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Volvo V40 T4 R Design | Surprisingly Cool

BY Azfar Hashim

A new engine has been fitted into the V40, but can that raise its profile as a sporty hatchback now?

Photos by Azfar Hashim

As most of you already knew, the V40 is Volvo’s direct competitor to Volkswagen’s Golf no matter how hard you’re telling yourself, “Hmm… The V40 looks more like a wagon than a hatchback.” (And maybe followed with, “At least it doesn’t look like a brick anymore.”)

And being a direct competitor to the Golf it definitely is. You see, not many actually realized it but this 2.0-litre V40 T4 bridges the gap between the Golf 1.4 TSI Highline and Golf GTI in terms of both power and price. Case in point: The $131k Golf 1.4 TSI whips out 123 bhp/200 Nm and the $165k Golf GTI some 227 bhp/350Nm. This $152k V40 T4 gives you 187bhp/300 Nm. Get what I mean?

The V40 may not be as blisteringly fast as the GTI, but based on butt feel the V40 definitely doesn’t feel that far off; after all on paper, it catapults to 100 km/h from standstill only 0.5 seconds slower than the GTI.

It has all the necessary pulling power and equally packed punch as and when you need it. While most out there will complain how Volvo is not keeping up with times by not adopting a dual-clutch transmission and sticking to the torque-converter 6-speed Geartronic, in the case of the V40 T4, the efficient delivery is more than enough to quiet naysayers. However while downshifting, it seems to take some precious seconds to figure out what to do before finally getting into that desired gear, even in Sport mode.

Which is why I highly recommend you swapping your own gears via the paddle-shifters when you’re feeling playful. In manual selection mode, upshift actions are spot-on – surprisingly precise even as you push it close towards the 6,500 rpm redline.

Driven normally like a - ahem - responsible adult, the V40 cruises along the expressway at 90 km/h in a hush manner, posing no problems at keeping up with traffic or closing gaps. It’s zippy in traffic-laden Orchard Road too, a very useful trait as a daily urban roundabout. Where overtaking maneuvers are concerned, in sixth, all you need to do is just prod harder on the accelerator and it will whizz by road hogging drivers.

Handling remains the V40's other strong suit. As it is, this Focus, I mean V40, is a fun car to drive fast into corners; it pivots confidently, thanks largely to the (a) 18-inch alloys wrapped in 225/40 R-18 Michelin Pilot Sport 3 rubbers, and (b) the stiffer and lower spring on all four corners that dropped the car’s overall height by 10 mm (compared to the base Momentum variant). Body-roll is undeniably present, but it is well controlled and you just need a simple flick of the steering wheel to correct things. The GTI on the other hand - because I’m sure some of you are asking since I’ve already used it as a reference throughout this review - feels stiffer and more focused, with lesser body-roll.

In a nutshell, the Volvo V40 T4 R Design is more ‘warm-hatch’ than an outright hot-hatch like the Golf GTI. In coming out with this car, it’s very clear Volvo had the sporty family man in mind who shares the car with the missus, which is why it offers a better and pliant ride along with highly comfortable seats.

With that, I’m sticking to my guns and point out once again: This is the Swedish hatch that slots perfectly between the Golf 1.4 TSI and Golf GTI. And buyers in this particular group are quite large.

Then for those who insists on more powaaah, try ask the local dealer about Polestar.

Practical cockpit offers good quality

Practical cockpit offers good quality

Rear seat offers sufficient leg, head and shoulder rooms for up to three average-sized adults

Rear seat offers sufficient leg, head and shoulder rooms for up to three average-sized adults

Large glass roof comes standard for the R Design variant

Large glass roof comes standard for the R Design variant

324-litres worth of space on offer, but lesser than the Golf's 380-litres though

324-litres worth of space on offer, but lesser than the Golf's 380-litres though

R Design variant gets bigger wheels and low-profile Michelin rubbers, along with exterior bits to make it look all sporty

R Design variant gets bigger wheels and low-profile Michelin rubbers, along with exterior bits to make it look all sporty

Bigger screen than the pre-facelift model; Volvo only offers default and Eco+ driving modes

Bigger screen than the pre-facelift model; Volvo only offers default and Eco+ driving modes