Volvo V40 VS Audi S3
- Great looks
- Responsive, torquey engine
- Simple to use interior controls
- Small boot
- Limited rear legroom
- No Apple CarPlay
- Virtual cockpit
- Accessible performance
- Handsome styling
- Harsh ride
- Limited rear-seat headroom
- Engine runs out of huff at top end
I miss my old phone. Sure, my new phone has a bigger screen and it’s smarter and faster, but my previous phone was smaller and easier to use, and now when I go to do a screen shot I accidentally hit the volume button every time.
What I really want in a phone is a new version of the old one – and I have a feeling people may feel the same way about the 2018 Volvo V40.
Some time next year the completely new generation V40 is expected to arrive and there will be some things I’ll miss about the old one. So, this really is your last chance to buy a new ‘old’ Volvo V40.
In a last-hurrah review, I road tested the V40 in the Inscription grade with the T4 petrol engine. What’s so 'missable' about it? Read on to find out.
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
Audi was the first to market with a premium small performance sedan in 2014, with its four-door S3 combining luxury appointments with a punchy engine.
The German brand has largely enjoyed free air in the somewhat niche segment, but now Mercedes-AMG has launched its A35 sedan and BMW's 2 Series Gran Coupe-based M235i is set for a 2020 introduction to try and steal some of the S3's thunder.
With a new-generation version expected around the corner, Audi has updated its S3 with more kit to keep things fresh against its new rivals.
Now priced at $65,800 in sedan form, and $64,200 for the five-door Sportback hatch, does the S3 still have what it takes to stave off the competition?
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
I’m going to miss this V40 like I do my old phone, and for many people this hatch really could really be close to perfect: excellent safety equipment, enjoyable to drive, cool prestige styling and some lo-fi buttons and dials that are far easier to use than swiping a screen. This is your last chance to own an old, new V40.
Would you wait for the new V40 to arrive or would you prefer the current version? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
Despite being close to the end of its lifecycle, the Audi S3 sedan remains a solid choice for those looking for punchy performance wrapped in a premium package.
There is a bit of a trade-off in comfort for the extra performance, but it never strays towards being too unbearable or unliveable.
If you can survive with just using the rear seats occasionally, the S3 sedan also serves up one of the best front-seat interiors on the market, even after all this time.
The V40 has been around forever (well, since 2012) but somehow it still looks great – it’s the Nicole Kidman/Rob Lowe of cars.
The thing is Volvo’s new-generation vehicles now have a different look, which will be worn by the next V40, and that seriously dates the current car.
Sure, in 2016 this V40 was updated and given 'Thor’s Hammer' LED running lights like the new-gen cars, but it’s clear the V40 has the old look.
The question is: are you the type of person who would be annoyed if this time next year somebody in the latest ‘new-look’ V40 pulled up beside you at the lights. If yes, then stop reading now… we’ll just wait a moment for you to leave.
Okay, it’s just us now. We don’t need those shallow people anyway, right? They don’t know what they’re missing out on – like an interior with lots of buttons. I’m serious the centre console actually has a numerical key pad for making phone calls. There are also lots of dials for the climate control and seat warmers and for the auto parking system.
All of these buttons will be replaced by a sexy, large touchscreen in the new V40, which will make the screen in the current one look like the slot in Ned Kelly’s helmet. Wait, don’t leave. See, I’ve road tested the new X60 and I missed just flinging a dial to make the cabin’s temperature cooler, instead I had to go into the screen’s menu, find the climate functions, and then slide my finger down a little digital ladder until I found 21 degrees. It’s a frustrating design and potentially distracting in that it takes your eyes off the road longer than twisting a dial does.
I’ll stop the rant. So, yes, the interior of the new V40 will look so sleek and minimalist, decluttered of its buttons and sporting a large vertical screen, but there are functional advantages to keeping it simple.
That said the current V40’s cabin is still special and elegant. The Inscription grade brings milled aluminium trim to the centre console and that leather steering wheel. Volvo owners would be aware of that solid, well-built feeling with a high-quality fit and finish.
What are the V40’s dimensions? Compared to the Audi A3 Sportback the V40 is 59mm longer at 4369mm end-to-end, 72mm wider at 1857mm across, and 5mm shorter in height at 1420mm.
