for a car of this price range.
As an all-round package – the V40 T5 is definitely an excellent piece of kit. Let’s not deny that if you’re looking for a car within this range of market, you’ll be looking at the Golf GTI and yes, I won’t blame you. That car is the benchmark and on almost every aspect, it is a little bit better everywhere against the Volvo V40. But… is it RM20k better?
For RM 190k – the V40 T5 can deliver just almost anything you need it to, without qualms. Although the benchmark may still retain the crown, this little Swedish hatch sits in the market as the underdog. And as underdogs go, they’re actually the better bet, but not one’s safest choice. It’s a little wistful that many overlook at what Volvo can offer, but for those who are willing to be different; you’re in for an absolute treat. The definite alternative.
In my time with it, I managed over 1200km and seemed to enjoy driving it everywhere. It proved to be practical and comfortable enough for long journeys with the family. It was enjoyable to drive spiritedly on B-roads and was fast enough to tickle my funny bone on the drive. Cars like this are hard to come by and whilst most test cars come and go without leaving a mark, this one made one heck of a scar.
Words: Qhalis Najmi | Photos: HazNajims | Virtual Mods: Jeo