Guest blog - Craig Pullen, Head of Operations, Run Your Fleet,
Volvo’s transformation from purveyors of dull but worthy estates and saloons into a leading exporter of Scandi-Tech and Cool has been remarkable, particularly considering that the company, famous for its Swedishness, and its environmental and safety credentials, is owned by a Chinese company, Geely.
Since Geely bought Volvo from Ford in 2010, the new model onslaught has been relentless, with the XC90 leading the charge. The all new S/V90 range has continued to set new standards of design and luxury, for those looking for a change from accomplished, but clinical German offerings.
Entry to the Volvo range begins with the V40 and it’s the R-Design D3 148 bhp version that is currently parked in the Run Your Fleet car park. The V40 has earned a reputation as the safest car in the world, and from the minute you sit in the cockpit, it shows.
This is a car that does its absolute best not to injure anyone that encounters it; not just the driver and passengers – pedestrians too. The model has an airbag under the bonnet (see the video on our YouTube page). Volvo’s stated aim is to ensure that by 2020, no one will be killed or seriously injured in a new Volvo. It’s a bold pledge, but if any company can do it, Volvo can.
The interior of the car is striking, a blend of classic Volvo design, with all of the latest tech. The speedo is virtual, with options to configure the theme to your taste, should you wish. Many of the safety systems are familiar from other brands; the adaptive cruise control is identical to that in my usual Golf GTI (mid life what?). The Park Assist Pilot is Volvo’s version of a feature available across many other marques (I tried it for the first time in a Skoda Superb in 2010, with hilarious results).
It also has lane departure, and Volvo’s very own BLIS (Blind Spot Information System) which audibly and visually alerts the driver if an overtake manoeuvre is attempted when it’s unsafe to do so. It’s also got City Safety, which will prevent low-speed shunts by applying the brakes if it predicts an impact. It’s Volvo’s packaging of all of these systems together that make it so safe.
Performance wise, this D3 is more than adequate. It’s composed and refined, with a decent amount of pull from low revs. It handles in a very Volvo way; engaging enough, but slightly lacking in steering feel and weight. There isn’t a choice of driving modes available – this traction control is staying resolutely on.
Volvo are really majoring on usable technology and connectivity; I was able to easily tether an Android and Iphone to the car, and use the V40’s screen to browse the internet and connect to my Outlook email client. The browser screen deactivates when the car is moving, because of safety.
In a remarkable moment of comedy timing on the car’s part, when I sat in it for the first time to marvel at its Swedishness, the radio was tuned to Radio 2, which was playing ABBA’s Gimme Gimme Gimme (A Man After Midnight). I turned it off immediately, of course. I can’t stand ABBA; I’m more of a 6 Music type of guy. The DAB station was playing another Nordic act; Lindstrom, and I was impressed by the clarity and depth of the sound system. There are a number of audio upgrades available as options, but even the most demanding of audiophiles would struggle to find fault with the standard kit.
The V40 range begins at £20,255 for the D2 Momentum. The model here as tested has a P11d value £32,690, as it’s fully equipped with panoramic roof, and all manner of expensive option packs. Its not-quite-low-enough C02 of 101 g/km and its BIK value of £5,058 means that a basic rate taxpayer will have £84 taken out of their pay-packet, or£168 at 40%. The combined MPG is published at 74.3, but we all know how likely you are to achieve that on the M42 on a Thursday. (Not likely at all – I got just under 55mpg, but I was carrying a bag of potatoes)..
This car is competing against a number of great cars; the A1, 3 Series, Octavia VRS, the Golf GTI, and a host of performance models, including those from the Focus and Astra range. The V40 is a well packaqed, ultra-safe, tech-laden, stylish, well built , if slightly expensive alternative to those, and you could do a lot worse than choosing one. Don’t expect thrills and spills, this is a car for driving serenely and coolly, maybe on the way to your book group, or to solve a murder case in a place that always murky and raining.