DOWNRIGHT funky. The Volvo V40 has been hit with the groovy stick and there is no turning back.
Designers no longer craft the Volvo lines with a set square and the world is taking notice.
Heck, even the immortals from the Twilight saga found them alluring enough to have a few in their garage…perhaps that's a nod to their longevity.
Volvo has recently launched the V40 five-door hatchback, which essentially replaces a trio of "Ovlovs" - the C30 three-door hatch, S40 four-door sedan and the V50 five-door wagon.
There are six varieties in the range, including two diesels and two petrol engines.
The sleek looking hatch has perfect timing with the three German big guns all introducing new offerings in this genre with razor-sharp pricing under $40,000.
While the entry-level D2 diesel undercuts the rivals, all other V40s start north of $40 grand. We jumped into the petrol T4 which is forecast to be the volume seller.
Contemporary and attention-grabbing, the cabin is an engaging place to spend time.
And you can do exactly that, with various settings enabling you to choose between digital instrument cluster guises of "eco", "sport" and "elegance". Depending on what floats your boat, you can have a large tachometer with a digital speedo or various configurations which are designed to be "calming" or inspire your inner driver.
There is also seven light "moods" to choose from.
Brushed metal finishes look ultra-chic and create a refined environment.
Most notable is the cabin quality and it all feels and looks tight as a drum.
The central operations remind us of a fat TV remote control, and despite the range of buttons looking confusing at first it all becomes straight-forward after getting your bearings.
Compact dimensions mean this is essentially a four-seater, although three across the back could be achieved if those up front are willing to push forward.
Those of husky build may find the front pews figure hugging, but we loved the all-round support.
On the road
Like its sleek skin, the little hatch is confident and smooth once you step onto the bitumen.
It's certainly up there in terms of drivability with the likes of Mercedes-Benz, Audi and BMW, with engaging and dynamic performance.
The steering can feel somewhat numb on occasions and the "sport" mode is difficult to maintain smooth driving practices, but there is a whole heap of fun to be had when the corners arrive.
You can really throw the hatch around with confidence in its balance and with "normal" drive mode engaged the V40 manages to find the right cog for the terrain.
Though the hatch is typically European, the ride can feel firm at times given our varying road conditions and there is tyre rumble when you get onto coarse surfaces.
What do you get?
Our Luxury test model costs $4000 more than the Kinetic derivative, but you get a whole heap of cool kit. Standard gear includes an eight-speaker CD/DVD stereo system with Bluetooth connectivity for phone and audio along with sat nav and voice control, 17.7cm colour screen, parking sensors, rear parking camera, leather trim and headlights which corner with you.
All V40s have outstanding safety levels, and it has one of the highest ANCAP ratings going around.
Included is City Safety which through radar and camera use can detect pedestrian, cars and objects in the car's path and can automatically stop the vehicle at speeds less than 50kmh.
Pedestrians are also looked after with an airbag that deploys along the bottom of the windscreen to cushion the head of anyone who manages to find themselves in the little Volvo's path.
The test car also had the $5000 Driver Support Pack, which incorporates blind spot warning, radar cruise control and park assist.
There are three other big players all starting from $35,600, including the Mercedes-Benz A-Class, Audi A3 and BMW 1 Series - but you'll be paying similar money to get the equivalent features as the T4 Luxury.
The boot is small, but luckily the rear seats fold easily to improve cargo carrying space.
Throughout the V40 there are some excellent storage spaces, even near the seat bases in the back. Up front you can carry two drinks in the centre console and there is ample room in front of the shifter for phones and other bits and pieces.
Given the gamut of safety gear, some insurers will discount Volvos - especially with the City Safety crash avoidance function.
Servicing is free for the first three years, but it could become costly after that period. Fuel consumption is pretty thrifty, and expect about eight litres for every 100km.
The V40 engages the senses. Its wide shoulders and steeply raked belt line deliver an imposing look, like an athlete on starting blocks, which is a stand-out on the road.
What matters most
The good stuff: Fit and finish of the interior, dynamic driving experience, brilliant safety technology.
What we'd like to see: Better rearward vision, extra boot space, slightly softer ride.
Warranty and servicing: Three year/unlimited kilometres, with roadside assist. Free scheduled servicing for the first three years or 60,000km.
Model: Volvo V40 T4 Luxury.
Details: Five-door front-wheel drive compact luxury hatch.
Engine: Five-cylinder turbocharged petrol generating maximum power of 132kW @ 5000rpm and peak torque of 300Nm @ 2700-4000rpm.
Transmission: Six-speed automatic.
Consumption: 7.6 litres/100km (combined average).
Performance: 0-100kmh in 7.6 seconds; top speed 220kmh.
Bottom line: $45,990 (plus on-roads). Drive support package $5000.
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