Pragmatic buyers are opting to down-size but still want all the accoutrements from a larger luxury car. That's why Benz, VW, BMW, Audi and others are all in there bucking and biting with red hot offerings. Volvo is the latest in the brawl with the delightful V40 range, pitched almost dollar for dollar up against the new A-Class Benz. In fact, spec' adjusted, the V40 is potentially more than the A-Class. Metallic paint adds $1550 - ouch.
But Volvo's ace in the hole is the five door V40's styling and the line-up though possibly the most popular engine, a 1.6 petrol turbo isn't available here.
It's arguably the best looker in the premium hatch segment right now and there are around six different variants in the line-up comprising two diesels and two petrols in three grades; Kinetic, Luxury and R-Design, all turbo charged.
The D2 starts the ball rolling at $34,990 and has a 1.6-litre, turbo diesel, four-pot with manual six-speed transmission only. All the others are five cylinder engines — the 2.0-litre D4 turbo diesel, the 2.0-litre T4 turbo petrol and the 2.5-litre T5 turbo petrol.
Power is rated at 84kW, 130kW, 132kW and 187kW in ascending order. Torque outputs are 270Nm, 400Nm, 300Nm and 360Nm in ascending order.
The auto in most of the range is a Japanese Aisin six-speeder called Geartronic in Volvospeak.
Standard kit includes auto stop/start, regenerative battery charging through the braking system, three mode dynamic chassis system, pedestrian airbag under the bonnet, City Safety auto braking and pedestrian avoidance system and new electric power steering. Other driver assist packages are available costing up to $5000.
The V40 scored the highest Euro NCAP crash test rating of any car tested. That result is automatically validated in the local ANCAP system.
But many of the desirable safety and driver assist features are optional. In terms of goodies, you get a power driver's seat, climate control with pollen filter, LED driving lights, Bluetooth phone and audio, quality sound system, park assist, cruise control, rain sensing wipers and remote central locking.
We were able to take the entire range for a spin in Adelaide last week and liked all of them. The D4 sticks out as the best all rounder offering strong performance and nimble handling in a fuel efficient package. The T5 is fairly quick but not in the same league as say Ford's Focus ST or the Renault Megane RS 265 (a three door).
The higher spec cars have wider wheels which compromises the turning circle a tad - not an issue on the low spec' model. The auto doesn't offer paddle shift and the manual gate is positioned for left hand drive and is too far back towards the console bin.
But other than that it's all good - great performance, excellent ride and handling, sharp steering with plenty of feel, strong brakes.
The interior is all style in the modern idiom. Looks as good as anything from VW - probably better.
Seats for five are provided with a reasonable load space. Rear seat legroom is OK.
The five cylinder engines have a distinctive thrum sound that's aurally pleasing.
We saw some super impressive fuel figures from the diesels. The 1.6 diesel is rated in the 4.0s. The 2.0 litre petrol can get into the 6.0s. with care.
But the T5's claimed 0-100kmh dash time of 6.1 seconds seems optimistic if only because it takes so long to get off the mark a, hook up and actually drive the car.
We love the looks, scalloped out panels, three side style lines, that broad shouldered rear and funky tail lights.
The V40 deserves a chance. It would be foolish not to take one for a spin if you are shopping in this segment. Safe, stylish, well made, well featured, great engines. No wonder large cars are withering on the vine.....
Price: from $34,990
Warranty: 3 years/ unlimited km
Resale: n/a (Source: Glass's Guide)
Service interval: 15,000km/12 months
Safety rating: five star
Engines: 2-litre 132kW/300Nm and 2.5-litre 187kW/360Nm turbocharged in-line alloy 20-valve five-cylinder; 1.6-litre 84kW/270Nm turbocharged alloy 4-cyl or a 2-litre 130kW/400Nm five-cylinder turbodiesel.
Transmission: 6-speed manual or automatic (D2 manual only); FWD
Body: 4.4m (L); 2m (w); 1.4m (h)
Thirst: 4.2-8.1 1/100km, tank 62 litres (D2 52l); 110-189g/km CO2
Price: from $35,600
Engine: 1.6-litre dir-inj turbo 4-cyl 90kW/200Nm or 115kW/250Nm, 1.8-litre 100kW/300Nm dir-inj turbodiesel 4-cyl, 2-litre direct-inj turbo 155kW/350Nm 4-cyl
Transmission: 7-speed automatic, front-drive
Thirst: 4.6-6.6l/100km, 95RON, CO2 121-152g/km
Volkswagen Golf Mk7
Engine: 1.2-litre 63kW/160Nm or 77kW/175Nm; 1.4-litre 90kW/200Nm or 103kW/250Nm dir-inj turbo petrol engines. 1.6-litre 77kW/250Nm, 81kW/250Nm; 2-litre 110kW/320Nm turbodiesel engines
Transmission: 6-speed manual, 6 or 7-speed dual-clutch automated manuals, front-drive
Thirst: 3.8-5.2L/100km, CO2 99-119g/km
BMW 1 Series
Price: from $37,300
Engine: 1.6-litre 100kW/220Nm or 125kW/250Nm 4-cyl petrol, 2-litre 160Kw/310Nm 4-cyl turbo; 2-litre 105kW/320Nm dir-inj turbodiesel
Transmission: 6-speed manual or 8-speed automatic, rear-drive
Thirst: 4.5-6.6l/100km, 95RON, CO2 118-154g/km