There are many reasons to love Volvo. For the longest time the company has put extra emphasis on crash protection, ensuring you and your loved ones are kept safe in the event of an accident. The reality is that no matter how good of a driver you are, the road can still throw unexpected and entirely unavoidable situations at you – and the good thing is that Volvo has prepared for most of these eventualities.
Depending on when and where you grew up, your image of a Volvo may be very different. Those who were around during their earliest years will remember Volvos as sleek and streamlined – perhaps the car you grew up in, peering out the window from the back seat. Through the 80s and 90s, Volvos became blockier and hard-edged, trading form for function; they weren’t the most aesthetically pleasing things, but they earned a reputation for being able to take a beating and keep on ticking. Those of you with families may know Volvo for their XC90 – a great seven-seater SUV that could get the kids to football practice in luxury and safety.
Their latest crop of products is arguably their best yet. Despite ownership of the Swedish brand being traded over to Chinese parent company Geely, Volvo have managed to continue with the development of their cars unencumbered and without interference. Perhaps the model that best signifies the transition would be the V40: developed pre-Geely, this hatchback is one of the products that has helped Volvo return to form, and its sheer success has influenced the cars that came to follow.
When it first came to market a little over three years ago, the V40 made waves. People couldn’t believe that Volvo was capable of producing such a sleek, sexy looking thing – after all, a lot of people remembered Volvo for their era of blocky station wagons and uninspiring sedans. No, this was special. It was a car that stood out among a sea of Volkswagen Golfs and Peugeot 308s. It was a little lower and a little longer – hinting perhaps that it could have been a station wagon if Volvo were so bold. Was it a left-field choice? Perhaps, at the time – but it was a solid one nonetheless.
It piqued the curiosity of critics. Was the Volvo V40 as good to drive and live with as it looked? After all, there were a lot of examples on the market of cars that look a whole lot better than they feel, and expectations weren’t particularly high for this new Volvo hatchback (especially after the disappointment that was the C30). Luckily for the V40, it more than exceeded the expectations that people had for it. The handling dynamics were superb – not quite on the level of a Golf GTI, but not far off either – and it still retained the core Volvo values of stability and that solid feel.
Over the course of its life, Volvo has tweaked the V40 a little – some aesthetic changes here and there – but the largest change to the model line-up came towards the end of 2016. Their decades-old 5-cylinder engine in the Volvo V40 T5 was finally retired, and replacing it is the new 4-cylinder Drive-E engine. Jointly developed with Ford (also known as the EcoBoost engine), it produces more power and torque, with better fuel efficiency as a bonus. While it doesn’t sound as soulful as the old 5-cylinder, it delivers the goods and then some; outputs are now 245 hp and 350 Nm, and it can hit 100 km/h from a standstill in just 6.3 seconds. It’s also paired with a new 8-speed automatic transmission, although it isn’t quite as quick or sharp as the old 6-speed transmissions.
That’s not to say that the V40 is without its flaws. While it may be quick on its feet, it isn’t quite top-notch in the practicality department. It can be made to seat four full sized adults, but don’t expect it to be a particularly comfortable journey. The boot isn’t very large either – ample enough to fit the weekly groceries, but not quite enough to fit luggage for more than two. It’s a good car for the budding family, but perhaps not the best car for a full-fledged family.
But there are better cars for the purpose of people moving. The newest Volvo XC90 is captivating to say the least, brimming with performance and efficiency and luxury and space for seven. If you’ve been paying attention to the Swedish brand, you might also fancy the S90 and V90 – their largest sedan and wagon respectively – and there’s a strong chance that they will be brought in officially as well. But the thing that all of these products have in common is that they were spurred on by the success of the V40, a car that came a time when people didn’t think Volvo had much left to offer.
If you aren’t hard up on interior space, then the V40 is the perfect choice for you. Pricing for the hatchback is also fairly attractive: the V40 T5 Drive-E goes for RM180,888 (without insurance), making a great performance-for-money option. The whole safety thing goes without saying; Volvo has more acronyms than any other manufacturer, and each one represents a safety system you will come to appreciate over time – definitely things you would rather have and not need, than need and not have.