Changing perceptions


Volvo as a brand, compared to most manufacturers, has been ‘braved’ by a minority of South African drivers — and the ‘conventional’ masses are missing out — big time... 

It is — in my very humble opinion — the best-designed premium four-door hatchback around. The lines are well sculptured and the interior impresses with high-end materials and intuitive cutting-edge technology. The car’s design is in every sense classic, yet modern, bold and expressive - with more than enough attitude to silence the likes of Simon Cowell. I’m talking about the very sexy new Volvo V40.

A few months ago I was considering adding the very impressive V40 to my ‘fleet’. It was the car’s good looks that drew my attention: the wide shoulder lines which stretch from the head lamps with a sharp line and sweep graciously to the tail lamps – and its impressive dynamic rear end!

I did the test drive (in the T5), designed my Volvo online — and then I chickened out — I allowed my friends to talk me out of it.

The truth is: these people have never owned a Volvo — and most of them have not even driven one and their biased opinions stemmed from their comfort zones. So when I drove the car for Leadership and my interest was rekindled, I had to get my dig-in and tricked these sceptics into a drive in the car. Although these true-to-the brand ‘propeller-badge’ and ‘star-badge’ drivers (like myself) never admitted to it, the V40 impressed their socks off — I gathered this from their curiosity while driving and a long and defeated silence after the drive was done.

And there is so much to impress: the V40 D3 simply loves to be driven. The nippy 2l diesel engine makes for a very sporty drive — however, as is the case with most cars with such gutsy performance, the suspension is hard and on less perfect roads, makes for a less comfortable drive — especially for those in the back.

The fuel consumption also surprised, providing that I drove ‘economically’. On the highway it averaged about 5,5l/100km and surprisingly, the two passengers in the back made very little difference, if the electronic indicator on the fully graphic instrument cluster is anything to go by. Like most (diesel) vehicles, the D3 becomes a bit thirstier when it comes to short distance driving, but the average fuel consumption still remains under 10l/100km.

With a range of engines to choose from (T5: 2.5l, 5 cylinder, producing 187 kW, 360 Nm + 40 Nm; T4: 4 cylinder, 1.6l, 132 kW, 240 Nm + 30 Nm; T3: 1.6l, 4 cylinder, 132 kW, 240 Nm + 30 Nm; D3: 2.0l diesel, 5 cylinder, 110 kW, 350 Nm; D2: 1.6l diesel, 4 cylinder, 84 kW, 270 Nm), there’s a V40 to suite all needs — the entire range consists of 16 ‘packages’ to choose from.

The car can be driven in three modes: standard, eco and performance. In eco mode it's all about the fuel consumption figures, while performance mode allows for a more sporty ride.

Navigating the interior system is child’s play. Volvo says their aim, when designing the car, was to create a system that users can easily handle without having to use the manual. And that is spot on! The rest of the interior boasts meticulous attention to detail.

With automotive intelligence being the latest buzz-word in the motoring industry, Volvo also claims that the V40 is the most ‘intelligent’ and safest Volvo ever made. Features contributing to the car’s intellect include world-first Pedestrian Airbag Technology, Lane Keeping Aid with haptic auto steering, an ingenious Park Assist Pilot, automatic Road Sign Information, Active High Beam and a Cross Traffic Alert radar system at the rear.

My ultimate favourite is the Park Assist Pilot – an optional feature well worth the extra R6 500. Park Assist Pilot allows the car to do parallel parking on its own — a feature that city drivers who are constantly battling with small parking spaces, will find very useful.

My most favourite thing about the V40, after the many safety aspects, is the vehicle’s exterior lights. It has been a very long time since I’ve driven a car with lights so precise and clear. Driving back from our coastal journey in the dark, we could even see the colours of the small flowers on the roadside as we speed past!

The car’s fairly hard suspension aside, my only other complaint is the V40’s very tight turning cycle, which makes turning in small spaces a bit of a fiddle.

The entry level T3 Essential retails from R281 200, the D3 Geartronic Elite will set you back R353 700 and the T5 Geartronic R-design costs R397 100. Serious buyers should really compare the V40 with the likes of its main competitors, the Audi A3, BMW 1 Series, Alfa Romeo Giulietta and the new Mercedes-Benz A-Class.

Agile, responsive and a lot of fun to drive – this could just be the year that I make the bold leap and add the ‘iron badge’ to the ‘star-badges’ in my ‘fleet’. The car that has received the highest rating ever (five stars) in the Euro NCAP collision test ever – a car with enough attitude to silence Simon Cowell — has earned its place in my garage, but I have a funny feeling one of my Volvo-sceptic friends will beat me to it.

Words: Lindsay King

Pictures: Brittany Lowe

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