Volvo will unveil a new-look Volvo V40 five-door hatchback at next week's Geneva show designed to revive its fortunes in the premium hatchback class, and steal volume from the dominant BMW 1-series and Audi A3. The outgoing S40 and V50 models die to make way for new V40 production tipped to reach 90,000 units a year at Volvo"s Ghent plant in Belgium.
The car, which combines the virtues of the outgoing S40 and V50 models in one body style, hits the European market late in May, and the UK in August. It comes with six engine options (three petrol and three diesel) spearheaded by a 254 bhp version of Volvo’s own turbo five-cylinder, tipped to deliver a 150 mph top speed and 0-60 mph in 6.5 seconds. Ultimately Volvo will adopt a four cylinders-only strategy and provide high performance versions "by electrification”.
The petrol range has two additional four-pot turbo 1.6s from Ford and rated at 150 bhp and 180 bhp. The diesel range includes 177 bhp and 150 bhp 2.0 litre turbo fives, plus a super-frugal 1.6 litre 115 bhp turbo four emitting just 94 grams/litre CO2. All cars have stop-start systems, brake energy regeneration and Volvo’s improved City Safety anti-collision system that now works at up to 50 km/h (30 mph).
However, the biggest safety development is an all-new pedestrian airbag, that pops the car’s bonnet on impact and provides a large cushion at the base of the screen onto which a pedestrian can fall, yet which is U-shaped to allow the driver visibility to keep steering.
Designed while Ford still owned Volvo, the new V40 has been embraced Geely-appointed CEO Stefan Jacoby. The car will spearhead an aggressive new “Designed Around You” marketing campaign to “revive Volvo’s rightful place in the world”. The new V40 uses Ford Focus platform, though Volvo insists that it has re-rated the electric power steering and revised every spring and damper setting. The car is about four centimetres shorter than the outgoing model, but lower and wider. Kerb weight is still being calculated, engineers say, but it “should be lower”.
It also gets a plush, simple interior meant to embody Scandinavian values. It has mood lighting and even a gently illuminated gear lever knob. The digital dash is interactive.
UK prices are expected to start from just over £19k for a 1.6-litre D2 in entry-level ES specification, which will include the enhanced City Safety system, Pedestrian airbag and Bluetooth system.
Mindful of an urgent need to sell more cars than the current company-wide 450,000, these prices reinforce Volvo’s view that big rises will be avoided.