First Drive

2016 Volvo V40 T3 review

If you’re in the market for a premium hatchback, you'll be interested to know that the Volvo V40 has just been facelifted. We see if it’s a more tempting proposition

Words By Alan Taylor-Jones

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The Volvo V40 is a frequent sight on our roads. Pitched as a slightly left-field alternative to the BMW 1-Series and Audi A3, it has sold well since its introduction back in 2012. Four years is a long time in the motor industry though, so with that in mind it’s time for a facelift.

Not that this is a particularly extensive update. Externally you get the choice of eight new alloy wheel designs, five new body colours and a new grille that features an updated Volvo badge. Most noticeably, Volvo’s LED β€˜Thor’s Hammer’ headlights adorn the V40's front end.

These LEDs are standard whether you go for entry-level Momentum, mid-level Inscription or top-tier R-Design trim. That’s a first for this particular segment; Audi and BMW charge extra for these advanced lights on many versions of their hatchbacks. To find out if the changes are successful, we’ve tried the petrol powered T3 in sporty R-Line trim.

What is the 2016 Volvo V40 T3 like to drive?

With no mechanical changes made to this particular model, the driving experience is exactly the same as before. Thanks to a platform that’s shared with the Ford Focus, that means the V40 tackles corners fairly well.

It enters corners keenly with little lean from its body. We also found it impressively resistant to running wide, with a lift of the throttle bringing the car back into line smartly. Unfortunately, this handling prowess comes at the price of ride comfort. No matter how smooth the road, you feel yourself moving up and down in your seat. If you’re driving a long distance, this could get tiring.

Although some may find the steering heavier than ideal, it’s never too much effort, even at parking speeds. It also complements the steering's feeling of precision – it’s easy to place the nose of the car exactly where you want it. The V40 may not give a great deal of indication as to how much grip the front tyres have, but neither do many of its premium hatch rivals.

The T3 petrol engine remains refined even at speed and offers plenty of accelerative punch from low in its rev-range. It’s not outright fast, but you're never left wanting for pace in or out of town. It’s easy to keep this engine on the boil, too, with a gearchange that is slick in its action.

What is the 2016 Volvo V40 T3 like inside?

Inside remains a pleasant place to sit with lots of high-quality materials, Volvo’s trademark comfy seats and its unique β€˜floating’ centre console. While this is a nice design touch, it does mean the centre cubbyhole is obscured, making it difficult to reach items you’ve stashed there.

Just above you’ll find Volvo’s infotainment system, which has seen some mild revisions to improve connectivity. Sadly, nothing has been done to increase the size of the screen or make navigating the menus easier, while the oddly positioned, vertically mounted dial used to control everything just isn’t as logical as similar systems from Mercedes and BMW.

The V40 isn't as practical as its rivals, either. A sloping roofline eats into rear head room to the point that anyone approaching six feet tall may find his or her head brushing the ceiling. It’s also a tight squeeze getting three across the rear bench. At least rear leg room is pretty good.

Moving further back, the boot is smaller than you’d get on an Audi A3 and has a pronounced lip. The folding rear seats split 60/40 as standard to reveal a load bay that’s adequate but nothing to write home about. Lovejoy wouldn’t be impressed.

Should I buy one?

The Volvo V40 remains a likeable car in many respects. The interior is nice, the car handles tidily and some will value the fact that it offers something different to the ubiquitous German opposition. It is, however, not overly comfortable, it doesn't provide compeititive space and it's falling behind the class best in other areas, such as emissions.

An Audi A3 is already a better car even before you factor in its recent and far more thorough facelift. If we were looking for a premium hatch, we’d hold fire and look at the Audi first.

What Car? says...

Rated 3 out of 5

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Audi A3

BMW 1-Series

Volvo V40 T3

Engine size 2.0-litre turbo petrol

Price from Β£24,695

Power 150bhp

Torque 184lb ft

0-62mph 7.8sec

Top speed 130mph

Fuel economy (official combined) 51.4mpg

CO2/BIK band 127g/km/22%