Volvo V40 T3 R-Design Review

Volvos aren't boring. Here's the proof as DrivingTalk tests the new V40 T3 R-Design

By Tim Kendall | 24th July 2013

Vital Statistics

  • Model: V40 T3 R-Design Lux Nav
  • Engine: 1.6 Turbo petrol (150hp)
  • Transmission: manual, front-wheel drive
  • Price: £25,880 (£30,380 as tested)
  • 0-60: 8.8 secs
  • Top Speed: 130 mph
  • Economy: 53.3 mpg (combined)
  • Options fitted to test car:
    See Text

DrivingTalk roadtest: 2013 Volvo V40 T3 R-Design Lux Nav

Volvos. They’re boxy but good. So went Dudley Moore’s strapline in that ’80s film about advertising.

Fast forward to 2013 and what is a Volvo? I’m not sure anymore. My parents had a few when I was growing up and the fondly-remembered Volvos of my youth were safe family wagons with characterful turbo engines and a golden retriever’s clammy snout pressed firmly against the rear window. These days, the Volvo USP is less clear.

2013 Volvo V40 T3 R-Design

The R-Design is set to take 25% of V40 sales

And despite a naughty side that has simmered away quietly since the storming 850 T5 was unleashed in the ’90s, the solid Swedish brand has always lurked in the shadow of the premium German marques. A few bites at the hatchback market haven’t made much of a mark either. Remember the old 340? Probably not. It was the dumpy-looking one Clarkson deliberately drove into a tree. And despite the last C30 hatchback being rather a likable, stylish thing, it didn’t sell in huge numbers and was quietly killed off recently.

The new Volvo V40 is on a mission to change all that. And the usual suspects – Audi A3, BMW 1-Series and Mercedes A-Class – are on its hit list.

2013 Volvo V40 T3 R-Design: What is it?

A bit of Scandinavian Noir. R-Design is to Volvo what S-Line is to Audi and M-Sport is to BMW – a more overtly sporting trim level featuring natty little badges with assorted bits of interior and exterior detailing. On the V40, R-Design trim is available across the engine range – no need to opt for the genuinely fruity 254hp T5 model. That means you can have the best of both worlds – fooling people into thinking there lurks a potent punch beneath the suggestive styling, all the while revelling in the parsimony of 78mpg diesel power. More mouth than trousers, then. But it’s a formula that brings big rewards for the likes of BMW and Audi – which is why Volvo’s number-crunchers reckon the R-Design trim will nab 25% of V40 customers in the UK.

2013 Volvo V40 T3 R-Design

The T3 R-Design is the mid-level petrol with a 150hp 1.6-litre engine

Ticking the R-Design box adds around £2,300 over base ‘ES’ trim and for that you get the obvious body addenda, a silk-metal framed grille, matt silver door mirrors, twin tailpipes and 17″ diamond-cut ‘Ixion’ alloy wheels. On the inside there are half leather and nubuck seats embellished with snazzy R-Design logos, aluminium pedals, a spanglier steering wheel and an active TFT display.

2013 Volvo V40 T3 R-Design

Can the R-Design take on the ranks of S-Lines and M-Sports in the company car park?

DrivingTalk tested the middling 150hp T3 petrol variant in R-Design ‘Lux Nav’ trim. Lux adds leather, keyless start and active bending xenon lights to standard R-Design spec for another £1700. Nav adds – well you’ve guessed it. In this guise it lists at £25,880 on the road, although the test car came loaded with driver aids – more on those later – taking it to a rather serious £30,380.

Will the Volvo V40 T3 R-Design look good on my driveway?

It’s a handsome shape to these eyes – and it scrubs up well in R-Design spec. The more sculpted bumpers and that rear diffuser with its twin pipes – fake or not – make the well-proportioned V40 look like it has donned a well-cut suit. If you like a bit of look-at-me when you’re out and about, best order your R-Design in Ice White or the lairier Rebel Blue. The test car’s Titanium metallic paint (£550) seemed a tad muted.

2013 Volvo V40 T3 R-Design

R-Design trim adds a bit of attitude to an already handsome shape

What’s the 2013 V40 R-Design’s interior like?

Very nice. Snapping at Audi’s impeccably crafted heels, in fact, because these days interior design is a Volvo strong suit. The ‘floating’ centre console first seen on the old S40 makes another appearance here and has the effect of giving the cabin an uncluttered and effortlessly stylish ambience. Against the predictable, slightly hum-drum BMW 1-Series cabin, the V40 feels decidedly premium – oozing Scandinavian style where the Beemer underwhelms with its predictably sombre Germanic feel.

Volvo V40 R-Design Lux Nav

The V40 R-Design’s interior feels upmarket, solid and stylish

In R-Design spec, there’s also an aluminium strip on the centre console edged with a blue racing stripe – which looks a bit naff to be honest. But the rest is top-drawer, with a tactile feel to everything you touch and a very intuitive layout to the switchgear. An ‘active’ TFT display comes as standard on the R-Design with switchable mood lighting – from ‘performance’ through to ‘eco’ and ‘elegance’. That’s a five minute wonder, but the graphics are crisp and easy on the eye.

