Volvo’s transformation continues from mild-mannered family conveyance to main-stream performance car with the roll-out of more Drive-E powertrains across the range. Specifically the V40; Volvo’s smallest and most agile model.

‘Drive-E’ is a completely different concept to the ‘DRIVe’-badged cars you might have seen fitted with Volvo’s 113bhp 1.6-litre turbodiesel engine. That was a purely eco-motor, frugal and efficient, but a long way short of being driver-focused.

The new Drive-E powertrain is the result of an $11 billion investment from parent company Zhejiang Geely Holding Group and replaces the company’s long-running five and six-cylinder engines with a new generation of four-cylinder units; a single architecture serves both petrol and common-rail diesel variants ranging from the 118bhp D2 right up to the 302bhp petrol T6.

We tested the 187bhp/400Nm D4 engine S60 and XC60 earlier this year, praising its class-leading balance between power and efficiency, while we’ve yet to sample a petrol variant built on the same architecture.

READ ALSO: First Drive Review: Volvo XC60 D4 and S60 D4 (2014 models)

How do you like yours? Hot or piping-hot?

From May 2014, the V40 will be available with the new 187bhp Drive-E D4 engine, powering both hatch and V40 Cross Country versions. Even in diesel form the V40 is quick, not as fast as BMW’s mighty 125d (215bhp/450Nm, 0-62mph in 6.3 seconds) but the D4 still offers sub-7 second 0-62mph performance combined with 74.3 mpg and CO2 emissions of 99 g/km – that compares with 60.1 mpg and 124 g/km for the BMW.

Volvo-V40-DriveE-D4_G1Volvo’s four-cylinder Drive-E engines are more powerful and up to 30 per cent more efficient than the five and six cylinder engines they replace.

But the headlines will be reserved for the petrol variants, specifically the 242bhp turbocharged T5 and the 302bhp “twin-charger” T6 fitted with both a supercharged and turbocharger.

Both are front-wheel drive and fitted as standard with Volvo’s new 8-speed automatic gearbox. Production of the D4 and T5 begins in September, while the T6 follows a little later.

So, for the time being the hottest V40 is the T5 – 242bhp, 258 lb-ft (350Nm) of torque with an extra 22 lb-ft (30Nm) available on overboost. This accelerates from 0-62mph in 6.0 seconds with a top speed of 149mph which compares more than favourably with established hot-hatches in its class.

Volkswagen’s 217bhp Golf GTI accelerates from 0-62mph in 6.4 seconds (with the optional six-speed DSG gearbox) while managing 47.1 mpg and CO2 emissions of 139 g/km, Volvo’s V40 T5 looks not only quicker on paper but also more frugal, with a combined fuel consumption of 47.9 mpg and CO2 emissions of 137 g/km.

You can see where Volvo are going. Volkswagen’s 296bhp Golf R is clearly within reach, so the 302 bhp V40 T6 looks like being the first sub-5 second Volvo in the company’s history.

If you’re a committed diesel driver there’s a hotter D5 on the way, with 227 bhp and a whopping 480 Nm (354 lb-ft) of torque, so the choice as they say is yours.

For the time being, Volvo’s AWD V40 Cross Country sticks with the 250 bhp five-cylinder T5 engine, but is available to order now with the new Drive-E D4 engine.

Written By

Steve Davies

Steve is an investor, private equity advisor and former Partner at KPMG, PwC and Bain.   Most importantly he's a life-long car enthusiast, mountain biker and active sports enthusiast. He designs and builds technology platforms and is the architect behind Transmission.

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