26/02/2013 13:22 | By Steve Walker, contributor, MSN Cars

Volvo V40 D2 SE Nav: final report

Volvo’s first proper premium hatch has covered the last mile of its MSN Cars long-term test. How did we find it?


On fleet since: October 2012
Total mileage: 7,023 miles
Official combined mpg/CO2: 78.5mpg/94g/km
Actual mpg: 50.2mpg
Costs: £0

Pros: secure handling, smart looks, safety, solid build
Cons: small boot, engine noise, rear visibility

Read more long-term test reports
Gallery: Volvo V40 D2 SE Nav

 

Volvo V40 D2 (© Microsoft)

 

What was great about the Volvo V40?

The Volvo V40 D2 has rolled off into the sunset. All that’s left to do now is gaze forlornly at the tumble weed blowing across its empty parking bay and collect my thoughts for its final epitaph.

Before it fell back into the clutches of the Volvo UK press fleet, the car had an eventful few weeks with MSN Cars. It headed to BMW HQ to act as the camera car on our test of ‘M cars through the ages’. You’ll see the result of an amazing shoot on MSN Cars soon and, while the V40 was outclassed by BMW’s performance thoroughbreds, at least it was a more soothing drive home than the bright orange and brilliantly frantic M3 GTS.

A more useful and relevant comparison came on a trip to Mercedes-Benz UK HQ when the opportunity arose to drive the V40 back-to-back with a genuine rival – the new Mercedes A-Class. The new Merc is a world away from its MPV-themed predecessor and a huge step in the sporty direction from that car.
 

the Volvo mixes a light, nimble feel with a compliant ride

What really came across on getting back into the V40 after a brisk drive in the A200 CDI, was how effectively the Volvo mixes a light, nimble feel with a compliant ride. The Merc is 100kg heavier and felt all of that and more on the road, while its ride was far busier on bad surfaces. Its 1.8-litre 136hp diesel outclassed the V40s 116hp 1.6-litre but as a mainstream premium hatch, the Volvo felt better resolved.

The V40 D2 might not be over-endowed with raw power but it manages to provide a fun drive when you want it and comfortable when that’s the top priority. The elongated profile and distinctively sculpted rear make one of the most stylish hatchbacks on sale and practicality isn’t bad either with rear leg room that must be at or near the top of the class. We even managed to keep the cream interior looking vaguely presentable.

Volvo V40 D2 at BMW (© Microsoft)

 

What wasn’t so great about the Volvo V40?

The V40’s tasteful exterior design is successfully carried over to the cabin where there are some really appealing touches including the lovely TFT digital instrument cluster. The control interface was less successful however, marrying the apparently mutually exclusive problems of too many buttons on the dash and a complicated menu-driven interface on the screen. The likes of BMW and Audi have made great strides in making the important controls accessible and Volvo has some work to do here.  

 

There were also hiccups with the V40’s manual gearbox

There were also hiccups with the V40’s manual gearbox. The illuminated lever looks and feels a little cheap but that can be forgiven. More annoying was the difficulty we had shifting down from 3rd to 2nd when the lever had a habit of getting snarled-up in gate.

It seems that one penalty you pay for the V40’s elegant exterior lines is a rather narrow tailgate opening. The boot itself isn’t huge by the standards of the class but there is 335 litres of capacity back there, the problem is getting large items into it.

Volvo V40 D2 (© Microsoft)


Was the Volvo V40 expensive to run?

 The amount of mileage covered took an upward surge towards the end of the V40’s time with us as a series of longer motorway journeys were called for. This played its part in nudging the Volvo’s average economy up beyond the 50mpg mark.
 

the 1.6 did the business from an economy perspective

I had been slightly narked that this supposedly 78mpg (on the official combined cycle) car was only giving me returns in the mid-forties but the mix of urban commuting and fast B-road driving I was subjecting it to had a lot to do with that. Once it had the chance to get into its stride more regularly, the 1.6 did the business from an economy perspective.     
 

Volvo V40 D2 (© Microsoft)


Would we recommend a Volvo V40 to you?

Volvo’s first proper premium hatchback is a great car and a rival for the BMW 1 Series, Audi A3 and Mercedes A-Class that demands to be taken seriously. The D2 diesel engine is stronger and more flexible than the figures suggest and is only let down by noise levels that are a little high under hard throttle. The mid-range SE Nav trim level bags you the important kit and I’d be sorely tempted to part with another £350 for the optional digital instruments. The auto-dipping headlights are excellent too, especially in the winter months.  

Volvo’s first proper premium hatchback is a great car

The V40’s main problem will be convincing buyers headed for German premium brand showrooms to make a detour. The Volvo badge doesn’t carry the weight of Audi’s, BMW’s or Merc’s in the company car park and the V40 is priced at roughly equivalent levels to its key competitors so you’ve really got to prefer it. If your priorities are sharp design, great safety provision and driving something a little bit different, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t.
 

Volvo V40 D2 (© Microsoft)


What am I driving next?

Next up it’s Mazda’s CX-5, a compact SUV that’s been well received since its launch last year. I’ll be looking to put its family car credentials to the test and see what kind of performance/economy balance you get from a 175hp diesel engine. It should be fun.
 


Volvo V40 D2 SE Nav: arrival
Volvo V40 D2 SE Nav: month two
Volvo V40 D2 SE Nav: month three
Volvo V40 D2 SE Nav: final report (this review)

Read more long-term test reports
Road test: Volvo V40 D2
More Volvo car reviews
Buy a Volvo V40 on Auto Trader
On Bing: more Volvo V40 pics

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