Our Cars: Volvo V40 - February
Week ending February 22
Driven this week 860
After a quiet couple of weeks while the V40's wiring system was being fixed, it was back into the fast lane for Volvo's upmarket hatchback.
I needed something that would take me from Middlesex to Somerset on Sunday morning for my niece's seventh birthday party, then two of us back via Surrey in the evening. The Volvo seemed like the ideal car for doing a lot of miles in not a lot of time.
Some things the Volvo did very well. The seats were comfortable and supportive, the stereo was powerful and clear, and the classy cabin was a nice place to sit for six hours in a day.
The thing is, the rest of the car wasn't up to much. There was too much road noise on the motorway, the vague steering and notchy gearshift took most of the fun out of driving on country roads, and the ride was firm at all speeds.
I also had to take a lot of luggage with me to Surrey after the party. A bit of careful packing later and the compact boot was full of cases and bags, but that still left a couple of holdalls that had to go on the rear seats. Small family cars don't tend to be hugely practical, but the V40 is definitely at the smaller end of the spectrum.
Week ending February 15
Miles this week 100
Very few miles this week, none of them done by me. The car has been in with the Volvo repair centre in Chertsey (01932 581090) to fix a fault that required the entire engine wiring harness to be replaced.
Initial estimates suggested that it would take two weeks for parts to arrive, with a further few days for them to be fitted. I'm happy to say that those reports were pessimistic. The parts turned up within the week, and have been fitted and tested, so that the car is back on the road.
It's deeply irritating that the fault occurred in the first place, but the back-up from the Conrico Service Centre has been second to none, with regular progress updates, a swift turnaround once the parts had arrived, and decent coffee.
Week ending February 8
Miles this week 100
I've done very few miles this week, mainly because the V40 has been conspicuous by its absence. An engine warning light flashed up, so I whipped the car into my local dealer, who was able to look at it at short notice as long as I didn't need a courtesy car.
However, a repair proved elusive, so the car had to be rebooked for a couple of days hence, so they could investigate more thoroughly. As I sit here Volvoless, the news isn't encouraging – it could be either a couple of dodgy electrical connector blocks, or the entire engine wiring harness may need to be replaced.
Week ending February 1
Miles this week 500
The V40 has been busy, ferrying Pistonheads brand manager Paul Garlick to and from Birmingham and the Autosport show. It was interesting to hear how his views largely mirror my own.
For a start, he wasn't a fan of the ride, saying: 'The ride quality on the motorway reminded me of driving a Series 1 Elise as we bumped and jiggled across uneven road surfaces! It's been a while since I've felt such unforgiving ride, even in a sports car.'
However, Paul was pleased by the V40's relative distaste for the flavour of diesel. 'Motorway cruising saw a return of 52.6mpg which can't be sniffed at,' he said.
He was also a fan of the headlights. 'It's so nice to drive a car with headlights that actually do as they should and light up a good proportion of the road ahead.'
The styling got the thumbs up too. 'It looks like a quality bit of kit without being too brash like the equivalent Audi or BMW. It has a sense of understated class.'
Paul was less enamoured with the safety features, which he found 'intrusive to say the least'. He continued: 'The “accident avoidance” warning sounded twice with a clear road ahead and the radar cruise was a little too intrusive slowing the car too much, too far away from the vehicle in front when I wanted to maintain the speed for an overtake. This leaves you pulling out to overtake at a slower speed than is ideal, but otherwise the cruise worked well overall.'
He and I agree that we both hate the way the engine revs rise automatically when you raise the clutch in first. 'It's something I'd like to be able to turn off,' he said. 'In traffic it makes for noisy progress and it seems to offer no clear benefit to the driver.'
'It's annoying to find that all doors unlock with the key, but do not reopen once the car has locked on the move. I continually forgot this and went to get bags/ coats from the back seat once parked only to have to press the remote to unlock the door.' This drives me mad on a daily basis, and when I asked at the car's recent service if the system could be changed to unlock all the doors when you open the driver's door, I was told it was impossible. Gutted.