The Volvo V40 is the most important new model for the famously not-so-far-out Swedish brand for 20 years. It’s the first time they’ve had a 5-door hatch the same size, but more expensive or ‘premium’, as the big-selling Ford Focus in their range for that double-decade, and they’d like a fat-as-possible slice of the 25 per cent of new UK car sales that come from this part of the market.

The best way to get attention for your new range of hatches is to build a wild-style, big-bhp ‘halo car’ to sit on top of the range, like a tuned up cherry. This V40 T5 R-Design is Volvo’s 251bhp halo hooligan. So, is it cool, quick and sticky enough? Motor-Vision’s put it through its paces on some cracking British back lanes to find out…

Volvo V40 feature image

R-Design outside

The R-Design badge on this rebel Blue V40 T5 doesn’t do a whole lot, really. Yes, it gets you optional (£275) access to the same Rebel Blue paint as worn by those killer-looking Polestar Volvo racers (pic below), but while our Motor-Vision test car looks pretty darn tasty in its deep coat of the Rebel paint, it also looks great in Ice White, which doesn’t cost any extra.

It’s a jazzy name for a styling pack at the end of the day, with R-Design also bringing matt silver wing mirror cases and 17-inch Ixion matt black wheels to the V40’s exterior. And if you want your V40 to sit lower and on bigger 18-inch alloys, then the Sports Pack (with lower and stiffer suspension) and 18-inch Ixion wheels will set you back a further £650 and £700, respectively. As a car-lover with tuning always on my mind, I’d have to tick these option boxes.

The Sports Pack only lowers the V40 by 10mm, and while our test car had the 18-inch alloys it didn’t have the Sport Chassis, so I can’t tell you how much better it looked sitting with its wheels that 10mm closer to its arches. I did drive another V40 with the sportier chassis set-up and can report a touch more poise over and above an already pretty well sorted standard chassis. Worth the extra £650? Well, just.

 

R-Design inside

The Volvo V40 interior is a clean freak’s dream, with super-clean dashboard lines, a bright ‘n’ crisp all-graphics, animated clocks set – which only gets a pulsing blue colour when you buy the Rebel Blue exterior paint! – and one of the slickest, neatest centre consoles this side of a Bauhaus sideboard.

R-Design brings leather sports seats, a good sprinkling of R-Design logos and some pleasant aluminium trim around the cabin, and as a top of the ranger there’s sat-nav, too. But it’s not the biggest of screens.

Now, the driving position is where the V40 T5 R-Design starts to earn some driver’s car gold stars, with one of the very best pilot’s positions around. The seat goes deep into the chassis and the leather steering wheels slides and tilts for miles to meet your grip, no matter how long your legs are. Shame then that the most powerful V40 – the named-after-a-Volvo-legend, T5 – is only available with a pretty run of the mill automatic gearbox.

 

Fantastic five

Car fans will probably already be aware of the Volvo 2.5-litre, straight-5-cylinder, 20-valve, turbocharged petrol motor that’s transverse-mounted under the V40’s hood. It would look a whole lot sexier if it was longitudinal-mounted – five- and six-cylinder engines always do, but the fatal attraction with this 251bhp / 360Nm powerplant is its silky, if not super-sharp, torquey performance.

I’m enjoying the twists and turns, hard accelerations and firm brakes of some pukka British back lanes in this Rebel Blue V40 T5 R-Design, and the engine, predictable chassis and powerful brakes are doing a decent job of firing me quickly from point-to-point. The ‘Geartronic’ ‘box swaps the cogs quite smoothly and quickly, but it’s never as quick and involving as a double-clutch ‘box, and there are no steering wheel paddles for those that like to finger-flick the ratios.

If we had the sweet 6-speed manual ‘box as found in other less powerful V40s we’d be an extra 20 per cent happier, but there’s no manual for the T5, as Volvo thinks the few UK peeps that’ll buy a T5 would rather an auto. Err, hello!

Anyway, the T5, on these roads – which are filthy wet, by the way – with the auto ‘box, is still quick and reactive, and fun to drive. It just won’t set your pants on fire. Saying that, the on-paper stats are worthy of a respectful nod – 60mph in 5.7 seconds and 155mph – while emissions, if you care, are 185g/km of CO2, average economy quoted at 35.8mpg.

The Volvo C30 mild mannered hatch, turned Rebel Blue bonkers by race tuners Polestar. This is what I’m talking about! 

The orignal T5 – the 850 T5 – the boxy estate of doom! The cops used them and the crims didn’t like it!

 

Motor-Vision verdict

The V40 T5 R-Design makes a pretty decent job of being the V40’s halo car with some swanky looks, a dependable chassis, minimalism masterclass of an interior, and that deep-lunged legend of a 2.5-litre turbo motor.

We have to remember the type of people that mostly buy Volvos, and with those drivers in mind, I think this V40 T5 hits the mark in many respects. However, with my personal spec – including £800 for the premium audio (wink, wink!) – ‘my’ V40 T5 R-Design came in at a rather whopping £33,815. And while this test car looked wicked in its Rebel Blue sprinter’s suit, it didn’t quite live up to its ‘nearly lairy’ looks.

For me, a hot hatch – premium or not so premium – that heads well north of £30k, should put your eyes on stalks at the end of a back lane blast, and while the V40 T5 is pokey, it’s too well mannered, classy, to leave those peepers any more prominent.

 

By Dan Anslow

 

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