Gareth Butterfield takes a closer look at the facelifted Volvo V40
IT doesn’t seem that long ago that the Volvo V40 was a fairly unfamiliar sight on our roads, but it’s already been treated to a facelift.
And, not that it was an unattractive car to begin with, the result of its latest mid-life nip and tuck is really rather successful.
Those modern, sleek, “Thor’s Hammer” LED headlights are the most striking element of the new nose, but the only other features you’d spot without having to squint a bit is the bigger badge and smarter grille.
From the rear, it’s barely changed. All models now get the dual-exhaust look but its rump was always one of its most striking features, so it was wise of Volvo to play it safe.
Inside, it’s even harder to spot the changes. It’s still beautifully finished, wonderfully comfortable, even in base spec models with cloth seats and, although it still has a dizzying array of nobs and buttons, it’s all dead easy to get your head around.
Engines range from the lowly but capable (and very economical) D2, through a punchy D4, up to a brisk and entertaining petrol-powered T5. But the V40 is at its best as a practical workhorse without too many bells and whistles.
It’s not the biggest of cars inside, which is a shame because it competes with some very practical cars, but it’s nice to drive and is among the safest in its class.
There’s also a Cross Country model available, which sees the suspension jacked up a little and some chunky plastic mouldings fitted. This treatment is usually the reserve of bigger, more expensive cars, so it’s nice to see it in this sector. Although, don’t be fooled, it’s not an off-roader. In all but the top-spec, it’s still only two-wheel-drive and, while the suspension may be a little higher, the changes are more cosmetic than functional.
Having said that, it’s proved a popular formula for Volvo and the Cross Country treatment is finding its way into all their variants.
On the road, the added ride height does little to fluster the road manners. The drive in either version is far from thrilling, but it’s safe and predictable and always comfortable. If anything, it’s slightly better in the Cross Country.
Boot space is good, and Volvos always come with generous safety kit as standard, plus a few goodies in the cabin and some options you’d normally only find on more expensive cars.
So there’s little to dislike. One of the few thorns in the Volvo’s side is it’s competition. The Golf has a bigger interior, the Focus is better to drive and there are better engines to be had in some of its rivals. That said, they don’t offer a Cross Country option, which might explain why the jacked-up version is popular.
It’s biggest issue, however, comes from its stablemates. Volvo has worked so hard on its XC90 and V90, and dropped so many hints that we’re seeing future DNA in their stunning designs, that the V40, even with the facelift – is starting to feel old hat.
Its rivals have moved on a long way, taking giant leaps into new design, but the Volvo V40 has taken a small step.
That said, some would say a giant leap wasn’t needed with the V40. It was a good car with legions of fans and, with its pretty new nose, it remains a good car and still looks fairly fresh.
Where it goes next will be the big test, but that’s a long way off and, crucially, the facelift has bought Volvo plenty of time.