Jeremy With the safety car out at Silverstone, the British Grand Prix has been running at ‘road car’ speeds. Not sure I’d want to be out there in the V40 though – mainly because even in R-Design trim, the Volvo lacks a little precision going hard into a corner.
Unfortunately, as much as I like the look of the Volvo, the BMW 1 Series and Audi A3 are both much better drivers cars. That’s a situation confirmed by the V40’s rather soggy clutch that doesn’t really encourage you to push the V40 along on a twisty A-road.
The ride itself is on the soft side – which makes the V40 a more comfortable long distance cruiser than a spirited drive. If you are buying a V40 to sit on the motorway all day, that is definitely the right call because it has a big car feel and a very quiet cabin.
Jeremy There’s something endearing, likeable and rather ‘safe’ about the V40. Stepping into the cabin this morning was like getting reacquainted with an old friend. The last Volvo I owned was an 340, back in the 1980s. It was my father’s choice – he was paying – as the one car even I couldn’t get hurt in.
I traded the 340 in for an Alfa Romeo as quickly as possible and quickly regretted it. My student grant didn’t extend to major rust treatment on a monthly basis… Had that first flirtation with Volvo been a secondhand V40, I would probably still be driving it now.
V40 is the replacement model for the S40 and V50 and it needs to be good to beat the best of German. Well, it certainly has a more distinct look than a VW Golf, or the exceptional Audi A3. It probably holds it own about the BMW 1 Series too, although I have to say, I think the new Mercedes A-class might be the winner for best design.
From the rear, the V40 in R-Design trim looks amazing. The twin tailpipes and small rear screen tick lots of boxes. Nose on, it’s on a par with the German competition. Which begs the question, is the V40 good enough to tempt Audi/BMW/VW drivers away from their normal car purchase?
That could well come down to the driving experience and I shall give my verdict on that tomorrow…
Jeremy The last day in the Sportback – will we miss it? The answer is a resounding ‘yes’. While the styling of this latest A3 five-door is only slightly sharper than the last model, everything else about this exceptionally sensible car is good. Very good indeed.
The A3 is a mass seller for Audi and this is without doubt, the best incarnation of the ubiquitous hatchback to date. Everything revolves around a 2.0 TDI engine that churns out enough power to make the car engaging to drive and will amaze you at the fuel pump too (we’ve average over 50mpg all week).
You can cruise along the motorway while it purrs quietly, or slip down through the six-speed gearbox on an A-road and enjoy sharp steering that doesn’t throw up any nasty surprises.
Inside, the Audi is very smart, with a classy dashboard and buttons in all the right places. The seats are super comfy but supportive enough for enthusiastic driving. Masses of space both front and rear too.
So the conventional styling and the expensive price tag are really the only questionable attributes of the Sportback. And as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, for some people it will be the perfect buy.
Jessica I have only had very short exposure to this car, however the time I have spent en route to the gym was a pleasure. From the outside, it’s a sensible looking mode of transport, once inside there are signs that you are in for a treat.
The console is fantastically simple and my favourite feature is the disappearing info screen, select your music or radio station and you can tuck the screen out of the way until you need to surf for new tunes or use the sat nav.
This definitely appeals to my minimalistic tendancies. The dials are descreet and speak design consideration – the controls are intuitive and easy to operate, even when you have failed to check where everything is before you set out.
The Audi A3 Sportback drives well, it has power, sensitive steering, good road holding and is pure class.
If you need to have a family-style car but still want the fun with a good design aesthetic, this is the car for you.
You are ,of course, paying for the privilege but in my view, if you are able to find the extra cash, it is worth it. If it’s any consolation, on the second hand market this Audi will hold its value too.
Jeremy It’s not going to be easy picking holes in the Audi A3. This is probably the most competent car I’ve driven in ages – beautifully screwed together, classy and comfortable.
However, these days when I sit in a vehicle for the first time, I look for the features it doesn’t have. I thought with S Line spec and the £1,500 technology pack, all bases would be covered in terms of infotainment.
There’s a pop up, seven-inch screen on the dashboard for sat nav and you can operate the radio and music functions from a perfectly places, rotary dial on the centre console.
Surprisingly, however, the package does not include DAB radio! So, while I had been hoping to listen to the international cricket on Radio 5 Live Extra (only on DAB), I’ve had to settle for R4 instead.
This aside, the system is simple to operate, with a Bluetooth connection to my mobile phone that automatically downloads music tracks without a cable connection. The package also has a ‘Jukebox’ that allows you to download tracks onto the car’s hard drive, where they are saved for future use.
All very slick – but I’m going to miss the cricket…
Jeremy There’s nothing revolutionary about the design of the new, Mark VII Golf. Driving through Bath this morning, I followed a VII and a VI – tweaks to the light clusters, sharper angles and some minor moulding changes made them hard to separate.
VW has stuck to the philosophy of ‘if it ain’t broken, why fix it’ – an adage that has served them well for almost four decades with the Golf. The only problem for Volkswagen these days is that there are more rivals than ever looking to muscle in on the hatchback’s sales. The Kia Cee’d and the Hyundai i30 are but two…
What the Golf excels at is quality and refinement, blended with superb driving attributes and hassle-free mechanics. This is what has made the VW a benchmark for other hatchbacks to follow – the car against which all others are judged.
Sitting on the same platform as the brilliant Audi A3 and SEAT Leon, you know it will be an excellent drive. The diesel engine is noisy during hard acceleration and there is some body roll when the VW is turned hard into a corner. But as benchmarks go, this Golf is going to be hard to beat, for now at least…