2014 Volvo V40 D2 diesel - UK first driveEnlarge Photo
On the road
The V40 has a grown-up feel familiar to Volvo drivers since the dawn of time, with low wind, road and engine noise. In fact, it's one of the quieter small diesels we've tested--ahead of the equivalent Volkswagen Group products, and quieter even than our previous favorite, the Honda Civic 1.6 diesel.
The steering is meaty and there's plenty of grip, befitting the sporty billing. Only the ride misses the mark--it's not as cossetting as you'd expect, approaching uncomfortably firm on some surfaces.
Volvo's myriad safety systems all work well and make you feel secure on the road. This car was equipped with collision warning and blind-spot detection systems--the former beeps at you if it thinks you've not seen a cyclist, pedestrian or parked car at lower speeds; the latter flashes an orange signal near the door mirror to alert you to cars hidden out of view.
At the pumps
So, to the V40 D2's raison d'etre. Does its 1.6-liter diesel engine perform where it matters?
Yes and no. Predictably, it falls far short of Europe's typically wayward combined economy figures. Europe says it will do 65.3 mpg in mixed driving, identical to that of the Civic we drove before.
But while the Civic achieved a remarkable 55 mpg in our hands, the Volvo was closer to 45 mpg. Part of that is down to the different routes on the two tests--the Civic was largely tested on the freeway, the Volvo in town and country driving. A two-way 45-mile freeway trip at 70 mph did reveal the Volvo was capable of nearer 51.5 mpg at these speeds, though that does still lag the Civic.
Even so, it's not a bad result for a supremely comfortable, good-looking and refined luxury compact. And the Civic was unusually good, recording higher mpg in similar driving to any other diesel we've tested in the UK--so there's no shame in the Volvo not reaching those numbers.
U.S. buyers might expect more performance, so we suspect the 2.0-liter diesels would be best suited. Now all we need is to convince Volvo to bring them over...