The only time I ever hear a car manufacturer have a go at one of their own cars is when it is being replaced by a new model. As part of building up the new arrival, they feel obliged to tell us how much better it is than what is now an old model, writes Padraic Deane.
However, recently I attended the launch of the new Volvo V40. It is an all-new premium five-door, five-seater hatchback. And while on one level it can't be a replacement for the S40 Saloon and V50 Estate, which are being discontinued, Volvo say that it has been designed as a car which has something for everyone. But there was none of the comparing with the old model because the last Volvo hatchback was the 440, which was discontinued about 18 years ago.
What we got instead was a refreshing and honest statement - Volvo described the new V40 as: “Our most important car for twenty years”. Now, that got my attention.
Volvo expect a lot from their new car but it won’t be easy as it enters the most competitive C segment.
The tax regime in the UK will allow Volvo to pitch it against the new Volkswagen Golf set to arrive before the year end. However in Ireland, the new V40 will go head-to-head on price with the likes of the new Audi A3 and BMW’s 1 Series. They would also have ambition to get the attention of some Ford and Volkswagen customers.
The new V40 offers a beautifully Scandinavian sculptured designed body and interior. It has great CO2 emissions as low as 94 g/km in the D2 version, and also boasts up to a combined fuel consumption of 78.5 mpg. And it packs a lot of technology and innovative high-tech features.
The V40 is Volvo’s first new model to be fully developed according to its human-centric, ‘Designed Around You’ strategy. The car is the first in the world to feature a pedestrian airbag, an innovation which helps reduce the severity of pedestrian injuries in the event of an impact. The all-new V40 is also the only model in its class to fit city safety as standard and offer pedestrian detection, effective at speeds of up to 22mph.
In Ireland, Volvo will offer what will be the 1.6 litre (115 bhp, 285 Nm of torque ) diesel D2 version, with a six-speed manual transmission, stop/start function delivering a Band A tax rating, and an entry price level of €26,995.
Volvo offer a selection of three theme packages to let you add spec in specific areas that you want - they are the Eco, the Elegance, and the Performance. The other option is to go for a higher trim level - the base model being the ES, with the mid level SE and the range topping SE Lux. Bluetooth is fitted as standard across the range, which is important for fleets, many of which don’t allow any optional extras
While compact in design, the interior of the new V40 is surprisingly roomy. The seats are good, and so is the driving position. There’s a 335 litre capacity boot and it features a neat two-level luggage area.
Overall, I really like the new V40. It was a brave move by Volvo but one that I believe will work well. I was impressed with my initial drive in the all-new V40 D2 and a subsequent week on Irish roads just confirmed my initial impressions. It is probably the most dynamic handling Volvo I’ve driven.
The new V40 looks great and marries style and function, something not always found in the premium end of this segment. If this is Volvo’s most important new car for 20 years, they have done the first part very well - it is a fine car that stands out. Now for part two, they have to get the buyers behind the wheel. Check it out for yourself.