The Volvo V40 is a rival for cars such as the BMW 1 Series, Mercedes-Benz A-Class and Volkswagen Golf. It has plenty going for it, but there are lots of engines, options and trim levels to choose from.
To make sure you get the best Volvo V40, here's our step-by-step guide to buying one.
Which engine should you go for?
The choice of engine is the most important consideration when picking your new V40. In the simplest terms, it's best to stick to the smaller engines.
If you're likely to cover lots of miles, or are buying a V40 for business use, then the efficient four-cylinder D2 diesel engine is the best option. Its 94g/km CO2 rating will keep tax bills low, while an average 78.5mpg should keep fuel costs to a minimum. The downside is it does feel a little underpowered, so it needs to be revved hard at times.
The D2 diesel engine is the best bet for high-mileage drivers.
Private buyers, or those covering fewer miles, are better off looking at the turbocharged 1.6-litre, four-cylinder T3 petrol engine. It's impressively frugal, averaging 52.3mpg and 125g/km, and is significantly quicker than the D2. It manages 62mph in 8.8 seconds, compared with the D2s 12.3 seconds.
The five-cylinder D3 and D4 diesels are certainly faster than the D2, but all the power comes at once, especially in the more powerful of the two engines. We'd certainly avoid the automatic gearbox because it's indecisive and slow to react.
The top-of-the-range petrol engine is the T4, which is a more powerful 1.6 turbo. It gives stronger performance than the T3, but costs more and isn't quite as efficient. We'd stick with the T3.
Which trim should you choose?
There are three main trim levels in the V40 range ES, SE, and SE Lux, and all are fairly well equipped.
Even ES comes with kit such as Bluetooth, four electric windows, climate control and Volvos City Safe emergency braking equipment. Wed say the SE trim level might be worth the extra 1600 to some buyers, but the extra kit it brings cruise control, keyless entry and start and plusher interior trim are all luxuries rather than necessities.
SE Lux highlights include leather seats, LED running lights and cornering headlights, but it also adds another 2000 to the price.
'Nav' versions of all trim levels are available - these gain an integrated satellite-navigation system with voice-activated control, a larger display screen and a DVD player, for a 1200 premium.
Volvo will add R-Design trim to the line-up in autumn 2012 - these models will have sporty cosmetic upgrades and are likely to have sports suspension as standard.
Which options should you choose?
If you are going to spend any money on options, then metallic paint should be up the top of the list it helps show the V40 in its best light and will ensure the best residual values. Be aware, however, that while most cost 550, some colours cost as much as 700.
Volvo has put most of its options into packages. You might want to look at the Winter Pack, which brings heated seats and a heated windscreen for 500.
The 1850 Driver Support Pack adds the blindspot warning system, adaptive cruise control and lane-departure warning, but is worth the money only if you plan to spend a lot of time on the motorway.
We'd steer clear of the Sports Pack, or the Sports suspension on its own, because the lowered set-up doesn't do the V40's ride quality any favours.
Volvo V40 1.6 D2 ES 19,745
Metallic paint 550
Winter pack 500
Total price 20,795
How to haggle for a V40
The Volvo V40 is relatively new to the showrooms, so discounts are not yet huge. That doesn't mean they aren't available though, and our mystery shoppers are getting about 2.6% off the list price. This reduction can be haggled off the cost of the options as well. Take the whatcar.com Target Price with you when you go to buy and be persistent.
Maximum you should pay for our recommended V40 20,253