Volvo Breathes Again with the V40

March 14th, 2012

Volvo V40, front

The V40 hatch is the sharpest car Volvo has made in years, but it won’t come to the U.S., since the company sees no demand here for 5-door hatchbacks. Another example of how our markets lag Europe.

Shown at Geneva, the V40 will compete against BMW’s 1 Series and the Audi A3. TopGear drove it briefly and especially praised the interior, the seats, the great improvement over older Volvos in handling, and the smooth, “torquey flow” of power.

Two gas engines (150 and 180 hp) and a 2-liter diesel are available. It looks good from any angle, and an XC40 crossover may be coming.

You also get a pedestrian airbag that pops out of your hood and inflates to cushion the blow for those you unluckily slam into. For the extra complexity and cost of this item, I wonder if this isn’t just a bit “over the top,” so to speak. Although, as Volvo says, about 12 percent of traffic fatalities involve pedestrians.

Volvo has been steadily revamping its older models like the XC70, its more traditional midsize wagon, with better engines, including a turbo with 300 hp. The smaller XC60 seems to me the better car and has received a tuning boost from the firm’s performance group, Polestar.

The XC60 might even be your preference if you shop for the Audi Q5, a rather ugly beast, or the BMW X3 (ditto), with good, refined performance, and looks. Prices start at $44,575, including transport fee. A review is here.

Volvo seems determined to move ahead into North America, with the possibility of a plant in the U.S. or Mexico. That would help them avoid dependency on the euro—its constant fluctuations and possible departure. The company will invest up to $11 billion in developing emerging market (China, India) sales.

And, just maybe, it’s discovering how to market its cars again. There’s a great story here of how Amil Gargano created the famous “Drive It Like You Hate It” campaign for Volvo in 1962. He was recently brought back to help a Google team reimagine his old work in a new setting for Volvo.

The result is an entertaining 8-minute tutorial in how to do great car advertising. Check it out.

Do you think Volvo is worth rediscovering in your car-buying search?

—jgoods

Find Used Cars in Your Area at CarGurus

Used BMW 1 Series
Used Audi A3
Used Volvo XC70
Used Volvo XC60
Used Audi Q5
Used BMW X3

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  1. Randy
    | #1

    The truth is that these manufacturers want to force American buyers into much more expensive crossovers and small SUV’s. Ballsy Toyota has no trouble selling hatchbacks, but then they can field a 50+ mpg hybrid hatchback for under $20K too, something that the hog-herders like Volvo only dream about.

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