Cross Country treatment gives V40 a rugged edge
Volvo has an ongoing history of getting hold of its standard models and giving them the off-road treatment.
The V70 estate evolved into the XC70 as an even more rugged alternative, for example, but this Cross Country version is different – a true XC40 is due some time in the future as a separate small SUV, so the V40 Cross Country takes the five-door V40 hatch as a starting point, jacks up the suspension for extra ground clearance and adds some extra cladding to the bodywork for an extra muscular appearance.
Surprisingly, despite the off-road connections, and the Cross Country naming, only the top-of-the-range 2.5-litre turbocharged model comes with four-wheel drive – the other petrol version and the diesel I drove come only as with front wheel drive at the moment.
So while the Volvo Cross Country isn’t going to feel comfortable veering off the beaten track and chugging through rivers and fields, there are other points that make it an attractive proposition over the standard V40.
For a start that extra body kit does succeed in giving the V40 a more rugged, muscular look.
The Volvo’s long bonnet hardly changes angle as it sweeps up into the raked windscreen, giving the V40 a sporty wedge shape, while the V40’s shoulder line sweeps downwards from the rear to the front headlights
This Cross Country version’s front bumper has been redesigned to incorporate lower black bumper inserts, which also houses vertical day-running lights and is fitted with a front skid plate.
The front bumper is also fitted with a larger honeycomb grille and the rear bumper has a lower black insert, which is fitted with a silver-coloured plastic skid plate with ‘Cross Country’ moulded into it.
The side sills have also received the Cross Country treatment and are made of the same black moulding as fitted to the front and rear bumper. The rear bumper houses the twin visible chromed tailpipes.
Silver roof rails also add to the impression of extra height over the standard V40.
This extra bodykit and raised suspension sits well on the V40 and it merges well to create a sporty hatchback with a bit of road presence, while retaining Volvo’s traditional quirky edge.
Inside the cabin the Cross Country is practically unchanged from the standard V40 which, considering that the V40 features a smart, easy to use and high-quality interior, is no great disappointment.
The layout is very similar to the V70 estate, with its simple speed gauge centrally positioned in front of the driver, flanked by the slim temperature gauge, fuel readout and a rev counter of sorts that shows when you need to change gear.
There’s a decent size media screen in the centre of the dash, which is controlled by buttons positioned in the central section behind the gear stick, in Volvo’s floating display with hidden storage area behind it.
It is a little fiddly, though, with a plethora of buttons, numbers and dials to work out the media controls and heaters.
The soft cloth upholstered seats are large and extremely comfortable, and it’s easy to adjust the seats in all directions to get the perfect driving position.
Space is generous in the front, with plenty of headroom and legroom for both occupants, but things are tighter in the back for passengers.
The boot, too, is smaller than many rivals, but the rear seats do split for added storage versatility. The boot opening is on the small side, meaning luggage and suitcases have to be hoisted up and over and carefully positioned for maximum, space.
The V40 Cross Country Volvo comes in turbo-charged petrol versions but it’s the diesels which will appeal to most buyers.
The 113bhp 1.6-litre D2 I drove delivers 74mpg and 99g/km of CO2, while there are D3 and D4 2.0-litre five-cylinder engines available too, which despite higher performance levels still produce impressive economy figures.
The 1.6 diesel version strikes a winning combination of power and economy. The six-speed gearbox is slick and accurate, and the hatchback is sprightly off the mark, accelerating smoothly through the gears until you reach motorway speeds.
It also possesses a pleasing burst of acceleration when overtaking, making long jaunts on the motorway lacking in any stress.
The surprising 0-60 figures on paper don’t represent a fair reflection of the V40’s performance.
We took the V40 on long trips that took in hundreds of miles of motorway, interspersed with tortuous country lanes and every other manner of road that this country can throw at you, and the Cross Country never came up lacking.
It’s an extremely comfortable cruiser, with trips to the petrol station a rare event. What’s especially impressive are the levels of refinement inside the Volvo.
The diesel engine is quiet and there’s very little wind and road noise coming through to disturb things on your travels.
Handling is fine around country lanes, and although there’s some body roll because of the higher position grip is good and it’s never a problem. There’s excellent visibility all round too, allowing you a terrific view of what’s coming up.
The suspension is well set to soak up bumps from both country lanes and motorway ridges and potholes, while the extra ground clearance will add a little extra capability over rougher ground.
Volvo really do produce cars which appeal on all sorts of fronts.
While many models might not set the pulses racing, this rugged version of the V40 genuinely smart and stylish.
Safety has never been an issue with the Scandinavian manufacturer either. The V40 was awarded the full five stars in its Euro NCAP crash test – which applies to the Cross Country, too – and in fact was rated as the safest car Euro NCAP has ever tested. Its wide range of safety systems include a low-speed auto brake function and the world’s first pedestrian airbag.
As well as safety features, the Cross Country comes with a decent amount of kit as standard.
The cabin is full of technology, with a five or seven-inch colour screen in the upper part of the centre console, and there’s a high-quality CD player and RDS radio.
The Harmon Kardon audio system allows access to a web browser and a selection of apps, voice activated control, DVD player, hard disc drive for music storage, Dolby Pro-Logic II Surround Sound, Dirac Live Sound Stage, 5 x 130W amplifiers and 10 speakers.
The glovebox has space for two soft-drinks cans or bottles and is refrigerated.
It’s an extra £1,000 over the standard car for the Cross Country, so it may well come down to a visual preference as much as anything else for buyers of the more rugged version, but looks aside the V40 has a lot going for it.
Built with Volvo’s usual eye for detail and finished beautifully inside, the Cross Country is a car of great quality.
With high economy figures, zero road tax, a smooth, comfortable ride and a snappy performance in town, on a motorway or on twisty B-roads, the Volvo offers an all-round package that is a tempting proposition.
Volvo V40 Cross Country
Engine: 1.6 litre diesel
Transmission: Six-speed manual
0-62mph: 11.2 secs
Top speed: 115mph
Fuel economy: 74.3mpg avg