The Volvo V40 is a great car upon which the worlds automotive press are universally lavishing praise on. We tested it during its UK launch last year and awarded it an almost unprecedented ten out of ten in recognition of its fine chassis, great range of engines, generous safety equipment, and beguiling interior.
The only criticism that could be levelled at the V40 is that it isnt the most exciting of cars to look at; neat, yes, but decidedly conservative. To address this minor quibble, and to increase the cars appeal to a younger, more fashion conscious market, Volvo has created an R-Design range.
We were at the UK launch and drove a selection of models; this is what we thought.
R-Design means a new, softer nose treatment complete with logo, vertical LEDs, and a lower spoiler. The rear bumper gains a diffuser and new Ixion alloy wheels are available in 17- and 18-inch diameter. Theres a new colour, Rebel Blue, too. Offered for the first time, its a real eye catcher and suits the car perfectly.
Aside from the new colour, Im not sure that Id be able to tell the R-DESIGN from a standard V40 unless they were side by side, but the changes certainly dont do any harm and the overall effect is to streamline and lower the stance, even with the standard suspension.
The R-Design gains a different, three-spoke steering wheel, black headlining, aluminium pedals, and more heavily bolstered front and rear seats (which are, as in every Volvo, wonderfully supportive and comfortable), trimmed in either full or half or leather. The Lux model adds active bending xenon headlights, a rain sensor, cruise control, keyless start, and theatre lighting in the back.
The three dash settings Eco, Elegance, and Performance remain, but the default background colour is now blue. Other than that, it is standard V40, which is to say elegant, refined, and discreet. Interiors just dont get much better than that of the V40 and it easily matches that of any German manufacturer in ergonomics, design, and quality.
You can have your V40 with 17- or 18-inch wheels, and standard or sports suspension, which is the only mechanical upgrade over the standard car. As you might have guessed, the smaller wheels with standard suspension give the most compliant, comfortable ride at the expense of ultimate handling precision. The 18-inch wheels and the sport suspension, lowered by 10mm compared to the standard suspension and featuring thicker damper pistons, gives pin-sharp handling but can be a bit crashy. As a decent compromise for UK roads, wed recommend 17-inch wheels with either standard or sports suspension, depending on your own personal taste.
Either way, the V40 R-Design drives beautifully, rolling along and demanding nothing of its driver unless you want to play, in which case it is one of the most rewarding small cars on the road today.
The usual engine range is available: D2, D3, and D4 diesel engines ranging from 115177bhp in output with the 1.6-litre D2 expected to be the volume model, accounting for 60 percent of sales. It produces just 94g/km of CO2 (99g/km with 18-inch wheels) so qualifies for free car tax. Its lively enough to suit most drivers but doesnt, of course, ever feel particularly sporty.
The 2.0-litre D3, which shares its capacity with the D4, is much quicker and would be our choice for anyone for whom speed is important; if it isnt then the D2 will suit you just fine.
Petrol engines range from the 150bhp T3 through to the 254bhp T5, via the 180bhp T4. As ever, buyers will have to balance running costs versus performance, although we can report that the T5, only available with an automatic Geartronic transmission, is very, very fast – and quite thirsty, with
an official fuel consumption figure of just 35.8mpg.
Value for Money
The standard V40 is fine value and whether the R-Designs premium is worthwhile depends on how much value you attach to the way your car looks. The basic R-Design costs 2,300 more than the base V40 ES, while youll need to find another 1,700 on top of that to get the keys to an R-design Lux. Thats a lot of money.
Personally, we can live without the cosmetic changes and the 500 sports suspension. Not because they are expensive, but because the standard V40 is so good
Volvo expects the R-Design models to account for around 25 percent of all V40 sales in the UK, which feels like a lot given the price. The V40s core strengths are such that we arent convinced that gilding them with the R-Design treatment is necessary.
Having said that, the V40 does feel every inch the premium product that Volvo designed it to be – and which it will need to be to battle with the BMW 1 Series
and the Audi A3
. And for buyers in this marketplace individuality is highly prized.
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