Tuesday, 07 March 2017 13:10

Discreet luxury teamed with formidable power

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The Volvo V40 hatchback The Volvo V40 hatchback Pictures: Quick Pic

Scandi-style has always appealed to me, with its pared down, understated aesthetic and after one week of driving the Volvo V40 hatchback (launched in South Africa last year) I was kind of hooked on this Swedish luxury vehicle brand. I simply did not want to stop driving it, whether it was in town doing errands or out on the open road. The Volvo is a dream car and its quiet discretion feels almost ambassadorial.

The icon:

Originally built in In 1927 by founders Assar Gabrielsson and engineer Gustav Larson, who had a vision to build cars that could withstand the rigours, rough terrain and freezing temperatures of their native Sweden, Volvo is today headquartered in Gothenburg, although it is now under Chinese ownership.

Volvo manufactures and markets luxury cars from coupes, executive sedans, SUVs to station wagons and has some of the highest safety standards in the world. My test drive model, the Volvo V40, has a five-star Euro NCAP rating, which is a 100% score in the Safety Assist category.

Standard safety equipment includes ABS, EBD, BAS, HSA Stability and Traction Control 7 airbags, Seat belt detection for all five seats, Front seat whiplash protection, Tyre pressure monitoring, City Safety (full auto brake), Llumar laminated windows (anti-smash-and-grab) and Tracker Connect Five.

The brand is hugely popular in the US and almost every American movie will feature a Volvo - Volvo's starring roles are even listed on IMBD! Its movie resume runs the cinematic gamut from blockbusters like World War Z, to Dirty Pretty Things, Striptease, Jobs and even Home Alone. Obviously the Yanks know a good thing when they see one, although Volvo has a big presence in European arthouse cinema as well.

The experience:

The reason for this immaculate scoring revealed itself to me over the course of seven days of pure driving pleasure. The car has just about every kind of bell and whistle imaginable. Standard features include:

Mid-level LED headlights with Thor’s Hammer DRL (loved this, the Swedish references!);

16-inch Markeb alloy wheels; 

Dual-zone automatic climate control; 

Automatic electric windows all-round;

Milled Aluminium décor panel (floating centre stack) ;

Electric front seats and side mirrors with memory; 

Digital instrument cluster;

Cruise control ;

Rain sensor (the windscreen wipers adjust accordingly)

Auto-dimming frameless rear-view mirror 

Rear parking sensors

Chrome exterior detailing 

Puddle lights (yes, I know, "puddle lights!)

And the options which could be fitted include: Heated front seats. Self adjusting LED lights with active bending. Adjustable steering feedback. A lane keeping aid which vibrates and gives feedback. All without the car raising its voice. Such a classy car.

Super intelligent, the hatchback anticipates not just the driver's every move but those of anyone around it. There is even a pedestrian detection system which is part of City Safety, the car will automatically apply the brakes if it detects that you may impact a pedestrian to either completely avoid a collision or mitigate the severity of injury. Besides discreet rear parking cameras there are also a front camera, mounted in the windscreen, which is used for pedestrian and cyclist detection.

Going up the hill is like flying a super jet, the power of the engine is extraordinary but the car does not even break a sweat. It literally zooms up the steepest hill without any discernible growling on the car of the engine.

The sleek grey exterior is so quiet and understated but the car has the lines of a racehorse, from its back windows to its steel alloy wheels. Beautiful, beautiful design.

The engine:

This is where all the secrets lie. The automatic model has a a four-cylinder direct injection turbo petrol engine with an eight-speed automatic transmission. It had some serious voomah under the hood.

 The interior

Don't get me started! That luxurious buttery handstitched leather juxtaposed with the steel grey of the outside paint is car-gasmic and you simply can't wait to get in and buckle up. Plus the lighting. Parking in any underground parking is always a nightmare as the lights are so dim you have grope around to find anything. But with the high level interior wattage finding everything you need before exiting the vehicle is a cinch.

The V40 boasts a high performance audio system with 8 speakers, DVD, USB, Bluetooth, aux, voice control as well as Internet.


The Volvo V40 is smart and stylish while being entirely practical. It's not so ridiculously fancy that you can't park it anywhere it does not catch the eye of undesirables and thieves, it takes a lot of shopping in the back, it's a go anywhere, do anything kind of a car, while at the same time being a really beautiful piece of machinery.

With the price tag of  R501 750, the Volvo V40 comes with a 5-year / 100 000 km warranty and a  5-year / 100 000 km full maintenance plan .


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