The Volvo V40 combines sleek looks with high-tech safety.
For a long time the Swedish carmaker has built its reputation on this foundation, not only through its marketing campaigns but also through innovative in-house research into safety technology.
In recent years Volvo has been working hard to add new dimensions to that perception - stylish looks, fun and sporty performance.
I’ve been handed the keys to the Volvo V40 T4 and it's no surprise its suite of passive and active safety features is impressive.
The latest V40 was launched locally in March 2013, and it also marked the arrival of the world’s first pedestrian airbag, which comes as standard on all variations.
When activated, the pedestrian airbag explodes out of the bonnet. The bonnet pops up with the help of a pyrotechnic charge to reduce the risk of impact on hard areas like the engine, while the airbag covers the bottom third and sides of the windscreen in an attempt to minimise potential injuries from broken glass and the A-pillars.
Its effectiveness is yet to be tested on Australian roads, Volvo has confirmed the record stands at zero instances of deployment to date. That’s a good thing, but it’s hard to tell if it’s due to the effectiveness of other safety features in avoiding pedestrian collisions, or just pure luck.
Other key safety features include stability and traction control, ABS, active bending lights, collapsible steering column and whiplash protection, plus park pilot to take the stress out of squeezing into tight spots.
Volvo’s $5000 driver support package adds Adaptive Cruise Control, Collision warning with full auto brake, pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane departure warning, road sign information, forward collision warning, blind spot monitoring and cross traffic alert.
Cross traffic alert helps with reversing out of parking spots, if you have a van or a large car beside you blocking your line of sight, the sensors help extend your range of vision, letting you know if something’s coming.
It’s city safe automatic braking system kicks in to stop the car in an emergency, up to speeds of 50 km/h, the sensors also scan for pedestrians and cyclists. But how do you know what to expect if you do find yourself in that situation? We decided to put it to the test - take a look at the video here.
Admittedly cardboard isn’t the best material to demonstrate its effectiveness. The system works best with shiny and reflective surfaces (like other cars), but even though the test conditions were less than optimal, it still worked.
It’s designed to kick-in in desperate circumstances. If the driver is completely distracted, the car is capable of coming to a full stop. But if you hit the brake or accelerator, it thinks you're in control and your response will override the system.
On the occasions I touched the pedals, I careered straight through the pile of boxes. Up to a speed of around 25-30km/h, the car managed to pull up before crashing into the obstacle – but only if I refrained from taking evasive foot action - completely unnatural for any attentive driver.
Beyond that speed all it can do is try and mitigate the intensity of the impact. Once you get above the system’s range of around 50km/h, other safety features including the collision warning system take over.
The Volvo V40 is priced from $36,990 - read our full review here.