We've come to think of Volvo as one of the most conservative of car manufactures, based in no small part on the corporate messages of safety, family and environment. Hardly hedonistic is it? While the messages from Gothenburg preach unthreatening responsibility, the products that Volvo has been building in recent years are a good deal more daring. That's in marked contrast to most car manufacturers who promise the world and then sell you what, after you've stripped away the pretensions, are often quite dull vehicles.
The Volvo V40 used to be dull. Wholly, terminally dull. Worthy, yes, but nothing aspirational. That has changed, and how. The 2012 model year V40 was poised, polished and was certainly one of the coolest five-door hatches around. Yes, that's right, a five-door hatch. Perhaps Volvo belatedly realised that it needed to chase the big numbers in this sector, or maybe the Kronor finally dropped that people don't tend to want small estates, but the V40 attacked a new sector of the market and did so convincingly.
The range launched with the choice of ES, SE and SE Lux trims in the one body style with a decent array of engines. At the entry-level was the T3 model, with a 150bhp 1.6 GTDi unit and it ranged right up to a 2.5-litre five-cylinder that was good for 254bhp. Volvo started infilling the range in September 2012 with the launch of the ritzy R-DESIGN trim level, soon followed by a Cross Country model, with the D2 automatic and the 120PS 1.6-litre T2 petrol model arriving in the spring of 2013.