Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
If your priorities are affordable running costs or low company car tax, the entry-level 118bhp D2 diesel engine is the way to go. It provides perfectly adequate performance for everyday motoring, whether in town or on the motorway, and it’s smartly priced. However, be aware that its performance isn’t as effortless as that of the best equivalent diesels in key rivals such as the Volkswagen Golf.
If you’re willing to pay quite a bit more to get some extra oomph, the higher-powered D3 is a good option. Its extra 30bhp gives a welcome boost for making prompt getaways, for example when entering a busy roundabout. A manual or automatic gearbox is available with both engines, depending on your choice of trim level.
If you prefer petrol power, there’s the T2 engine with 120bhp, or the more powerful T3 with 150bhp. Both offer the choice of a manual or automatic gearbox. The manual T3 is our favourite, as it’s smooth and happy to rev, although it does lack the low-down pulling power you’ll experience in the D2 or D3.
Suspension and ride comfort
D2 and T2-engined V40s come with standard suspension, while D3 and T3 have a stiffer, sportier set-up, which we’d avoid because it makes the ride overly firm, jostling you around even on seemingly smooth surfaces. In fact, the ride is unsettled even on the standard suspension, particularly when bigger alloy wheels are fitted; entry-level Momentum models get 16in wheels, while those of the R-Design and Inscription are 17in. The Cross Country has 18in wheels as standard.
Cross Country models also have slightly softer suspension than the regular editions; this emphasises the car’s body lean and leads to unwanted vertical body movements over scruffier surfaces. Overall, the V40 trails both the Golf and the A3 when it comes to ride quality.
The V40’s handling is nothing special by the standard of its class. All are front-wheel drive, and, while there’s plenty of grip, even in poor weather, the front end will run wide in corners earlier than rivals.
The steering feels heavy quite both around town and out on the motorway, but although it’s more weighty than on rivals such as the Audi A3, you don’t have to have arms like a shot putter to manoeuvre around a multi story car park. It feels consistent and provides plenty of accuracy around corners so you can place the car confidently.
Control of body lean could be better, too, and it generally can’t match the Audi A3 for neat handling. However, as long as you want to make sedate, unhurried progress, the V40 is easy to drive.
Noise and vibration
The petrol engines are smooth and they fade into the background readily enough. Under heavier acceleration, though, they sound a little more strained.
The diesels are clattery and rather agricultural, sounding coarse regardless of how high the revs are. They really do feel a generation or two behind the far more refined TDI diesels found in the nose of the Audi A3 and Volkswagen Golf. The noise starts to get drowned out by the constant wind and rose noise, though, which pick up especially at motorway speeds.
You also have to put up with a spongy-feeling clutch pedal and a notchy gearshift in the manual version. The automatic gearbox is hesitant when pulling away and when you call for prompt acceleration, so overtaking is more stressful than it should be. It’s smooth enough when you’re not gunning it, though.