In Cross Country form, Volvo's V40 is essentially a premium hatch in a pair of hiking boots. It does at least though, offer AWD in the top T5 petrol guise we look at here. Jonathan Crouch reports.
Ten Second Review
Volvo's improved V40 Cross Country model makes a play for the growing Qashqai-class Crossover market - an alternative perhaps, to that Audi Q3, Mercedes GLA or BMW X1 you might have been thinking about. Though the changes over a standard V40 may be slight, you do get a premium feel, class-leading efficiency - and the option of 4WD on the top of the range T5 variant we look at here.
If the ordinary V40 didn't exist, you might see this Cross Country version as a very credible kind of compact crossover. As it is, we know that this is a V40 in a pair of hiking boots - though unlike some supposedly 'proper' Qashqai-class models, it does have the top-of-the-range option of 4WD. That's the variant we're looking at here. From Volvo's perspective, there's everything here that you need in a compact Qashqai-class Crossover - and nothing you don't. And the 'everything you need' bit now includes a class-leadingly efficient 2.0-litre petrol 245bhp T5 Drive-E engine. Let's put this top Cross Country model to the test.
Here's a hatch clearly developed by people who care about driving and it delivers a very good compromise indeed of absorbent ride and assured handling composure. So much so that I've begun to question the 'less is more' mantra I tend to apply to the brand's other models when it comes to engine output. There's not much point in having loads of power in a car that handles like a pudding. This one though, can cope with a bit more, which is why it's worth opting for the fastest of the petrol engines on offer, this 245bhp T5. Like the next petrol variant down, the 152bhp T3, it's a 2.0-litre unit but unlike that engine, this one is very much geared for high performance. This top V40 gets to 62mph in 6.1s en route to 130mph. There's no ride height increase for the 4x4 Cross Country variant, so light field tracks will be about its limit when it comes to off road excursions. This derivative comes only with 8-speed auto transmission.
Design and Build
This 'Cross Country' variant delivers its more outdoorsy look courtesy of silver roof rails, side scuff plates and glossy black door mirrors. Otherwise, the look is pure V40. In profile, the wedge-shaped silhouette and lean-forward stance draws your attention, with this strong shoulderline flowing from the headlamps right back to the powerful rear haunches. This lower crease flows gently upwards from the front wheelarch and gives the flank some shape. In short, it's a design that still looks very current. That's an observation equally applicable here in the cabin. Of course it needs to be good if sales are to be stolen from the likes of the BMW 1 Series and the Audi A3, a tough assignment tackled with an unpretentious 'Designed Around You' philosophy epitomised by this beautifully positioned infotainment screen that, once you've figured out its complicated menus, enables you to deal with audio, navigation, 'phone and other functions almost without taking your eyes off the road. The idea is that, like IKEA furniture, this cabin should be typically Scandinavian, comfortable, simple, intuitive and visually pleasing. And broadly it is. Cabin space is fine and there's a 324-litre boot.
Market and Model
There's only one T5 Cross Country AWD variant. It only comes in top 'Pro' trim and costs around £34,000. That gets you the luxury touches common to plusher V40 models, things like larger 17-inch alloy wheels and full leather upholstery. Perhaps more importantly, it'll also provide you with the latest Volvo developments in media connectivity that come packaged up in the brand's 'Sensus Connect with High Performance Sound' package. This gives you a larger 7-inch centre dash display screen, via which you'll access not only the 3D sat nav system but also an internet browser and a range of selected web apps. The system has a Hard Disc Drive for music storage, allows for voice activation, delivers a useful 'Traffic Message Channel' and can play DVDs. Plus of course, you get all the usual safety basics. That means dual-stage front airbags on both sides, side airbags, a knee 'bag for the driver, inflatable curtains, ISOFIX childseat fastenings, a Roll-Over Protection system, the WHIPS anti-whiplash system and, to hopefully make sure you'll never need all that, the DSTC Dynamic Stability and Traction Control system. If you want the safest car in the family hatchback class, you're looking at it right here.
Cost of Ownership
A lot of engineering cleverness has gone into the Drive-E 2.0-litre engine in this car, hence its returns - 44.1mpg on the combined cycle and 149g/km of CO2; not bad for a 245bhp 4WD car. How has Volvo done it? Well the Drive-E development centred primarily in the creation of an innovative 'i-ART' system which sees an intelligent software chip placed on each engine injector. This carefully monitors the ideal amount of fuel that should be injected in each combustion cycle and is able to do so far more accurately than the cruder single pressure sensors that competitor powerplants use. On top of that, further savings have been achieved through things like the reduction of inner friction in the engine, smart heat management and the use of a special fuel pump. Competitors really need to take one of these 'Drive-E' engines apart and see how it's all been done.
Volvo customers who might perhaps be a touch disappointed that the brand doesn't have a purpose-designed Qashqai-class compact Crossover model may well be satisfied by this improved V40 Cross Country, particularly in this top T5 AWD form. It looks the part and is classy enough to compete with the smarter German brands. It's no off-roading tool of course, despite its AWD system - but then no car in this class really is. Of more interest to most potential owners will be the efficient Drive-E petrol engine beneath the bonnet. That unit characterises this car's more pragmatic approach to Crossover motoring. If that appeals to you, then you might well agree with Volvo that what we have here is a lifestyle-orientated family hatchback worth getting cross about.