While you might struggle to fit something like a full-sized bike into the boot of the sedan, the extra cargo capacity would easily accommodate extra grocery bags or a stroller.
We actually think the sedan looks better than the hatch, as the styling is a little more mature and grown up. It actually looks like a shrunk down A4!
The 19-inch wheels fitted to the S3 also help fill its slightly blistered wheelarches, while subtle nods to its sportiness can be seen in the red brake callipers and quad exhaust tips.
The rest of the S3 sedan is unmistakably Audi thanks to its singleframe front grille, strong shoulder line and contrasting side mirrors.
Inside, sports seats with Audi's unique diamond-quilting are fitted for the front occupants, while the rear bench seats also feature the bespoke finish – at least on the outboard pews.
Between the driver and front passenger sits a small storage cubby, the gear shifter, multimedia controls and two cupholders.
In the centre stack, you will see climate controls, the drive mode selector and a small screen above circular air vents.
Everything in the cabin is laid out in a clever, ergonomic fashion, though we will note the central cupholders won't be much use for anything bigger than a small coffee cup.
The best part of the interior is easily the virtual cockpit, which lays out all the information you need right in front of you. It's even customisable, so you can adjust the sizing of the satellite navigation maps or media system.
Umm, next question. Okay, the V40 is not very practical. Those small rear doors don’t open wide, making entry and exit potentially difficult for older or less limber folks.
Legroom in the back is limited – although at 191cm I can just sit behind my driving position and headroom is getting tight, too – but still there’s just enough room for me.
The V40’s cargo capacity is 335 litres and that’s smaller than the A3 Sportback’s boot space (380 litres) and the BMW 1 Series’s luggage capacity (360 litres). The aperture of the boot itself is also small.
There’s even a practicality issue with the driver’s doorway – that windscreen is so slanted that the A-pillars either side of it are hard to dodge for taller people when trying to get in, but especially when climbing out.
Being a small sedan, the S3 doesn't exactly boast heaps of interior space, but there is enough for a young family or a group of four adults over short distances.
Our head can just about fit in the rear outboard pews, but our necks were a bit sore after trying the middle seat. For reference, this writer measures about 186cm.
Leg room was pretty good though, even with the front seats set-up for someone our size, though again, we'd only recommend small children for the middle seat.
Amenities in the rear are sparse, with just a 12-volt socket to charge devices and rear air vents to keep passengers entertained.
The door cards will swallow small bottles, but not much else, while there is no fold down centre armrest or cupholders.
The front fares a little bitter, with larger door pockets, a glove box and central storage cubby, but don't expect to be moving houses in the S3 sedan.
As for the boot, its deep and wide with a cargo net to keep things tumbling round, and is generous enough to swallow 390 litres of volume with the seats in place – that's about 50L more than the Sportback.
Price and features
The Volvo V40 in the mid-range Inscription grade with the T4 engine lists for $43,990. When I road tested it for the first time five years ago (in 2013) it was $45,990, and it’s a better car now than it was then, with more standard features.
The list includes a 7.0-inch touchscreen with reversing camera, sat nav, eight-speaker sound system with CD/DVD player, digital radio, and internet connectivity – but no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
Also standard are front and rear parking sensors, an auto parking system, plus power adjustable driver and front passenger seats. There’s also leather upholstery, leather-trimmed steering wheel, dual-zone climate control, 17-inch 'Sarpas' alloy wheels and proximity key entry.
The safety equipment list is impressive, too – you can read all about what’s looking after you in the safety section below.
Also, don’t forget that because the current V40 is due to be replaced, dealers will be keen to move their stock to make way for the new one and that means you should be able to get yourself a bargain.
Priced at $65,800 before on-road costs, the S3 sedan is about $6500 cheaper than its $72,500 Mercedes-AMG A35 sedan rival, but still comes loaded with what you'd expect in a premium small car.
Close to the end of its life, Audi bundled nearly $9000 worth of extras in the S3 sedan at no extra cost late last year, which includes the aforementioned 19-inch wheels, metallic paint, Nappa leather sports seats, wireless smartphone charger, magnetic suspension, and Bang & Olufsen 13-speaker sound system.
A sports bodykit is also fitted as standard, while LED headlights, keyless entry, push-button start, electronically folding side-view mirrors and heated front seats also feature.
