Exclusive Review: Volvo V40 Hatchback

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The entry premium car space in India has steadily been growing with the BMW X1 kicking things off in 2010. Now you have the Audi Q3 and A3, the Mercedes-Benz A, B, CLA and GLA Class, the BMW 1 Series and Volvo's V40 Cross Country fighting it out in the segment. And with different body styles to boot! Given the growing interest in the segment, I can now share with you that we will also have the regular V40 very soon. And here's why this is important from Volvo's perspective.

Last year we had Audi shaking things up by offering its A3 sedan at very attractive entry prices. Till now you only had the Mercedes-Benz A-Class and BMW 1 series at similar prices. But the A3, being a sedan, changed things a bit. So what Volvo will want to do with the V40 is offer a value proposition - albeit with a hatch- and also since the V40 Cross Country occupies an already premium position by comparison to the regular hatch anyway.

Volvo V40

Volvo will certainly get noticed if it did do that, isn't it? The V40 has 5 petrol and 4 diesel variants in Europe, with output varying from 120 to 245 bhp. The car I drove is the most powerful diesel, the D4 - which is a 2-litre unit which comes in 175 and 190 bhp outputs. It has a generous 400 Nm of torque and Volvo offers a choice of 6-speed manual & auto transmissions. I drove the automatic - which I believe will be more relevant for us anyway.

Volvo V40

The D4 delivers its peak torque fairly quickly, but does suffer from some lag. The gear ratios do compound the problem, and the engine can get a bit unresponsive below 1500 rpm. But it makes up for that with precise steering, sharp braking and very impressive handling around corners - yes the A-Class will feel threatened, though the 1 Series will just about not.

Very often we get caught up in the performance of the vehicle and tend to forget the small things that are really important for a driver - driving position being one of them. In the V40 I found that to be really spot on. It comes down to a well planned design - which includes the right size of the steering and its position, the seat which has excellent support for the upper and middle back, and the ergonomics which take into account the right position for the paddle shifters too. This too adds to the vehicle's dynamic feel.

Volvo V40

The car looks good, even though this is Volvo's outgoing family look. It will anyway take a while before the new styling, that the new gen XC90 has brought in, arrives across all models. The V40 is smart and has daytime running LEDs and a curvy vertical taillight stack - just like the Cross Country's.

This car isn't as raised as the V40 Cross Country, and obviously lacks the cladding that's been added to that car too. Interior space is generous and won't feel as cramped as the other two rivals. The material quality is very good, but the colour palette is a bit dull. Volvo may consider throwing in some optional trims for India as standard, to make the car look more high-end from the inside too.

The V40 is expected to come to India later this year, or by the Auto Expo in February. Volvo is finalising the feasibility of launching this model and also balancing that with its XC90 rollout plan. But I strongly believe its a credible product that would do well here. The only real challenge for Volvo remains getting its brand to be more visible and its network to get stronger.

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