Think hot-hatch and the chances are you probably won’t immediately head for a Volvo showroom.
Volkswagen, Mercedes, Ford, Audi, and maybe Opel are the more traditional home of hot hatchery but it might just be time to look beyond those all-time favourites and see if a curvaceous Swedish model can tempt you.
Volvo, for so long associated with safe but dull cars, have been one of the most progressive and impressive marques of the past few years, thanks to Chinese investment, with their fabulous XC90, my car of the year for 2015, and the V60 Polestar gaining huge amounts of ground in their respective sectors.
They were the two vehicles that made me think differently about Volvo and so I was interested to see what the V40 T5 R-Design would bring to the party and whether it offered a realistic challenge to comparable hot hatch icons such as the Golf GTI, and Ford Focus ST, which it most certainly does.
It looks a lot like the very impressive and potent V60 Polestar.
It’s nowhere near as quick but it is also much cheaper and as far as aesthetics are concerned it is more than acceptable.
The unique R-Design front with its silk-metal framed high-gloss grille, front spoiler, and very cool headlights and spots, combined with a low, wide stance, and sleek side profile and distinctive Volvo rear with twin exhausts give this V40 an appealing personality, although, and this is purely a personal opinion, I think it looks a bit tame and could perhaps use a bit more of an aggressive attitude.
The car sits on 17-inch IXION wheels which complete a streamlined and pleasing look.
Volvo interiors are generally nicely put together and this is no different. It’s more practical than prestigious but it’s well designed with all the controls on the centreconsole underneath a seven-inch display screen.
The Sensus Connect infotainment system is first class and there is a graphic instrument cluster which has an adaptive digital display. Apart from providing an impressive array of information about the car, you can change the colour of the backlighting depending on the driving theme you select.
You have the choice of Elegance, Eco and Performance, which is what most people who drive this machine will choose because it comes with a nice red background and provides the best performance.
Eco is for those who worry about how much fuel they are using, and Elegance just seems a little pointless.
The leather seats, as in all Volvos, are extremely comfortable and the Sensus sound system is impressive. In the back there is ample room for adults as long as they are not over six feet tall when it will be a little cramped and there is enough room in the boot for a reasonable amount of luggage.
The car is powered by a twolitre, four-cylinder turbo engine with 245bhp and 350nm of torque, hooked up to an eight-speed automatic gearbox which puts the power down to the front wheels.
There are also paddle-shifts if you want to get a bit more involved. Hit the ignition button and the engine makes a half decent effort at producing an appealing soundtrack but it does a much better job when it comes to acceleration, getting you from 0-100kmh in 6.4 seconds and to a top speed of 240kmh.
The handling of the car is impressive thanks to its rigid chassis and low centre of gravity and its agility means you can push the edge of the envelope reasonably confidently without it becoming worryingly nervy.
Being a Volvo it is also extremely comfortable and safety is something the Scandinavians take very seriously. It doesn’t offer anything particularly unusual but it does come fully loaded with almost everything you could think of to get you from A to B in one piece.
The driver assists include crosstraffic alert, roadsign information with speed alert, active high beam headlights, a City Safety System which is active at speeds up to 50kmh and automatically brakes if you fail to react in time when the vehicle in front suddenly slows down or stops, which happens quite a lot in this part of the world, or if you are driving too fast towards a stationary vehicle.
There’s not much to criticise on this car but I have to admit that having driven the fabulous V60 Polestar which, performance wise, is in a different league, my expectations were too high and I expected it to be a tad faster, but the good news is that a V40 Polestar is on the cards and that should be a little belter.
However, and this is the really good part, the V40 T5 R-Design is currently being sold for just Dh109,900 and that is astonishing value. At that price, if you want a high-quality, five-door hatchback which is a bit more subtle than some of its rivals and quick enough for the majority of the population, I wouldn’t look anywhere else.
Available from Trading Enterprises: Dubai: 04 2066400, Abu Dhabi: 02 4147245