Pilates, Woolworths, Goji-berry smoothies and gym tights traditionally sprung to mind at the utterance of the Volvo brand. Volvo South Africa recently invited us to Cape Town to remind us that this in fact, is not the case. When the V40 was launched in 2012 it signalled a new era for Volvo, but was an awkward mid-way stepping-stone between the woeful Ford era Volvo and what the Swedes refer to as the ‘New Dawn’ under Geely ownership. The XC90 was the first Volvo to see the crafty pencil work of Thomas “something or another” and now, with a bit of tracing paper and some new crayons, he’s had his way with the face-lift V40. It was never an ugly car and was arguably the ‘premium-hatch’ segment’s best kept secret, so you’ll probably be pleased to know, that remains the case. Yay!
These days buying a premium hatch is much like a foray into the delightful world of confectionery selection. We all love a good cup of Joe, but everyone has varying tastes when it comes to what accompanies their brew…bru. So picture this – the BMW 1 Series is a croissant, without jam. The jam is optional and will cost you a lot of money but the basic product, even without jam, is a pointy, sharp and well-rounded thing that does the job brilliantly. Something every man and his dog can attest to.
In the less exciting corner, we have the Audi A3 which without wasting time, isn’t that tasty. It instils an excitement much akin to that of a “Banting” option in the confectionery stand. That being said, it is very well built and solid. Mercedes-Benz offers their A-Class and GLA which to me are like a chocolate chip cookie…until you experience their Renault engines or harsh ride quality, only to realise that those chocolate chips were, in fact, raisins – oh the deception!
Infiniti is keeping ‘mum’ about their Q30 which, apart from being a Merenault-Benzissan, will probably be a bit like a Pick ‘n Pay cake – it does the job, but it’s not the real thing and you know that what everyone actually wants is a Woolies cake.
And so we are left with the Volvo. It can be fast or frugal and is very well built. Not quite as well built as an Audi, but definitely more rounded than a 1 Series. As for standard equipment, it just blows all its competitors out of the water. Pricing is pretty good too, starting at R337 700 for the T3 Manual Kinetic (it has very ugly wheels) and creeping up to R526 900 for the T5 AWD Geartronic Cross Country. Unbeknownst to many, it features 180kW and 350NM, which will give a few “boets” in their GTI’s a serious fright.
Also new are an array of Polestar performance parts which are in essence “go-faster” bits that also look cool. Ranging from software to wheels and even a full exhaust system which sounds killer on just about any of the models. Pick of the bunch for me would be a Cross Country D4 which also pulls like a stabbed rat, thanks to its torquey disposition and the brilliant ZF 8-speed Gearbox.
It might not be as dynamic as the rear-wheel-drive BMW 1 Series or as expensive as the Mercedes-Benz (because expensive seems to be in at the moment), but if you’re looking for unparalleled safety, value for money or a brown Volvo, then this is the car for you. Or your mum.
Launch Drive: Volvo V40 Face-lift.