21 February 1997

A COMPACT VOLVO

ESTATE – HONEST!

In this months Country Car Andrew Faulkner squeezes into two compact estates – one from Germany, the other Scandinavian.

Andrew Pearce takes

to the dirt in Fords

road-friendly 4×4,

the Maverick, and

explains how to

change

Land Rover half

shafts and diffs

V40 – the intriguing name now emblazoned across the rear of little Volvo estates. Could there be hidden meaning to this new title?

Maybe its "V" for volume, "V" for vast", or perhaps even "V" for voracious? After all, Volvo estates are traditionally known for their ability to swallow anything from Grandfather to his clock, and occasionally both.

Yet the V40 is a departure from the Scandinavian norm. In the mould of Audis A4 and BMW 3-series Touring, this Volvo is one of a new breed of compact estates which puts style above space, chic over carrying capacity and pizzazz over practicality. All very well, but does the change in emphasis work?

On the whole, yes. More nimble ninepence than slow shilling, the slippery profiled V40 and its sister saloon, the S40, share little with their predecessors, the outdated, rather stoic and largely sluggish 400s. Both inside and out, the mini Volvo now has a 90s look, with a choice of three lively engines – two petrol, one diesel – and taut handling to match.

From the outside, curves replace corners with, if anything, the V40 lurking perilously close to mirroring its competition. That is until you get round to the rear end, where there is still the subtlest of hints at a family tail – remember the 480 coupe?

Inside, too, there is little to remind you of the boxy Volvos of old. A cosseting cockpit sees the driver in a multi-adjustable seat facing a bewildering line-up of controls which, in our top spec CD version, included electronic climate control, CD player, cruise control . The list goes on.

The verdict: Obviously, the answer depends on need. If youre after a big hod carrier of a car, then youll be disappointed. But if its a car with neat handling, rakish looks, and classy interior – albeit with limited usable load space – then

the V40 has much to commend it.

A compact Volvo estate with limited load space? Now, theres a surprise.


VOLVODATA


&#8226 Model: Volvo V40 2.0 estate

&#8226 Price: £16,170 (CD pack, add £3750)

&#8226 Engine: 2-litre petrol, (options 1.8-litre petrol, 1.9-litre turbodiesel)

&#8226 Top speed: 130mph

&#8226 0-62mph: 9.3secs

&#8226 Test fuel consumption:      30mpg

&#8226 Insurance group: 13 (CD version)