In today’s ultra-competitive global market, no niche is too small to fill - as Audi so cleverly demonstrates. The standard V40 is a cracking car yet there are, apparently, sufficient potential customers out there to make it economically viable for Volvo to produce a soft-roader version as well.
I know, who’d have thought it, eh? But it’s here, and they invited us to drive it; this is what we thought.
The V40 gains raised suspension, contrasting dark bumpers, and a different rear end treatment to turn it into the Cross Country. If that isn’t striking enough you can specify the optional faux-chrome sill trims too, which help give it a butch, ready-for-anything look that the standard Cross Country possibly lacks.
It’s a well-equipped car but there are still rather a lot of options available and it would be easy to get carried away – and some of them are expensive: how does £600 for a powered driver’s seat sound? Or £850 for Park Assist?
The T5 Cross Country SE Lux Nav AWD that we drove first isn’t just a mouthful; the standard car costs a not-unreasonable £33,875 but add in the options that our test car was fitted with and you’ll be writing out a cheque for £40,425. That’s just too much.
Optional equipment notwithstanding, the V40’s interior is, as ever, a lovely place to be. Two standard trim levels - SE, and SE Lux - are available and even the lowest gives a decent level of equipment including Copper Dawn interior trim, tread plates, Bluetooth, and a decent stereo with a 5-inch colour display.
Step up to SE Lux for an extra £1,000 and you gain leather seats, active bending xenon headlights and 17-inch alloy wheels. Both retain all those lovely touches that we’re used to seeing in the V40 and which help to make it the car it is: frameless interior mirror; illuminated gear knob; ultra-comfortable and supportive seats; and a wonderfully minimalist yet decadent design.
The V40 Cross Country handles very nearly as well as the standard car, which is quite some feat given the gain in ride height; you never really forget the fact that you’re in a crossover but you do come close.
The steering, handling, braking, and ride are all generic V40, which is to say at the very top of its class. We tried manual and automatic gearboxes and preferred the manuals; their change is so sweet and the ratios so perfectly judged as to make the automatic superfluous.
We didn’t get the chance to try the car off-road but we suspect that while the raised ride height might prove marginally useful, without decent tyres and a four-wheel-drive chassis (something that is only available on the T5, surprisingly) it is never going to be a genuinely all-purpose vehicle.
The standard range of diesel and petrol engines is available in the V40 Cross Country. The D2 is a delight, and while the D3 and D4 do cost more to buy and run they do add extra oomph with an extra 35bhp and 62bhp respectively over the D2’s 115bhp.
The petrol engines rev well and sound good but add performance at the expense of higher running costs. The T3 is powerful enough with 150bhp really, but the 180bhp T4 is addictively quicker and makes a B-road blast much more enjoyable.
The petrol T5 is the only model available with the four-wheel-drive option and looks, on paper, to be a cracking package. The reality is somewhat different; the extra weight and complexity of the four-wheel-drive system, allied to 18-inch alloy wheels, and suspension that is 40mm higher than that of the ‘normal’ V40 make for a choppy, unconvincing ride. It’s quick, as you might expect with 254bhp, but feels like the compromise it is.
Value for Money
There is a £1,000 premium at each trim level to get into the Cross Country, which seems like a lot for a few cosmetic changes and raised suspension. Unless you want the four-wheel-drive T5, in which case the premium rises to £2,500-ish over the (much better) T5 R-Design.
Volvo expects to sell around 10 percent of its V40s in Cross Country guise, and almost all of them will be conquest sales from other brands. Seen in this light the positioning makes absolute sense, especially in developing markets.
Otherwise, we aren’t convinced. While we can see the sense in the Volvo V70
Cross Country (first released as far back as 1997), the appeal of the V40 Cross Country eludes us. If you want a more individual V40 we recommend a V40 R-Design - and if you want a measure of off-road performance then we’d recommend something with four-wheel-drive.
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