fully-graphic instrument cluster which, depending on your mood, can be lit in three different modes. You will also notice some aesthetically engineered bits like the interesting glass-top LED-illuminated gear lever, the snazzy frameless rear-view mirror and the floating centre console finished in textured bronze—all adding a dash of fun and eccentricity in an otherwise sober cabin. From the driver’ seat, all the essential controls are ergonomically well appointed but mastering the car’s functions may take a while owing to the confusing cluster of buttons on the centre console and on the stalks around the steering wheel.
Slide into the A-class and its interior immediately engulfs you with its sporting intent. The all-back cabin with a fistful of dull-finish, metallic-polished accents look absolutely stunning. Every surface you can lay a finger on, save for the air-con controls, feel properly luxurious, and all the moving bits have a lovely viscous feel to them. It’s a fantastic place to be in and truth be told, the interiors make you feel like the price-tag is a bargain. The finely dimpled soft-touch dash and the SLS-styled air-con vents feel and look special. The only thing we didn’t quite fancy was the low-resolution COMAND interface screen that looks a bit out of place. This car is unabashedly designed around the driver rather than his or her fellow passengers with its snug, tall and sporty seats upfront and a bench ideally suited for two at the rear.
What are they like to drive?
Since both these cars are going to be owner-driven, how well they drive is quite important. The Volvo V40 is powered by a 2.0-litre five-cylinder diesel motor that makes a healthy 148bhp and a great deal of pulling power. The engine isn’t very noisy, but the gravelly note from the engine is a sure giveaway that this motor feeds on a diet of diesel. Once you’re past engine speeds even as low as 1500rpm, throttle responses get quite sharp and power comes in almost instantaneously. Slot the glass-top gear lever into Sport and the responses get even sharper and the small Volvo leaps forward into gaps rather