Volvo V40 Review logo

Volvo V40 Review

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1/10

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10/10

1 / 10

heycar review

      Launch year
      2012
      Body type
      Family hatch
      Fuel type
      Petrol, Diesel
heycar editorial team

Written by

heycar editorial team

00/10
heycar rating
“ Audi A3 rival from Sweden”

Best bits

  • Comfortable and enjoyable to drive
  • A good (if rather confusing) range of engines
  • Fabulous record on safety

Not so great

  • Trails key rivals on interior quality
  • Some iffy ergonomics and dated interior design
  • Boot smaller than in most rivals

Read by

 Volvo V40 Front Side View

Overall verdict

 Volvo V40 Front Interior

On the inside

 Volvo V40 Rear View

Driving

 Volvo V40 Rear View

How much does it cost to run

 Volvo V40 Rear Side View

Prices, versions and specification

Overall verdict

"Judged in isolation, the Volvo V40 looks like an appealing car. It’s very pleasant to drive, refinement is impressive and the engines offer a good balance of performance and economy. It also offers decent practicality and impressive safety credentials. However, it’s outgunned in several areas by key rivals and feels dated by comparison."

 Volvo V40 Front Side View

They say that if you’re standing still, then you’re actually going backwards, and few cars are a better illustration of this than the poor-old Volvo V40.


You have to feel sorry for the car, really, because in many ways, it did move things forward. As a replacement for both the S40 saloon and V50 estate, it had morphed into the premium hatchback that was proving so popular with buyers all over the UK, so it looked ready to take the fight directly to well-heeled rivals such as the Audi A3, BMW 1 Series and Mercedes A-Class. 


Based on the Ford Focus of the day, it had truly match-winning mechanicals that provided a brilliant blend of fun and comfort, even by premium car standards. The engine range provided an impressive mix of performance, economy and refinement, while the cabin provided a competitive amount of space and practicality compared with rivals. There was even a rugged version, the Volvo V40 Cross Country.


The amount of standard luxury equipment was also competitive, while the amount of standard safety kit was out-of-this-world. This was the first car of its type to include automatic emergency braking as standard across the range, paving the way for this important safety feature to become so widespread in today’s modern cars, something for which Volvo should be applauded.


However, there were one or two key areas in which the V40 didn’t move the game on enough, and they would prove to be costly. The first of them was interior design. The dashboard layout was very similar to that in the cars that the V40 replaced, and this was a problem. 


For starters, that layout wasn’t all that good to begin with, and it meant that ergonomically, the V40 wasn’t as strong as it should’ve been. It also meant that, visually, the design looked rather old-school even when it was brand-spanking new, and against the super-desirable rivals that the V40 was up against, it simply didn’t have enough wow-factor, especially in comparison to the recently replaced BMW 1 Series. 


Things quickly got worse. Not long after the V40’s arrival, new versions of both the Audi A3 and Mercedes A-Class came along, both with vastly improved interior quality, more gadgets, and much more wow-factor as a result. Compared with these, the V40’s interior was nowhere for desirability.


Having said all that, though, the V40 didn’t become a bad car overnight. Like we've said, there’s still plenty to like about the V40, and it’s a more affordable option that its main rivals especially as a used car. Even today, it’s worthy of your consideration.


Is the Volvo V40 right for you?

There’s no doubting the ability and the appeal of posh premium German hatchbacks such as the Audi A3, BMW 1 Series and Mercedes A-Class. The thing is, though, do they have character? Are they likeable? Do they have charm? We suspect that many people would argue that they don’t, and we also suspect that many of the same folk would argue that the Volvo V40 - with which these cars compete - does. It’s hard to put your finger on precisely why. 


Maybe it’s because the V40 replaces ruthless German efficiency with sophisticated Scandinavian style. Maybe it’s because it’s just a bit less common, and so a more left-field, imaginative choice. Maybe it’s because some people just like backing the underdog. Whatever the case, though, the V40 is a solid, distinctive and appealing choice.

What's the best Volvo V40 engine/model to choose?

As we’ll discover, the range of engines changed unrecognisably throughout the V40’s life, but happily, there was never a bad choice among them. 


Even the entry-level T2 (petrol) and D2 (diesel) engines will have enough go for some people, but we reckon most buyers will want the extra in-gear muscle provided by the more powerful T3 and D3 models. If you want more power, your D numbers go up to D4, while your T numbers go up to T5.


From a trim level perspective, it’s a game of two halves, as Volvo completely reorganised the trim structure during a 2016 facelift. Buyers of older cars will probably want the SE, which provides the best balance of kit and cost on a budget, whereas if you’re buying a newer car, you’ll probably be prepared to spend the extra on the Inscription car for a few more luxuries.


What other cars are similar to the Volvo V40?

The Volvo V40 is a posh five-door family hatchback that blurs the boundaries between mainstream hatchback offerings like the Peugeot 308 and Ford Focus (with which it shares its mechanicals, incidentally), and more premium offerings like the Audi A3 Sportback, BMW 1 Series and Mercedes Benz A-Class


In that sense, it's quite similar to other posh-but-not-too-posh rivals like the Volkswagen Golf, Honda Civic and Lexus CT200h.

Learn more

 Volvo V40 Front Interior

On the inside

 Volvo V40 Rear View

Driving

 Volvo V40 Rear View

How much does it cost to run

 Volvo V40 Rear Side View

Prices, versions and specification