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The new Volvo V40 is set to become one of the Swedish brand’s best-selling models as it chases a slice of the ever-expanding premium hatchback market.

Volvo’s new five-door has made its debut at the 2012 Geneva motor show, with the company stating its clear intent to challenge the Volkswagen Golf, BMW 1-Series, Audi A3 and Mercedes-Benz A-Class.

“We really want to challenge our German rivals [with this car],” Volvo’s vehicle line director Hakan Abrahamsson told a group of Australian media including CarAdvice at the Geneva show.

“The Golf is always there. It established the class and in some countries it is called the Golf class.

“But we want to have richer offering [than the Golf], to show a quality level that is higher, we are certainly aiming to be on par with BMW, Audi and Mercedes.”

The V40 is Volvo’s first five-door hatchback since the 440 of the 1980s.

It replaces the S40 sedan and V50 wagon twins to become the company’s small car focus. The future of the C30 coupe/three-door hatch is uncertain.

The V40 is based on the S40 platform, which itself is related to the underpinnings used by the previous-generation Ford Focus – a legacy of Volvo’s time under Ford before the Swedish brand was sold to Chinese company Geely in 2010.

Volvo will initially build 90,000 V40s a year, but expects to expand that volume as it aims for 800,000 global sales by 2020. It built nearly 450,000 vehicles in 2011.

It says more than 75,000 of that annual output will be consumed by Europe, the biggest market for hatchbacks.

The company, however, is considering factories in the homeland of its owner Geely for models such as the V40.

“Right now we’re working on our footprint in China and we are judging which cars to put into those facilities we are planning to build or have started to build,” says Abrahamsson. “No firm decision on this car [the V40] yet but it’s an opportunity for sure.

Abrahamsson says Volvo wanted to build on the dynamic improvements introduced with the S60 sedan and V60 wagon twin for the new front-wheel-drive hatch, to help the new model compete with its German rivals.

“This car is taken to a completely different level [compared] to S40; there’s a newly developed chassis inspired by the S60.

“We wanted to create an agile and connected driving experience.”

The V40 platform is capable of being set up for all-wheel-drive, though this is likely to be used for the XC40 compact SUV that is in the pipeline but yet to be officially confirmed.




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