Volvo V40 Cross Country first drive

Volvo V40 Cross CountryVolvo’s range of C-segment medium sized family five door hatchbacks is numerous, I counted over 50 different variants taking into account the wide range of engine options and specifications,

probably too many when you consider Volvo expects to only sell around 14,000 V40s in the UK this year with prices ranging from £19,995 right up to £33,875.

Earlier this year stylish R-Design and rugged looking Cross Country variants expanded the range still further as the premium brand seeks to become a realistic alternative to models from Audi with their A3 Sportback, BMW with their 1-Series and Mercedes with their A/B-Class models.

Whilst the new R-Design versions are expected to account for around 40% of V40 UK sales, the chunky Cross Country SE and Lux variants with all but one version being 2WD are expected to only account for 11% of sales. A small portion of that 11% will be the most niche model in the overall line-up – the T5 Lux Nav AWD powered by a 2.5-litre, five cylinder turbocharged 251bhp petrol engine with automatic transmission and of course four wheel drive. This version carries the highest price tag in the range at £33,875 and of course there are extra cost options that can push that price up further. Lesser 2WD Cross Country models start at £22,595 with diesel and petrol engine options.

Whilst the vast majority of V40 buyers are retail, fleet and business user-chooser customers looking for good fuel economy and low CO2 emissions for tax reasons, the Cross Country adds what Volvo calls a model with a ‘sense of adventure’ to the huge line-up. The range topping AWD 2.5-litre petrol model will only appeal to a few drivers who need the security of all wheel drive for winter driving coupled with its ability to perform off-road, and by off-road I mean gravel tracks and field work rather than farming duties. It’s best suited using the 4WD system and its relatively big turbocharged petrol engine for fast road work with maximum cornering and acceleration grip. So it’s the sportiest in terms of performance, rather like Audi and their quattro system and now BMW with xDrive.

Volvo V40 Cross CountryTop speed is an impressive 146mph and zero to 60mph takes just six seconds. Fuel consumption is officially 34mpg in the Combined Cycle and my week long test driving resulted in a figure acceptably close to that at 33.1mpg. Now that didn’t include any top speed cruising, but over 500 miles of 70mph motorway travelling and another 200 miles of everyday commuting on busy A/B roads. The CO2 emissions are 194g/km so VED road tax for the First Year rate is a costly £475 but this reduces to £260 for the second year onwards. Company cars drivers will feel their pockets lightened with a 29% Benefit-in-Kind tax penalty.

The whole time I had the Cross Country test car and not seeing another one on the road, I wondered just who is going to buy this model – Vets and Equestrians perhaps? The V40 five door hatchbacks are now getting plentiful on our roads but not this model. I know it’s a niche version, but who exactly is going to buy/lease it at this price over say a roomier, potentially less expensive 4×4 SUV such as the Honda CR-V, Audi Q3, BMW X1 or Mazda CX-5 to name just a few?

On the plus side the V40 Cross Country 2.5 AWD is beautifully built, it feels sold, it is well equipped, it looks smart and sporty and it’s not as long or as bulky to park as a SUV or 4×4 crossover. But it isn’t very roomy for rear seat passengers with leg or headroom, the boot/load space is not that big, there is no diesel engine option for this version to improve fuel consumption and lower taxes. The rear visibility is limited due to the relatively small tailgate window, the rear seat head restraints and coupe style rear corners. What it does give customers is ‘exclusivity’ as so few of these models will be sold.

There are of course other 4×4 passenger cars in the market, Audi has long had quattro, BMW is making its xDrive system more widely available in cars, MINI has All4 models, Skoda also has 4×4 cars and there are more car derived 4×4 ‘crossovers’ than I can list here Volvo probably needs such an option in their best selling V40 model range but at a lesser price and with a diesel engine, something the long standing 4×4 car brand of Subaru remedied eventually. There is however diesel engine options for the 2WD Cross Country SE and Lux versions.

The V40 Cross Country T5 2.5 AWD has a firm ride and sits on raised suspension of 40mm but ride comfort is not unduly harsh, better than the sporty R-Design versions in fact. The AWD Cross Country handles really well despite its raised platform with no bodyroll, plenty of cornering grip and with lots of fore/aft stability under acceleration and braking. The steering lacks feedback and therefore is not as precise as it could be. The brakes impressed me greatly, strong and progressive and again better than other V40s.

Volvo V40 Cross CountryVolvo V40 Cross CountryBeing a Volvo there is a vast array of safety equipment fitted as standard including their low speed collision avoidance City Safety system which helps lower insurance premiums. It is also fitted with the World’s first pedestrian airbag system. The airbag is sited under the trailing edge of the bonnet and when inflated covers the area under the bonnet and up to one third of the windscreen. It works on impacts taking place at speeds between 12 and 31mph. Pedestrian Detection, Collision Warning, Lane Departure warning, Blind Spot detection, adaptive Cruise Control and other functions are all included in a Driver Support pack which adds £1,850 to the car’s price.

The Cross Country, apart from the ‘jacked-up’ suspension has a number of unique exterior design features to give it a tougher image over the standard V40 five door hatchback. The chunky front bumper incorporates a honeycomb grille, lower black inserts, it houses new vertical daytime running lights and is fitted with a protective front skid plate. The rear bumper also has a lower black insert and is fitted with a silver-coloured plastic skid plate with ‘Cross Country’ moulded into it. The side sills have also received the Cross Country protective plate treatment. The wheels are 17-inch alloys as standard on the Lux model but my test car had the 18-inch options which added a further £700 to the price. These were nice to look at but of no more advantage and potentially harmful to the ride comfort and probably added to the significant road noise intrusion.

Inside the Cross Country it’s very much the same high quality style and specification as the top spec V40 five door hatchbacks but with the same faults and limitations. Its snug, rear seat headroom is limited, headroom getting through the front doorframes is tight for six footers and re visibility is not good. The centre console houses the controls for the heating and ventilation system and these are very fiddly to use and also being positioned low down they are out of the eyesight line of the driver.

My last comments concerning the interior of the 2.5-litre Cross Country AWD just about sum up the car in general, good in parts, less impressive in others.

MILESTONES. Volvo V40 T5 Cross Country AWD Lux Nav 5-Door. Price: £33,875, (£40,425 as tested with options). Engine/transmission: 2.5-litre, 5-cylinder, turbocharged petrol, 251bhp, 266lb ft of torque from 1,800rpm, 6-speed automatic, 4WD, Performance: 146mph, 0-60mph 6.0-seconds, 34mpg (33.1mpg on test), CO2 194g/km, VED First Year rate £475, second year onwards £260, BIK company car tax 29%. Insurance group: 30. Dimensions/capacities: L 4,370-mm, W 1,783mm, H 1,459mm, boot/load space: 335 to 1,032-litres, braked towing weight 1,500kg. Warranty 3yrs/60,000 miles. For: Bold sporty styling, fast on road high performance with cornering grip to match, comprehensive safety equipment, excellent build quality, exclusivity of ownership. Against: Cosy for space, poor rear visibility, some fiddly controls, high running costs, too expensive for what it is, no less taxing diesel engine option, a proper SUV/crossover is a better 4×4 option at this price.  By Miles Better News Agency

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