Tuesday, March 19, 2013

For Adults Only

On test... Volvo V40

Volvo… it’s what you would call a typically Swedish brand, right? As a reflection of the national identity, Volvos tick most of the boxes. They are functional in an artfully pragmatic kind of way, there’s a studied Scandinavian quirkiness in their design and they are, of course, famously packed with new and innovative safety functions. Perfect Swedes, right?

Well not quite. You see there’s one thing Volvo’s have never been… and that's sexy. And let’s face it, those Swedes are a damn sexy bunch. It’s a remarkable national characteristic. Their chilly climes are inhabited by legions of tall, javelin-throwing men and hordes of enthusiastically-proportioned, rosy-cheeked women who like nothing better than shussing down the slopes in their bikinis. Pure unadulterated hotness where ever you look.

Which is why Volvos have always puzzled me. In the face of a raft of Miss World titles and an endless supply of slim-hipped tennis stars named Björn, Sven and Magnus, how come Volvo have never designed cars to reflect all this?

Fortunately the new Volvo V40 has put this frankly baffling oversight to rest. This is one very good-looking automobile. Whereas the previous generation V40 and V50 cars – stationwagons – were great family cars, this new V40 is more representative of the reason those people found themselves in the family way in the first place.

Just look at the picture… it’s manages to be both Miss Sweden-sexy with its pouty grill and a butt so improper it’s practically wearing a thong, but (and I’m not even uncomfortable about saying this) there’s also a masculine sexiness in the ripped lines of those body panel creases and muscular wheel arches.

This all a fairly clever ploy by Volvo, because they’ve pitched their new car into a very competitive market segment – the “compact premium”. With the likes of the VW Golf, Ford Focus, Audi A3, BMW 1 Series, and the upcoming new A-Class Merc, it’s a pond filled with some fairly large fish. On most levels, the V40 acquits itself rather well in such celebrated company. The interior may not be the roomiest, but it’s an exercise in unpretentious, ergonomic design executed in high quality leather, plastics and rubber. There’s also a choice of four trim levels from Essential, to Excel, Elite, and the smoking R-Design (the car you’re looking at here).

Under the bonnet you can choose from the very sensible D3 1.6 turbo diesel, right up to the performance-orientated T5 with its petrol 2.5-litre turbo. Volvo have also turned the sensory dial a few clicks to the right with its chassis that has a noticeably sporty character. Handling that was usually sensible and pragmatic is now agile, grippy and focused.

Naturally the V40 still comes with every safety feature bar an ejector seat, but who cares…. just look at it… touch it…. rub it up against your skin…

The Volvo V40 starts at R281 200

(review as appeared in the Feb issue of the Kulula in-flight mag)