Geneva motor show 2012: Volvo V40

* New Volvo V40 * Replaces S40 and V50 * On sale August, from around 19,000...

Geneva motor show 2012: Volvo V40

This is the Volvo V40 a new rival for the Audi A3 Sportback and BMW 1 Series that goes on sale in August.

The new V40 will fill a significant gap in the Volvo model range. It replaces the current S40 saloon and V50 estate models and Volvo is confident that the V40s hatchback body will make it more popular than both. The smaller, three-door C30 will remain on sale into 2013, at least.

See also: All Geneva motor show 2012 news

Volvo describes the V40 as a high density model that squeezes all the luxury and safety kit of its bigger cars into a compact package. Externally, the family resemblance is clear; the V40s styling has elements of the S60, V60 and XC60 . Theres a nod to the past, too, with a scoop at the top of the rear doors that references Volvos P1800 models of the 1960s and 70s.

Underneath, the V40 sits on a modified version of the platform used for the current C30, S40 and V40. The wheelbase is 1cm longer, though, while the body is 14cm longer and 3cm lower. Overall, the V40s dimensions are very close to those of the BMW 1 Series and current Audi A3 Avant.

What the V40 like inside?
The V40s cabin has a very similar look to the S60s, and uses much of the same switchgear. We can confirm the quality of materials and finish is very impressive.

There are a few neat details, including an illuminated gearknob, which uses LEDs under a plastic cover that show which gear youre in. Itll be standard on higher-spec models and part of an affordable option pack for cheaper versions.

Theres also a sleek frameless rearview mirror, ambient cabin lighting, Volvos floating centre console and a new all-electronic instrument display that replicates traditional dials.

First impressions are that cabin space is on a par with rivals like the BMW 1 Series theres plenty up front and just enough head- and legroom for six-footers in the back.

The boot is a useful regular shape, but its not especially wide. A folding floor that incorporates clever hooks to stop bags rolling around will be available; with this in place the rear seats fold to create a totally flat extended load area.

Should I buy one?
Wed expect prices to start at around 19,000.

As youd expect, even the cheapest versions will have a range of high-tech safety kit. As well as the usual array of airbags and electronic driver aids, theres an upgraded version of Volvos City Safety system, that works up to 31mph, rather than 19mph.

Theres a world-first pedestrian airbag, too. If sensors detect a pedestrian collision, pyrotechnic devices push the bonnet hinges up and the airbag pops out from underneath to cover the windscreen and A-pillars.

Options will include an updated Blind Spot Information System that uses radar rather than camera technology and a lane-keeping aid that can steer the car back into the correct lane on the motorway.

All of the engines available at launch are turbocharged and are familiar from Volvos current model range.

The petrol options are T3 and T4 1.6s with 148- and 178bhp, or the range-topping 251bhp, five-cylinder T5. The entry-level diesel is a 113bhp 1.6 D2 and there are D3 and D4 2.0-litre five-cylinder diesels with 148- and 175bhp. All models, including automatic versions, will have an engine stop-start system as standard.

Volvo will launch a new range of four-cylinder diesel engines in late 2013. The new XC90 will get them first, but theyll be added to the V40 shortly after. Eventually, hybrid and electric versions are possible, too.

Leo Wilkinson