REVIEW: Volvo V40 CrossCountry

IN a country where home-bred cars are starting to utilise hi-tech scanning technology to search out pot holes, the concept of a jacked-up hatchback makes sense.

Volvo delivered its V40 Cross Country with great optimism after paying more attention than ever to honing its cars to the highways of our pock-marked little island.

Jacked up by 20mm to serve up greater ground clearance with the help of revised shock absorbers, springs and a revised anti-roll bar, it should be well-suited to British roads.

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Prices for the V40 Cross Country start at £23,820 for the D2 SE. Tested here is the D3 SE Nav, which comes in at £25,670 — or £29,495 with options.

All but the range-topping T5 AWD Lux Nav come in front-wheel-drive form only, the 148bhp (and 236lb.ft.) D3 tested here claiming 74.3mpg and impressive 99g/km CO2 stats as a result.

The two-litre, four-cylinder Drive-E turbodiesel engine — one of the new crop launched across the Volvo range last year — still manages to propel the V40 CC to 62mph in 8.5 seconds on the way to a 118mph top speed.

According to the on-paper stats, all the taller car loses over the Audi A3 and BMW 1-Series rivalling V40 hatchback is a tenth on that acceleration time.

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Performance feels strong out on the road and the engine has a remarkably smooth timbre, its sound barely distinguishable from the current crop of turbocharged petrol engines.

Low-down torque and an absence of flaring turbo-lag also helps the V40 D3 driver to make a decent fist of achieving good fuel economy by holding a high gear.

At low revs it is smooth and as the revs rise there’s a pleasingly linear rise in power that makes for a tractable and natural-feeling driving experience.

One element of the package that let this down was the remarkably long throw of my test car’s clutch, however, which made smooth getaways a challenge.

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Even my size 11s had to be lifted off the carpet to reach the top of its travel, rather than a simple flexing of the ankle. After a week with the car, it remained a challenge.

And I never got near 70mpg fuel economy claims, managing mid-50s on my very low mileage test car. Perhaps things would improve after a couple of thousand miles...

Volvo has employed electric assistance (rather than hydraulic) for its power steering, in another fuel-saving measure, and there’s limited feel at the helm as a result, but the V40 CC maintains confidence-inspiring traction that goes some way towards compensating the driver, the suspension feeling rather firm and tightly controlled.

Corner Traction Control is Volvo’s take on an electronic differential, transferring power to the outside driven wheel through corners to maintain traction and stability.

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The overall feel is virtually identical to the V40 hatchback, but that fairly numb steering and a lack of chassis adjustability dulls the drive a little.

Where the V40 CC delivers its best is as a comfortable, safe and classy family hatchback, with an interior that employs a typically crisp and minimalist Swedish design ethos.

Front seats that are up their with the very best out there for comfort come coupled to soft-touch plastics, part-leather trim and brushed aluminium highlights to give an overall sense of quality and tactility.

A TFT instrument display can also be switched through Elegance, Eco and Sport settings, prioritising a new colour scheme and set of read-outs in each.

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Volvo’s new Sensus infotainment system offers Bluetooth phone connectivity and music streaming, DAB radio and — in SE Nav spec — sat-nav.

The system is not the most intuitive, however. The Luddite in me loves the traditional telephone-style key pad on the V40’s stylish floating centre console. It makes typing in phone numbers a breeze.

Apart from that, though, the dial that allows navigation through the dash-top screen’s various lists and menus takes some getting used to.

Volvo’s ongoing preoccupation with safety continues and high flying Euro NCAP safety ratings will continue to appeal to families.

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Added to a raft of standard safety kit, which includes the world’s first pedestrian airbag — it pops the bonnet up to soften the blow in the event that you shunt someone — was the optional (£1,900) Driver Support Pack in my test car, with Lane Keeping Assistance, automatic collision warning and braking, blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control and a cyclist and pedestrian recognition system all present.

Safe, classy and comfortable, the Volvo V40 Cross Country is making a good case for itself against a raft of rivals from the ever growing SUV market.

It might lack their taller, more rugged appearance, but it also boasts a premium feel that aligns it well with the top German marques.

That, and an array of sensors that ensure the car remains as safe as possible on Britain’s busy roads, make it an appealing family car.

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In fact, the only sensor my test car was missing was one to sniff out those pesky pot holes.


Volvo V40 CrossCountry D3 SE Nav

Engine: 1,969cc, four-cylinder, turbodiesel

Power: 148bhp and 236lb.ft. of torque

Performance: 0-62mph in 8.5 seconds and 118mph

Economy: 74.3mpg (combined)

CO2 emissions: 99g/km

Price: £25,670

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