PRETTY much every car company out there is trying their best to appeal to new buyers – the kind of buyer that wouldn’t have necessarily been attracted to them in the past.
Some of the larger, premium brands are making some big noises about their new models, fresh designs and outside-the-box thinking – but along comes Volvo.
They’re a conservative bunch, and they tend not to get involved in extravagant fanfare – they just do things right.
So, when it came to the new V40, I nearly fell out of my cot when I saw it. If there is one car that has taken me by complete surprise in 2013, then this is it.
In a shade that Volvo calls Rebel Blue, this little rocket looked unlike any Volvo I had ever seen.
Unlike so many cars in this segment, it’s so much more than a boy racer’s fantasy hot hatch.
It has unbelievable presence, with a visual personality that is so understated that it is almost sinister – think Javier Bardem in No Country for Old Men, and you’ll get the picture.
It has a low stance, without any dramatic, over-the-top or aggressive lines, and features a purposeful front end, without resorting to wildly-angled headlights or a massive front grille.
The look is determined, purposeful, strong, and really attractive.
The lines of the car flow nicely toward the rear, with some very pleasing chrome highlights drawing the eye across the body, tapering toward the boot – and the rear end doesn’t disappoint, either.
The rear lights are a beautifully-designed, boomerang shape, and they dictate the unusual shape of the boot.
I was expecting a bit of a sheep in wolf’s clothing, to be honest, but the V40 R design does even more on the inside than it does on the outside.
The V40 R-Design that I tested was priced at €30,865 – about €3,000 over the entry-level price, but for that you get an impressive list of kit.
In terms of visual appeal, I can’t compare it to the ES or SE specs, but this a very special car on the inside.
At this level, the interior is treated to sports floor mats, aluminium sports pedals, sports upholstery with R-design logo, aluminium trim and an incredibly cool active TFT screen with blue instrument dials.
There is a leather sports steering wheel, with a shape unlike any other I have driven, that is a delight to touch.
Front sports seats with side support were incredibly comfortable under all the conditions I drove it – including some of the nastiest speed bumps in north County Dublin – striking 17″ IXON-alloy wheels, and lots of special R-Design silver pieces, including lower front nose and grille, matt grille with logo, twin exhaust pipes, an ironstone rear diffuser and the all-important lowered chassis for rear sports performance.
The controls were pretty intuitive, if not the greatest I’ve ever used, but within a day or two I could control all the important stuff without looking – which is a plus!
Despite being completely blind-sided by this car, it was truly reassuring to see that Volvo were at pains to point out the extensive safety features at the top of the standard features specifications list for this car.
The first 13 features mentioned were airbag and safety features to protect both occupants and pedestrians.
Simply put – my hat is off to Volvo for the V40 R-Design.
It oozes coolness, it drives and handles like a proper driver’s car – and even the guys who run the car park next to my office stopped me to talk about it for a good 10 minutes, so it’s got to be good!