DRIVe BEATS HYBRID
Green shoots within the car industry are starting to become clear – it’s picking itself up, dusting down and addressing the difficult times that remain ahead. Gone are the days of massive stock inventories where you could walk into a showroom and choose the car that you wanted and collect it within days. Most car makers are taking a look at their model ranges and tailoring them to the needs of the buying public, focussing on environmental issues and low manufacturing and running costs. Volvo is certainly no exception, having offered DRIVe versions of its small cars for just over a year, but it’s now turning the wick up a little, to encompass more of the range and lower CO2 emissions even further. In the S40, this has been carried out with the addition of a new stop/start system, bringing emissions down to only 104g/km. That’s 5g/km less than Honda’s Civic Hybrid and even trumps every model in the Honda Insight range, except the entry-level SE version. So, what has Volvo done to achieve this? Well, firstly there’s the stop/start system previously mentioned, together with two batteries in the engine bay – one where you would expect it to be, and another smaller one located behind the front grille. This is unique to Volvo and works in parallel with the regular battery, powering things like the air conditioning and audio system to maintain interior comfort. There’s also regenerative braking, low rolling resistance tyres, together with unique diamond-cut alloy wheels, as well as a covered front grille and lowered suspension. Finally, the gear ratios have been slightly heightened and, to maximise fuel economy, there’s a gear shift indicator light to remind you to change up.
These eco measures are all well and good, but how does it drive, and does it generate appeal? Fortunately, it’s difficult to notice any difference in the way that the S40 DRIVe performs on the road, compared to the previous standard 1.6 diesel version. The 108bhp PSA/Ford-sourced turbodiesel is a gem – it’s smooth and refined, with plenty of power on tap throughout the rev range. You’ll never break any land speed records in the DRIVe, but the gearbox is extremely smooth, and the car handles tidily through the twisty stuff with copious amounts of grip thanks, no doubt, to the Ford Focus platform that the S40 rides on. Suspension is on the firm side, probably as a result of the lower ride height, but it could never be accused of being uncomfortable. Step inside and it’s familiar Volvo fayre, with the distinctive – and now trademark – floating centre console, and the use of good quality, durable materials. It’s easy to get comfortable, with supportive and highly adjustable front seats. There’s plenty of room in the front too, but things are a little tighter for rear seat passengers. Equipment levels compare well to its immediate rivals, so buyers shouldn’t want for much, though some models in the S40 range can be a touch on the expensive side.
RIVALS: FORD FOCUS ECONETIC 1.6 TDCi, MAZDA3 1.6 TS DIESEL, SKODA OCTAVIA GREENLINE 1.6 TDI CR
- Engine: 1560cc, 4-cylinder, turbodiesel with particulate filter
- Gearbox: 5-speed manual
- Max power: 108bhp at 4,000rpm
- Max torque: 177lb ft at 1,750rpm
- Max towing weight: 800kg
- Max speed: 118mph
- 0-62mph: 11.4secs
- Combined consumption: 72.4mpg
- CO2 emissions (taxband): 104g/km (B)
- Boot space: 404/883litres
- Insurance group: 10