Volvo V40 D3 SE 150hp Nav.

Price: £24,045 (on the road).

Top speed: 130mph.

0-60mph: 9.1 seconds.

Fuel: 65.7mpg (combined figure).

C02 emissions (g/km): 114.

Verdict: Stylish, practical, great to drive, safe, economical with low emissions.

VOLVO’S new V40 is one of the most stylish premium hatches around and is providing strong competition in its crowded sector against rivals such as Audi’s A3, BMW’s 1-series and high specification versions of the VW Golf and Ford Focus.

It’s been a long time since Volvo produced a five-door hatch and with the V40 the Swedish manufacturer would appear to have good things right.

The V40 comes with a splendid range of modern petrol and diesel units and a wide choice of models.

All the engines are highly efficient, economical and low on emissions. And prices represent good value, too, starting at £20,630 for the 1.6-litre T3 ES to £27,930 for the 2.0 D4 cross-country Lux Nav.

The diesels are much in demand and a popular choice is the 130mph five-sylinder D3 version in the middle SE trim.

This unit, mated to a slick sixspeed manual gearbox, pushes out 150bhp and puts its power down on the road in an admirable fashion. And despite its powerful performance the hatch returns a pleasing 65.7mpg during everyday use, helped by a refined stop/start system and other state-of-the-art technology.

On the road the car is an enjoyable drive, being comfortable, quiet and refined. The ride is on the firm side but the payoff is excellent road-holding qualities and composure over most road surfaces.

The car’s road manners are outstanding with Volvo engineers having fine-tuned the Ford Focus platform, on which it is based, and excelled in the choice of damper and suspension settings.

The steering is also precise so that the driver can quickly gain an affinity with the vehicle.

The V40’s blend of good handling and absorbent ride quality is hard to equal with this class of car and this, together with the build quality and generous equipment will no doubt tempt many would-be purchasers to part with their money.

At the wheel the driver can arrive at a comfortable position with the help of plenty of seat and steering wheel adjustments so that long journeys should not be tiring affairs.

In the high street the V40 looks good enough to turn heads, despite its rather understated styling. The bonnet is low and sporty looking while the sloping rear end gives the V40 a lengthy and low profile which helps to make the vehicle a good looker.

The well laid out interior is classy and opulent. It features sumptuous trim with some imaginative detailing and seats that are most comfortable and supportive.

Cabin space is generous while the boot is just about roomy enough for the family’s luggage.

As far as safety goes, Volvo has a world-beating reputation to live up to. And with the V40 there are abundant safety features and airbags galore, including one that pops out from under the bonnet to cover the windscreen and its front pillars if sensors detect an accident with a pedestrian.

There are three trim levels, ES, SE and SE Lux, with the SE trim on the D3 model including a stability programme, traction control, climate control, electric windows, front and rear, alloy wheels, Bluetooth and satellite navigation.