A NEW generation of high tech family cars is on the way from Volvo bringing fuel saving plug-in powertrains and self-driving systems to the mainstream market.
The first of the new models - replacements for the current V40 range - is slated to be on the road by the end of next year.
The cars will sit on an all-new platform, developed jointly by Volvo and its Chinese parent company Geely, which will spawn a complete line up of medium sized vehicles.
The Swedish car maker took the wraps off two concept designs to launch the new 40 series at its headquarters in Gothenburg.
One - codenamed 40.1 - was a compact SUV which is likely to be called the XC40 and the other a bold looking hatchback called 40.2 which hints at the next V40.
Both have striking looks, sharp lines and futuristic design with the hatch at 15ft in length significantly larger than others in its class (six inches longer than the current V40) and some four inches bigger than the SUV.
Like Volvo's large XC90 SUV, launched last year as the first of brand's new-look models, the two concepts feature ‘Thor hammer' headlamps giving the cars a dominant presence from the front.
Dr Peter Mertens, Volvo's research and development chief, said that the so-called Compact Modular Architecture on which the new 40 series cars sit would be used on a variety of models to be sold across the globe - the first time Volvo has entered the worldwide compact premium market.
On the inside the new cars are likely to feature cockpit layouts similar to that of the XC90 and the soon to arrive V90 estate and S90 saloon which come with touchscreen technology and full connectivity - although the interiors of the concept cars shown in Sweden were blacked out.
The range will feature a new three cylinder 1.5-litre T5 turbo petrol engine which will be available with a seven speed semi-automatic gearbox complete with an integrated electric motor.
The engine, similar in concept to the XC90 T8 Twin Engine plug-in hybrid, would create a high performance, high economy model to rival the likes of the Ford Focus and VW Golf.
The Twin Engine technology - with the T5 producing around 250 horsepower - has the ability to run purely on electricity as a zero emission vehicle for some 30 miles.
Other developments include an all-electric battery powered car with a range of almost 200 miles which is due in 2019 as well as all-wheel-drive derivatives.
Conventional petrol and diesel engines from Volvo's Drive-E range of four cylinder units will also be available.
Volvo's semi-autonomous drive systems, which are currently being introduced on its larger models, will be featured on the new smaller cars enabling them to travel in ‘driverless' modes under certain conditions.
The self-drive functions - where the cars are fitted with sophisticated sensors to enable them to negotiate traffic without input from the driver - are part of Volvo's safety goal to eliminate fatal accidents involving its cars by 2020.
"Our intention is to create a fantastically affordable offer for our customers," said Dr Mertens.