Sleek, well-built hatch

Volvo’s ‘‘uber-dif­fer­ent’’ V40 hatch makes its ar­rival in New Zealand soon. Rob Maet­zig says it’s a beau­ti­ful ma­chine with plenty of ap­peal­ing fea­tures to of­fer.

South Waikato News - - OPINION -

Some mar­keters will tell you that it is very dan­ger­ous to cre­ate an ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paign for a par­tic­u­lar prod­uct that takes aim at – even names – the op­po­si­tion prod­uct.

The dan­ger, they will say, is that such cam­paigns can back­fire be­cause all they do is di­vert at­ten­tion to the very prod­uct in­tended to pinch the sales off.

If that the­ory is true, then there’s an in­her­ent dan­ger in a new cam­paign about to be kicked off by Volvo New Zealand to mar­ket its first five-door hatch­back in 20 years – the V40.

This ve­hi­cle ini­tially goes on sale next week in 2.0-litre five-cylin­der tur­bod­iesel guise for $49,990 with man­ual and $54,990 with auto, and will be joined in Fe­bru­ary next year by a 2.0-litre five-cylin­der petrol model for $52,990 and a 2.5-litre five-cylin­der R-De­sign petrol model for $64,990.

Volvo V40 re­places the C30, S40 and V50 mod­els in New Zealand, and is a vi­tally im­por­tant ve­hi­cle be­cause it will en­ter a grow­ing and al­ready con­gested mar­ket seg­ment filled with such prod­uct as Volk­swa­gen Golf, BMW 1-Se­ries, Audi A3, and Mercedes-Benz B and A-Class.

That’s a solid lineup of very good Euro­pean prod­uct – and that’s what Volvo New Zealand is tar­get­ing in its soon-to-be-launched mar­ket­ing cam­paign.

Us­ing the strapline ‘‘Uber-dif­fer­ent’’ and dis­miss­ing Euro­pean ri­vals as ‘‘Benzzzzz’’, ‘‘Yavwn’’ and even ‘‘Pre­dictabmwle’’, the cam­paign will push mes­sages such as ‘‘Only $49,990 – that’s all, Volks’’, and ‘‘Wel­come the new A-Ri­val’’, and ‘‘Avoid the Teu­tonic Plague’’.

At a me­dia func­tion in Auck­land this week, Volvo New Zealand was ques­tioned heav­ily over the wis­dom of mov­ing in this mar­ket­ing di­rec­tion – to which gen­eral man­ager Steve Kench­ing­ton replied that his com­pany has no choice.

‘‘Our chal­lenge is to con­vince the pub­lic that Volvo is a wor­thy com­peti­tor to the Ger­man brands. We’ve got to get peo­ple into our show­rooms to look at our prod­uct, and we’ve got to get bums on to our seats. So frankly it is time for us to roll up our sleeves,’’ he said.

Cer­tainly it will be very im­por­tant for Volvo that the V40 can hit the mar­ket­ing ground run­ning in New Zealand, be­cause if it does sell well it will add to an im­prov­ing sales po­si­tion in this coun­try – and with more prod­uct to come.

Al­ready, this year has seen more Volvos sold than the whole of last year, and if the com­pany can fin­ish with more than 275 sales it will be its best year since 2005.

Lim­ited sup­ply means the com­pany will only have 30 of the new V40s to sell this year, but it is aim­ing to sell at least 100 units next year. Not only that, but 2013 will also see facelifts to the S60, V60 and XC60, plus the ar­rival of an XC ver­sion of the V40. That will be fol­lowed – prob­a­bly in early 2015 – by a brand-new XC90, and also an XC40.

‘‘So the medium-term fu­ture looks ex­cit­ing for Volvo,’’ said Kench­ing­ton. ‘‘There’s no bet­ter time for us to carve our bit out of that Ger­man seg­ment.’’

So if late 2012 can be con­sid­ered as a sort of new be­gin­ning for Volvo in New Zealand, then there’s no bet­ter car with which to mark that be­gin­ning than the V40.

It’s a beau­ti­ful ma­chine. Built on the same plat­form as the Ford Fo­cus – and in fact the last model to re­sult from the nowdead Ford-Volvo al­liance – it is a sleek, well-built and highly ap­pointed five-door hatch that ar­rives with a very high level of stan­dard and op­tional safety spec­i­fi­ca­tion.

V40’s ex­te­rior look is un­mis­tak­ably Volvo. The hatch sits lowslung and wide on the road, and a spe­cial visual fea­ture is a flick at the end of a crease along its shoul­der line that Volvo says gives it a look rem­i­nis­cent of the leg­endary Volvo P1800 of the 1960s.

In­te­rior is pretty Volvo too. This new model fea­tures the Swedish mar­que’s sig­na­ture ul­tra-slim cen­tre stack, and there’s nice use of silk metal chrome fin­ish­ing throughout to help give the ve­hi­cle a pre­mium feel. As is usual with any Volvo, seat­ing – par­tic­u­larly at the front – is among the best on the mar­ket.

With all seats in use the rear load area is 402 litres which bet­ters all the op­po­si­tion apart from the Benz B-Class, and when the rear seats are folded down this in­creases to 1032 litres which is among the worst of the Euro hatch fleet, but still a lot of room.

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