The cars we loved.
As the owner of a Ford Focus, I was intrigued to learn that Volvo produces a car based on the same architecture. The Global C1 platform has launched a half dozen or so vehicles for Ford, Volvo and Mazda. The architecture is versatile enough that it can underpin everything from performance to luxury cars, so I wondered what a luxurious Focus would be like.
Granted, my car is a Titanium with just just about every option Ford offered when it was new, so I wondered what the next step up – from Volvo would be like. Volvo’s C1 car is the V40. Americans are accustomed the V40 from over a decade ago. From the mid ’90s to about 2004, the V40 was a Mitsubishi Carisma based car that gave Volvo a small family sedan where it had none before.
The current V40 is not sold in America and gives Volvo another crack at the small family sedan market where it had no real product before. Although it replaces the C30 coupe, the V40 comes is so vast a range of engine configurations that it be both sporty and above all upmarket as is expected of Volvo.
As expected, the American designed V40 does not stray too far from the mount points of the global Focus. Its biggest linkage to the Focus comes in the rear with the stretched teardrop style tail lights. Otherwise the V40 has the look of other Volvos, especially in the front.
The inside is perhaps the biggest point of departure from Ford. Where the Focus interior looks like it may have been designed by teenagers with its transformer face styled center console, the V40 looks distinctly European with all the fussy button array of the Ford wrangled in to simplistic geometric alignment. Chrome accents highlight slightly better dash materials from a more upmarket look overall. Its a magical take on how Audi and Mazda have concealed the complexity of their center stack designs with Zen-like efficiency.
The cabin technology is actually not much different from what’s available in upper trims of the Focus. Things like large multimedia/navigation touch screens, parking assistance, collision warning and sensors for blind spots are probably expected in any upmarket car nowadays.
Presumably the difference comes in performance. Not that the petro and diesel engines offer any more power than what the Focus might. The V40 is certainly no hot rod with 0 to 60 times ranging from 6 to 11 second range. The Focus, already built on a solid handling platform is enhanced more for ride quality than road holding with the V40. Only in the T5 would it approach Focus ST road holding. Other variations come closer to a cross between the standard Focus and the Titanium model with the factory sports handling package.
There are basically four engine displacements ranging from 1.6 to 2.5. Trim levels are just as sprawling with multiple D and R Design designations. The 1.6 liter four cylinder engine comes in forms offering 150 and 180 hp putting it somewhere between the standard American Focus 2.0. In top T5 trim, the V40 can come with a turbo with about 240 hp or as the typical North American Focus ST.
There’s even an all wheel drive variant called the V40 Cross Country. The Cross Country offsets the added visual bulk of body cladding and bigger wheels with a more powerful 2.5 liter engine that comes in petro or diesel configurations. All V40 are available increasingly with a six automatic or the rare 6 speed manual for the few hard core motorist in the market for a small family car.
Reviews by the European press have been mostly good. More encouraging though is that, Volvo is planning to wean the V40 off the Ford based platform and roll it out to North America. I’m always in a perpetual search for my next car. Convinced that luxury brands (from Europe) are not worth the money, any new V40 is gonna have to make quite an impression to make me give up my Focus.
As a wanna be snob, I have to admit that the only reason I have bought BMWs or considered other European cars was image and status (putting performance aside for now). My historic bias to European cars had begun to fade. Although I still admire a BMW or Audi, I can’t see myself falling for another one, but I’m not ready to give up on European cars yet. Which means that more understated options are worth considering like Volvo or even Opel based Buicks (I’d never consider a Volkswagen).
A new V40 will have to be better performing, better built and more efficient than my Focus which I see as a standard baseline. If Volvo defines luxury as better efficiency, comfort, performance and reliability than my Ford, then I might be sold.