Small is more with Volvo's V40 T2

The Volvo V40 T2 delivers a fine performance despite its 1.5-litre turbocharged engine.
The Volvo V40 T2 delivers a fine performance despite its 1.5-litre turbocharged engine. ST PHOTOS: SEAH KWANG PENG
The Volvo V40 T2 delivers a fine performance despite its 1.5-litre turbocharged engine.
The Volvo V40 T2 delivers a fine performance despite its 1.5-litre turbocharged engine.
The Volvo V40 T2 delivers a fine performance despite its 1.5-litre turbocharged engine.
The Volvo V40 T2 delivers a fine performance despite its 1.5-litre turbocharged engine.

Volvo's V40 T2 runs exceedingly well despite diminutive engine

What does doing more with less remind you of? Your boss?

Well, Volvo Cars has latched on to this mantra, by launching the V40 T2 - a car with such a small engine it would not have been imaginable in a Volvo just 10 years ago.

The V40 T2 is powered by a 1.5-litre turbocharged power plant, which is Volvo's smallest in modern times.

Such an engine is commonplace among Japanese cars. But in the V40, a compact wagon that weighs almost 1.5 tonnes, the small displacement makes you go "hmm...".

  • SPECS / VOLVO V40 T2

  • Price: $129,999 with COE


    Engine: 1,498cc 16-valve inline-4 turbocharged


    Transmission: Six-speed automatic with manual override


    Power: 122bhp at 5,000rpm


    Torque: 220Nm at 1,600-3,500rpm


    0-100km: 9.8 seconds


    Top speed: 190kmh


    Fuel consumption: 5.5 litres/ 100km


    Agent: Wearnes Automotive

Well, having driven the car over three days, I am happy to say that there is no cause for doubt. The V40 T2 is lively, perky, zippy, breezy... you get the picture.

The engine's peak power of 122bhp is not much in today's context - even the modest Toyota Corolla has 121bhp.

But Volvo has tuned the engine to push out lots of torque from low revs, which makes a world of difference to driveability.

With 220Nm available between 1,600rpm and 3,500rpm, and a six-speed transmission with ratios that maximise this potential, the V40 T2 is a joy to drive.

At first, you think that the small engine will start to lose its lustre when push comes to shove. But no, the Volvo remains free-revving and energetic whatever the task - from overtaking at highway speeds to accelerating while on an incline to merging with fast-flowing traffic.

The spontaneity and linearity of this diminutive gem are truly impressive.

At the wheel, it feels like a bigger motor - perhaps even a 2-litre.

While small turbos employed by other manufacturers tended to be a bit constipated after the mid range, the V40 T2 remains syrupy even when extended.

While you may say its century sprint of 9.8 seconds is unimpressive, the truth of the matter is that this benchmark has little relevance in a built-up city.

Acceleration from zero to 60, and from 60 to 90, are more relevant. And the V40 T2 excels in these ranges. More amazingly, it delivers its noteworthy performance with relative refinement.

Other than an isolated incident of shift shock, the car is smooth and buzz-free.

With a light but surprisingly crisp steering, you can drive this Volvo wagon with gusto and abandon. Its sportily tuned suspension sees to it that twist manoeuvres are accomplished with minimal fuss.

At most other times, that suspension is a little too stiff for my liking. But if you are younger and your own suspension system is flawless, you will probably have no issue with the Swede's stout springs.

Elsewhere, the V40 T2 tempts with a suite of premium features, including keyless access and ignition, cruise control with nifty steering-mounted switches, and Volvo's range of active and passive safety systems.

The interior is also spruced up with two-tone leather upholstery, which lifts the V40 T2 above its station. The best news, however, is that the model replaces the 1.6-litre D2 - a car that gives turbodiesels a bad name because it is so lethargic that a 30-year-old DeLorean might outrun it.

In the D2, Volvo also tried to do more with less. Good thing it realised that you cannot always get away with that.

But do not tell your boss that.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 24, 2015, with the headline 'Small is more'. Print Edition | Subscribe