ANTIDOTE TO AUSTERITY
The facelifted V40 might be Volvo’s littlest car, but in terms of safety and luxury, it trades blows in the division above
THE specification sheet for even the entry-level Volvo V40 T3 Kinetic would make an austere A3, 1 Series and A-class blush. Included in the tally is an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, an upgraded sound system with six loudspeakers, climate control and heated mirrors. Upgrade to the next spec tier, Momentum, and you net a power-adjustable driver’s seat, cruise control, rain and light sensors, park assist and leather trim throughout. And that’s only the second of four trim levels that culminate in Inscription and R-design. But the most important point to note is that, model for model, the Volvo is more powerful – thank the Drive-e powertrains – frugal and cheaper than every single one of its premium rivals (not to mention that it also asks relevant questions about Volkswagen’s bullish pricing strategy with the Golf). There must be chinks in its armour, and I’m in Cape Town’s congested CBD amid a torrential midwinter rain spell to try and unearth them…
Jumping behind the wheel of a V40 T4 Inscription Geartronic (R442 400) to navigate the Mother City’s narrow side streets and sweeping routes that run down to the Atlantic Seaboard, I’m immediately appreciative of the sumptuously comfortable front seats (Volvo’s seat designers are whizz kids in the art of the chair), strong climate-control system and crystal-clear sound quality produced by the audio system. No other car in this class provokes such a feeling of instant comfort and warmth, helped in this model by plush leather upholstery in an amber hue.
The cockpit changes total new trims – a tweed-like textile called City Weave is a surprisingly cool option – and altered soft-touch materials, but the outside has seen more extensive revision. Most models now feature the XC90/S90’S signature Thor’s Hammer LED running lamps (and a R1 650 option on others), a new grille and Volvo iron mark, and box-fresh alloywheel designs.
As part of a running change in 2014, the V40 range received the Swedish carmaker’s Drive-e engine series. The 2,0-litre powerplants are certainly impressive in the vast XC90, and this was my first experience