Of the many stories I’ve heard about Volvo over the years, there’s one that’s stuck in my mind. It happened around the time when the S80 was launched. Volvo in Sweden had a special gathering of underprivileged children at their premises and during the event, a blind boy was seen running his hands over the S80. When asked what he was doing, all he said was “It feels strong.”
That’s probably the single greatest unique selling point of Volvo cars since day one. Even from the old 240 GLT that I owned for a while sometime back, to this brand spanking new V40 T4; there’s strength inherent in all of them. Both may be separated by decades of new technology and major advancements in automotive engineering, but the one common denominator that both – and for that matter all Volvos – share is the feeling of safety when you’re in one.
Right, so the 240 GLT looked like a tank and was probably designed using a ruler and pencil by someone with bad eyesight, and thankfully this new V40 suffers no such ignominy. It’s very pleasing to the eye, and while I personally think the rear end is a tad too fussy, with its myriad of concave and convex surfaces and a 6-way split rear bumper with lower diffuser, it somehow seems to gel well with the rest of the cars’ overall design. It looks best from the front three-quarter angle; the lines are clean, the design is swooped back and menacing.
However, the V40 is also a big fat lie on four wheels. Yes, you read that right.
The V40 – ‘V’ stands for versatility – is pegged as a station-wagon or ‘estate’, but that’s a bit like calling a Lotus Exige a ‘family car’. Make no mistake, despite this thing having four-doors and some semblance of a wagon-ish tail, this car is a closet hot-hatch if there ever was one. It all has to do with what’s lurking under the sculpted bonnet up front.
This T4 version only has a 4-cyl 1.6L engine, but it’s turbocharged, which means you get 180bhp, and what’s even more impressive is the 240Nm of torque that’s available from just 1,600rpm. Mash your right foot into the carpet mat and you’ll be hitting 100km/h in 8.5sec, and onward to a top speed of 225km/h. Power goes to the front wheels via a 6-speed Powershift automatic, with ‘Geartronic’ manual shift capability.
Of course being a Volvo, the V40 is absolutely packed to the brim with active and passive safety systems, which include, ABS, EBD, Brake Assist, Brake Fade Support, Cross Traffic Alert, Active City Stop, BLIS, Ready Alert Brake, DSTC, Stability Control, Torque Vectoring Corner + Traction Control, Dual Stage Front SRS Airbags, Knee Airbag, Curtain Airbags, SIPS, Adaptive Brake Lights, Park Assist, Whiplash Protection, etc. etc.
All these systems are tucked away beneath the sheet metal somewhere (I still have NO idea how they managed to fit all this in this car) and work in silence, and yet ever vigilant. Case in point the Active City Stop that actually brakes the car for you if the on-board computer predicts that a collision is eminent. This ACS system however, is not without its shortcomings, which I found out about when a small bike that was filtering in and out of traffic, decided to suddenly cut in front of the V40 while it was crawling along.
The ACS immediately activated, jamming all four wheels and bringing the V40 to a complete dead stop, despite the fact that the bike had already gone on its merry way. It was unnerving to say the least, to have the car jam itself to a stop like that with absolutely no intervention (or intention) on my part.
Apart from that little incident though, the V40 was borderline faultless. It will simply putter around and reward its occupants with the kind of comfort and ergonomics born from years of perfecting what’s likely one of the best interiors in any car found today, regardless of brand. However, true to a very famous quote from Volvo themselves, “this time we kept the toy and threw away the box”, the V40 T4 is by no means just a very safe and good looking car; it’s also a helluva lot of fun.
As aforementioned, it’s hard to think of this car as a ‘wagon’, and despite that ‘V’ badge, it’s really more of a very quick hot-hatch, only in this case, there’s room enough for your whole family and luggage. The suspension system strikes a very good balance between comfort and handling, and while full-on performance handling may not have been what the engineers were gunning for, the car nonetheless does offer more than just comfort, especially when tasked with more spirited driving.
With fuel-consumption that hovers around the very frugal figure of 6.1L/100km (combined) if driven normally, the V40 is also light on the wallet, and combined with the ridiculously low RM90 annual road tax (it’s a 1600cc after all), this perhaps somewhat justifies its RM173,888 price tag. Of course for that kind of money, there are so many other choices out there, equally good ones too I might add. However, if you’re looking for something different from the norm, something that really stands out from the crowd, it’s hard to not take the Volvo V40 T4 into consideration, after all, would a blind kid lie?