Volvo V40 - fresh

face for top seller

Volvo V40, front action
Volvo V40, rear action
Volvo V40, side action
Volvo V40, dashboard
Volvo V40, dash detail
Volvo V40, rear seats
Volvo V40, front seats
Volvo V40, boot
Volvo V40, 2016, R-Design, front, action
Volvo V40, 2016, R-Design, side, action
Volvo V40, 2016, R-Design, rear, action
Volvo V40, 2016, R-Design, front

IMAGINE the product planning team at Volvo HQ in Sweden when the best-selling V40 range came up for discussion.

Introduced in 2012, it had been on sale long enough for a mid-term facelift - the sort of modest budget update that keeps the car on a potential purchaser's radar.

You could make an industry-wide tick list, such is the degree of similarity among the car makers of the world. It might go like this for the Volvo:

New lights and radiator grille (biggest visual change without messing about expensively with the bodywork). TICK.

New paint colours (five of them; four of those different blues). TICK.

New designs of alloy wheel. Eight of those. TICK.

New interior trim (with the choice of a woven look from a motor show one-off). TICK.

New level of connectivity (allowing your mobile phone to talk to the car). TICK.

Volvo then deviated a bit from the updating bible with a simplified and newly names series of trim levels, introduced a new petrol engine to the V40 Cross Country range and fettled the already low emissions diesel Drive-E engine.

That now produces a fine 89g/km - down from 94g/km - and qualifies for more modest company car tax (18 per cent).

Comfortably more than one in three of all the new Volvos sold in the UK has a V40 badge, so its continuing success is vital to the company's bottom line.

So the fact that by far the biggest slice of V40 sales go not to the cheapest grade (now called Momentum) or the next up the line (Inscription) but to the trim level called R-Design, which brings a bit of a butch look with different grille, twin exhaust pipes and cosmetic rear diffuser (very F1), along with 17-inch alloys, sporty seats, wheel, pedals and floor mats, along with an illuminated gear knob.

The R-Design cars will take an estimated 42 per cent of sales and start at £22,345 for a T2 petrol engine (1,969cc and 120bhp) although the most popular power unit across the entire V40 range is going to be the D2 diesel, that appeals in spades to company car uses (thank its ultra low 89g/km emissions for that).

Second biggest seller will be entry-level Momentum cars, starting at £20,255 with the T2 petrol engine on board, but at a predicted 16 per cent of sales, they will be a long way behind their dearer R-Design siblings.

Volvo and safety go together like egg and chips and for years the V40 was the safest car ever rated by the European crash test group. Volvo gives a little smile when it says it now ranks only second - to another Volvo (the newer and much bigger XC90).

So this latest V40 continues to come as standard with brakes that put themselves on up to 31mph if the driver ignores a potential crash ahead and the world's first pedestrian airbag, that explodes from the rear of the bonnet to cushion the blow in an accident.

The latest V40 has updates to its Volvo On Call system that makes it compatible with Windows 10 and lets smartphone users remotely lock and unlock the doors, find the car on a map (or supermarket car park) and flash the lights and sound the horn ('yes, that's my car over there').

Out in a new Momentum grade V40 with the D2 diesel engine, just dropping into the car back instantly the feel of a modern Volvo; from firm and shapely contours of the seats to no-nonsense graphics on the instrument panel and a solidly sensible approach to the business of getting about in comfort and safety.

The on-paper performance of this D2 1,969cc 118bhp diesel (118mph and 0-62mph in 10.5 seconds) looks modest but the car pulls cleanly and quietly from almost any speed and would gobble up motorway miles.

As ever, the official fuel consumption figure is highly optimistic (better than 84mpg) but the 52.9mpg recorded on my drive was probably a bit on the pessimistic side.

Not bad anyway and combined with that low, low emissions count promising a wallet friendly time for its probable business user driver.

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