Test drive: Volvo V40 T5 Inscription

We Say: It may have lost a cylinder, but Volvo’s peppy hatch still holds plenty of charm

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The previous Volvo V40 T5 had quite a lot of appeal. Despite being outgunned by its two chief German rivals, its left-field charm, unique heart and the Volvo badge’s stand on safety swayed plenty of hearts and minds in its favour.

Sadly, that five-pot engine was perhaps the last remnant of Volvo’s not so distant past and Volvo got rid of it when the facelifted version of the V40 T5 debuted earlier this year. Not only does the V40 T5 embrace a bold new face, it also has gained a new heart that promises more too. After spending a recent weekend piloting it, we’re certain Volvo knew what it wanted with this new version.

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In looks, there were few, if any, complaints about the previous V40. Nevertheless, that didn’t stop Volvo’s designers from dabbling with it, endowing it with a pair of new, full LED headlights featuring the marque’s signature new ‘Thor’s Hammer’ LED DRLs up front. If you admired the V40 before, you’ll love it even more in this new form. Everything else of the exterior remains largely unchanged and that’s not bad news at all.

Climb aboard and things appear rather familiar: still plenty of plush cowhide lining the seats, accompanied by high quality fabrics and soft-touch plastics all around, not forgetting the shiny milled aluminium trimming. Overall, the V40 T5’s decently spacious cabin feels as classy as ever, while the dual zone automatic climate control ensures things remain as cool as ever too.

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The biggest change only takes effect when you thumb the start button and take note of the new soundtrack from this hatch’s new heart. Mounted up front is Volvo’s new Drive-E two-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine. Unlike the blown five-pot it replaces, this new mill has better balance through the revs, curtailing vibration in the cabin even more.

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Crucially, it packs a bigger punch – 245bhp and 350Nm of torque, meaning a 32bhp and 50Nm hike. Peak torque is now delivered from a lower 1,500rpm onwards. All that power drives the front wheels through a new 8-speed automatic box that has replaced the previous 6-speed unit.

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It means this V40 T5 is smoother and noticeably quicker. It now despatches 100kph from a standstill in just 6.3 seconds, an improvement on its predecessor’s 6.9-second time. In other words, its newfound speed sees it taking the fight to the Merc A250 Sport and VW Golf GTI, and properly too.

In driving dynamics, things are somewhat unchanged, which is both good and bad. For starters, this Swede still isn’t as sharp as its two German rivals when driven spiritedly on twisting roads.  Muted electric steering aside, much of this is due to the absence of the clever electronic adjustable dampers found in the A250 Sport and Golf GTI. We reckon the inclusion of those dampers would sweeten the Volvo’s ride, especially on urban, pothole-ridden streets.

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It must be said, however, these quirks, plus the transmission’s noticeable lag compared to a rivalling German dual clutch (DCT) unit, are only amplified when pushed hard. Driven sanely, this is still a very pleasant hatchback. Do that, and you’ll also be rewarded by the powertrain’s newfound frugality. Compared to the thirsty five-banger it replaces, this V40 T5 now sips just 6.1 litres/100km on average, a huge improvement on the former’s 7.5 litres/100km figure.

As always, safety is paramount: seven airbags, anti-lock brakes (ABS) with electronic stability control (ESC), Volvo’s neat active blind-spot warning, collision warning and active city braking suite  are all part of an impressive safety package. In this aspect, the V40 T5 trumps the bulk of its rivals.

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Its price too might appeal. At RM180,888, not including insurance and registration costs, the V40 T5 is significantly more affordable than its two fully imported (CBU) German rivals. It also comes with a five-year or 100,000km warranty plus a five-year Volvo On Call service.

Surely, given its attributes, this is another slice of Sweden many will speak highly of other than IKEA furniture and tasty meatballs.

Powertrain: 2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbo petrol, 245bhp, 350Nm
Price: RM180,888
Economy: 6.1L/100km, 143g/km CO2
Performance: 0-100kph in 6.3 seconds, 240kph
Weight: 1,521kg
Verdict: 8.5/10
Smooth and peppy new heart, neat new look and tempting CKD price tag make this a Swede sensation

Thoriq Azmi
Author: Thoriq Azmi
Former DJ. Driver, rider & word-stringer @ Top Gear MY. Geek. Leftie. #fuelledbythoriq