Premium Hatchack shootout

2012-08-01 00:00

THERE are hatchbacks and then there are premium hatchbacks that endow their buyers with a lot of street credibility and respect.

Volvo aims to get a piece of this premium hatchback pie with its new V40. To find out how sweet this Swede rides, we pitted it in T4 spec against two benchmark Germans — the Mercedes B200 CGI and the BMW 118i.

Design

The Mercedes B-Class came with the night package spec that ensured the Merc grabbed the bulk of attention with its LED daytime light, panoramic sunroof, polished 18 inch rims, tinted rear windows and chrome exhaust.

The Volvo V40’s concept-car like futuristic and dynamic design had the second most attention during our test period with the BMW surprisingly not grabbing as much attention.

This was due to the standard spec of the 1 series compared to the stylish specs of the B Class and V40 which had 18 inch rims and a glass panoramic roof similar to the B-Class whilet the 1 Series had none of these fitted.

Interior

The interior feel, fit and finish of the V40 feels premium and is more comfortable thanks mainly to its “couch’ like seats.

The dash should have been more dynamic sans an i-Drive control; however the digital speedo cluster had a futuristic, efficient layout.

The 1 Series also uses top quality materials and its now standard information and set-up screen with i-Drive makes it the best of this lot for in-car set-up user-friendliness.

The seats in standard spec provided no lateral support and were rather flat and a bit hard.

The B-Class feels rather “cold” after the latter two cars with less comfortable seats and a rather plain dashboard.

The seats had good lateral support which holds the driver well during enthusiastic driving.

The B-Class is the most spacious car, the V40 close behind, with the 1 series less spacious.

Performance

The V40 1.6 Turbo is the most powerful at 132kW mated to a six-speed manual gearbox, it felt refined and punchy. BMW’s 1.6 twin power turbo with 125kW mated to a six-speed manual gearbox felt lively. Merc’s 1.6 turbo felt underpowered however the excellent 7G-tronic allowed efficient use of its 115kW.

Ride and handling

The V40 had the most comfortable ride with sporty handling, however its rear end stability and steering feel was not the best.

The B-Class was more fun in the twisties with a flat cornering suspension setup and communicative steering allowing more driver involvement.

Its ride quality, however was compromised due to the sporty setup.

The Beemer was surprisingly comfortable with 3 mode suspension settings (Sport, Comfort, ECO) allowing you to select your preferred driving mode.

Its unrewarding handling was due to the comfy spec 16-inch rims.

Value for money

The BMW 118i at R292 500 is the cheapest followed by the Volvo V40 T4 Elite at R330 700.

The B-Class at R368 000 is the most expensive as it also came with the 7G-tronic dual clutch gearbox.

The Volvo offers more value at its price as it comes standard with features which if added on the other two drastically increases their price however Volvo’s re-sale value is not the best.

Verdict

The Volvo wins by a close margin due to its all-round abilities with the two Germans equal second.

The Merc needed more power to further exploit its sporty suspension and a better specced Beemer probably would have allowed a higher ranking.

The best news is that the mix of premium hatchbacks will get even more electric with Audi introducing its new A3 and VW its new Golf 7.

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