Volvo V40 R-Design Lux Nav seats

The R-Design seats are brilliantly comfy

Swedish cars tend to have comfy seats and the V40 is no exception – it’s a relaxing environment to cover miles in. Although why tilt adjustment isn’t standard on the driver’s seat in R-Design spec, unless you tick the electric driver’s seat option (£600) is a mystery. The boot, too, at 335 litres isn’t huge, although larger than a Focus – and is particularly shallow if you opt for the flexible floor load as fitted to the test car. At £100 it adds a separate storage area beneath the floor, which itself provides little extra space.

Volvo V40 active TFT display

Active TFT display features switchable mood lighting

How does the 2013 Volvo V40 T3 R-Design drive?

In T3 guise, the V40 R-Design is fitted with a Ford-sourced 1.6-litre turbo motor providing a not-quite sizzling 150hp. That’s more than adequate to punt the V40 along at a decent lick, although it’s a touch recalcitrant pulling out of junctions when the engine is spinning just underneath the torque band. But once on the move, it’s a sprightly and keen-revving unit that never sounds harsh when wrung out. With 62 mph arriving in 8.8 seconds, the performance is luke-warm rather than scorching – but if you want to press on in the V40 T3 it’ll oblige without feeling laboured. A healthy 240NM/ 177lb ft of turbo-fed torque between 1,600 and 4,000 rpm also makes it easy to squirt past slower moving traffic on the motorway. Couple that to a slick gearchange (we’ll gloss over the tacky illuminated gearknob) and it’s easy to grab the V40 R-Design by the scruff of the neck if the mood takes you.

Official combined fuel consumption would have you believe the T3 will achieve 53.3mpg. Over around 500 miles of driving on a mix of roads, the reality was closer to 35mpg. That’s not awful, but the five-pot diesel D3 version is likely to be a better bet – not only in terms of economy but total cost of ownership, thanks to better residuals.

Volvo V40 R-Design Lux Nav wheels

The R-Design gets 17-inch ‘Ixion’ wheels

Pudding or Soufflé. How does the Volvo V40 T3 R-Design handle?

Really rather well. And that’s not even qualified with ‘for a Volvo’.

As you’d expect for a car based on Ford’s dynamically polished Focus, the V40 feels poised along A and B-roads with nimble and fluid responses and well resolved body control at speed. The electric steering is well weighted for lower speed stuff, although a bit more resistance and feel at speed would provide more confidence in what the front end is doing. Still, the V40’s deftly-judged damping and ride shine through, making it a genuinely pleasant thing to steer at five or even ten tenths on any given road.

Volvo V40 R-Design

The ride isn’t half bad either. On pockmarked roads, the 17-inch rims don’t transmit too much shock into the cabin – only more pronounced transverse ridges would manage to wake up a slumbering passenger. Pretty good considering the R-Design’s more sporting pretensions.

It’s a Volvo. What about all the safety gubbins?

Well of course it’s got plenty. Of safety that is. It’ll hold up well in a crash situation – being the safest car ever tested by Euro NCAP, with a 98% adult occupant rating. There are seven airbags, including a U-shaped pedestrian airbag which deploys in the event of an impact, thereby cushioning the (un)lucky person interfacing with the bonnet. Another very Volvo innovation is ‘City Safety’ which is a standard fit low-speed collision avoidance system to help you out if you get distracted by a member of the opposite gender on the pavement. If you do get caught window-shopping at the wheel, it’ll apply the brakes at speeds of up to 31mph.

Volvo V40 R-Design safety systems

Driver Support Pack includes a LOT of electronic aids designed to keep you from crashing

DrivingTalk’s test car also came loaded with the Driver Support Pack featuring all manner of active safety systems – some more welcome than others. For £1,850 your get-out-of-jail-free cards include full-speed collision warning and crash avoidance, blind spot warning (an audible bong if something’s lurking over your shoulder), lane departure assist (which gently nudges you back on line if you drift towards the lane markings), speed sign recognition (surprisingly useful), and adaptive cruise control systems. All pretty impressive stuff, but unless you’re going to spend a lot of time on the motorway, I’d leave that option un-ticked.

Options fitted to test car:

Driver Support Pack (collision warning and autobrake, pedestrian and cyclist detection, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping aid, driver alert control, road sign information display, blind spot information system), power driver seat, metallic paint, park assist pilot, spare wheel, additional storage, winter pack

2013 Volvo V40 R-Design pictures

Want a video about the Volvo V40? Of course you do

2013 Volvo V40 T3 R-Design

Volvo V40 T3 R-Design Review

  • Performance: 6/10
  • Ride & Handling: 7/10
  • Economy: 8/10
  • Equipment: 7/10
  • Want one factor: 8/10

The Verdict

Volvo has dropped one directly behind enemy lines with the new V40 R-Design. It's a genuinely desirable car and a joy to drive. Yet the V40 is a hard car to pigeon-hole. In a sector that's all about aspirational and not necessarily rational choices, the A3, 1-Series and A-Class are the obvious go-to options, whilst the V40 is the road less travelled. But plumping for the V40 over the usual suspects is a very sound choice, and one that R-Design spec makes even easier.


  • Looks, genuine driver appeal and great interior
  • Boot space, a 1-Series is still the driver's choice

By Tim Kendall
24th July 2013

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