That gap used to be filled by the S40 sedan. It's a car Volvo no longer sells in the U.S, but for European buyers its role is now occupied by the V40.
Not only that, but the V40 comes with a range of diesel engines denied to U.S. buyers--a familiar scenario for American diesel fans. We've been driving just such a model in the UK over the past week, and predictably, you're somewhat missing out.
For a start, the V40 is quite a looker. In sports-orientated R-Design trim and 'Rebel Blue' paintwork, it's among the more distinctive cars on the road.
Retro and very, very modern
The unusual glass tailgate design is supposed to remind people of both the C30 (now discontinued in Europe) and the old P1800. Around the front, it's business as usual for a Volvo, while the side profile is much lower and sleeker than segment rivals like the Audi A3 or Volkswagen Golf. The R-Design package adds a tasteful body styling kit, rear spoiler and propeller-like alloy wheels.
Combined with 'Lux' trim it also makes the interior a fabulous place to reside. The incredibly comfortable, supportive seats are trimmed in soft black leather, the handbrake lever, gear shifter and steering wheel likewise, while a clear navigation screen and "floating" center stack add visual interest.
As do the dials - Volvo has switched to entirely LCD displays for the V40, and they're among the best-looking on the market. A tachometer and digital speedometer reside in the center, while power usage meters, water temperature and other graphs sit to the sides. Even the turn signal lights are part of the display, rather than individual lights.
Under the skin
Our V40 R-Design used an engine you'd not normally consider sporty--a 1.6-liter, four-cylinder turbodiesel, badged D2.
In fact you'll still not consider it sporty after driving it, but that isn't to say it can't get you down the road smartly. Its 115 bhp output is nothing special, but the 199 lb-ft of torque available between 1,750-2500 rpm is much more useful.
Responses are a bit dead below 1,500 rpm but from then on it moves along quite swiftly, before power dies off again at around 3,000 rpm. This is quite a narrow band in which to work, but the slick manual gearshift and six ratios do allow you to make the most of it. Throw caution to the wind and 62 mph will come up in 11.7 seconds--not spectacular, but the V40's mid-range punch makes it feel quicker than the numbers suggest.
Those European buyers who do crave more power have D3 and D4 diesel options too, the latter pumping out 177 horses and 324 lb-ft from its 2.0-liter diesel and reaching 62 in under 8 seconds with the optional auto transmission.