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Volvo V40 D4 vs. Volkswagen Golf GTD

Volvo V40 D4

Volvo V40 D4

The Volvo V40 - not a top choice for those looking for a sporty motor. But, the new D4 promises to change that, with superb GTD-rivalling performance and GTD-shattering economy.

The 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel engine in the V40 D4 is all-new, a part of Volvo's new Drive-E engine family that will make its way into the entire Volvo line-up soon. The statistics of this engine are really rather remarkable; for a long time, performance diesel engines have been able to keep up with performance petrol engines whilst delivering superior economy, but this engine takes this to a whole new level - in fact, it puts the V40 D4 into a class of its own.

The V40 D4 engine produces 188 horsepower and 295 lb /ft of torque. It is driven to the front wheels through a 6-speed manual gearbox, and will it will get the V40 from 0 - 62 mph in 7.4 seconds, which is 0.1 seconds faster than a 6-speed manual Volkswagen Golf GTD.

But those are not the headline figures. You see, while the V40 D4 will just beat the Golf GTD to 62 mph, it does so by literally sipping fuel.

Get this; the Volvo V40 D4 will return 74.2 mpg with CO2 emissions of 99g/km. These economy figures would be respectable for an entry-level diesel car, such as a Golf 1.6 TDI, let alone a performance-diesel that can out sprint a Golf GTD. By comparison, a Golf GTD with less power can only manage 67.3 mpg with CO2 emissions of 106 g/km - that's good economy, but nowhere near what the D4 can achieve.

So, the combination of performance and frugality with the Volvo V40 D4 is remarkable, and it should be the top choice for motorists who want a performance car that doesn't drink fuel. But you and I of course know that there's more to a performance diesel than straight line pace and economy - a performance diesel must also sound nice and handle well, something which diesels traditionally struggle with because of the heavy engines with make a car nose-heavy.

Well, the V40 D4 isn't what we would call nose-heavy. The new engine is 30kg lighter than the older five-cylinder engine, thanks to a unique range of materials. The engine is, as you would expect, lighter than the 2.0-litre TDI in the Golf, which is sure to please handling enthusiasts out there. The V40 D4 actually weighs around the same as the Volkswagen Golf GTD, which has a kerb weight of 1,377 kg.

Volvo is said to have addressed a major criticism of the D2 and D3 with the D4; power bands and gear ratios. In those cars, maximum torque is delivered at 1,750 rpm, but the gear ratios always kept you out of those sweet zones. In the D4, we are promised that the car will always be on boost.

Volkswagen Golf GTD

Volkswagen Golf GTD

As you will have found out from reading our Volvo V40 D4 entry, the Volkswagen Golf GTD is slower and less economical than the D4. It costs £20 per year to tax versus £0, it delivers near enough 7 mpg less on a combined cycle than the D4, and it is 0.1 seconds slower from 0 - 62 mph with a 6-speed gearbox.

So, why would anybody choose to buy the Volkswagen Golf GTD?

For those who can live with the poorer economy and marginally slower performance, the Volkswagen Golf GTD fights back with a better all-round driving experience and a sharper more youthful appearance.

Firstly, let's address the shortfall on power. The 2.0 TDI engine in the GTD develops 181 horsepower and 280 lb /ft of torque. It delivers that torque from a mere 1750 rpm to 3250 rpm, and so the engine is mighty flexible and always in a sweet spot for overtaking, just like the V40 D4. It lacks fancy technologies such as the i-ART technology in the D4 engine, but it has start/stop and you can choose from Eco, Normal, Sport, and Individual driving settings to change the way the GTD drives. In everyday driving short-shifting and riding a wave of torque, the GTD feels no poorer than the V40.

And then there's the ride. The V40, like the Golf, is a family hatchback first and foremost. For this reason, neither car offers Porsche 911 levels of agility on a country road, but the limited-slip differential in the Golf GTD and the sharper steering means that the Volkswagen is the car I would choose for some country road blasts; it insulates you less from the road and delivers a more connected experience.

Both cars are excellent cruisers, too. The Volkswagen Golf GTD sits on a lowered sports suspension which can feel rough on harsh roads, but it soaks up most surfaces quite easily and insulates you from nearly all wind and road noise on the motorway. The Volvo V40 D4 arguably does this better than the GTD, but only because the suspension isn't as low. In summary, then, the GTD handles sweeter than the V40 with greater agility, but the V40 is a more capable cruiser offering greater comfort.

When it comes to practicality, the biggest reason one would go for a 5-door hatchback, the GTD has a 380-litre boot which is less than in the V40, which manages 402-litres. Both spaces are however extremely well designed with friendly access. Rear legroom and headroom in both cars is excellent, and up front the seats in both cars are comfortable and the interior benefit from high quality materials, such as soft-touch plastics and leathers.

Overall

Volvo has worked wonders with the new D4 engine to create the most powerful and fuel efficient performance diesel hatchback money can buy. It has replaced the Golf GTD as the car to buy if you are looking for a tax-friendly and high-performance cruiser, but not as the best diesel hatchback for the track. That accolade stays with the sweet handling GTD. 

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