Inside, passengers will find dual-zone climate control, LED interior lighting, flat-bottom steering wheel, and 7.0-inch multimedia system with digital radio, satellite navigation and Bluetooth connectivity.
Our favourite feature though, is the 12.3-inch all-digital virtual cockpit instrument panel, which is easily customisable and clear to read.
Audi set the benchmark for digital displays when it first introduced virtual cockpit in its third-generation TT sports car, and it still remains the benchmark to this day.
Engine & trans
The V40 line-up has three petrol engines to pick from and the T4 sits right in the middle between the most powerful T5 and the least grunty T3. A 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine the T4 makes 140kW/300Nm and delivers it through a smooth six-speed automatic.
Power in the S3 sedan comes from a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol engine, which outputs 213kW at 6500rpm and 380Nm from 1850-5300rpm.
Engine outputs are impressive for a small car, though the powerplant does run out of go when the needle approaches redline.
The engine is also down on power and torque when compared to its newer rivals, such as the 225kW/400Nm Mercedes-AMG A35 sedan and 225kW/450Nm BMW M135i xDrive – though the latter is a hatchback.
If you’re only going to stick to urban areas you’ll see higher usage – our trip computer was reporting an average of 14.9L/100km on a regular peak hour commute, but motorways drop the figure to about 8.0L/100km.
Official fuel consumption figures are pegged at 6.5 litres per 100km, while carbon dioxide emissions are 151 grams per kilometre.
The S3 sedan sips premium unleaded fuel and the engine is Euro 6 compliant.
With a 55-litre fuel tank, the S3 should average about 846km of driving range per fill-up, but this is obviously dependent on driving conditions and the urgency of the driver's right foot.
Good handling and a fairly comfortable ride complete a prestige and easy-to-drive package that’s only really let down by heavy steering and slightly noisy suspension. That heavily sloped windscreen does present some visibility issues, but it’s not a deal breaker.
Audi has probably perfected the easy-to-drive-fast formula with its S3 sedan, deftly balancing approachable limits with an engaging drive.
The exhaust just pops, rather than crackles, but again, that characteristic lends itself more to the mature and grown-up status of the S3 rather than the ‘boy racer' image of other cars in the same class.
The quattro all-wheel-drive system means the S3 sedan just grips, but leans towards understeer if you really come into a corner red hot.
It's no bad thing though, as steering is communicative and the chassis feels neutral for the most part.
If you want a small luxury sedan that will make you feel like a hero, the S3 is it.
With peak torque available so early in the rev range, the S3 is also a gem when just cruising around at inner-city speeds and when getting off the line briskly.
The transmission shifts quickly and smoothly, but if you'd prefer, you can always put it in manual mode and shift with the gear stick or steering wheel mounted paddles.
The S3 then, is suitable for pulling double duty as a weekday commuter and weekend canyon carver, and while there are other options that will do each respective thing better, there isn't much out there that can balance both aspects.
First tested in 2012, the V40 the achieved one of the highest-ever scores awarded by EuroNCAP and saw ANCAP give it the maximum five-star rating in Australia. Back then the V40 came standard with advanced safety equipment only making it onto cars these days such as AEB, it also had the world’s first pedestrian airbag, which inflates to protect people from hitting the A-pillars and windscreen.
The 2017 update added blind-spot warning as standard on the Inscription grade. A $1300 option package brings Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keeping Aid, Active High Beam Control, Forward Collision Warning and Road Sign Information. A $3000 package brings adaptive cruise control, collision warning with full auto braking, plus pedestrian and cyclist detection.
ABS, EBD, traction and stability control are of course there to step in should you need it, too. You’ll find three top tether and two ISOFIX points in the second row for child seats. A space-saver spare is under the boot floor.
ANCAP awarded the entire A3 line-up a full five-star safety rating when it was originally tested in 2013.
We'd love to see something like a surround view-camera added to the next-generation S3, but with its diminutive size, it's not a deal breaker.
Some sort of autonomous self-parking technology would also be appreciated to get the car into those tight spaces.
Audi's S3 sedan, like all new Audis, come with a three year/unlimited kilometre warranty alongside three years of roadside assist and 12 months of anti-corrosion cover.
Service intervals are ever 15,000km or 12 months, whichever comes first.
Both three- and five-year service plans are available for $1850 and $2390 respectively.