Volvo first bridged the gap between a traditional car and an SUV with the XC70 back in 1997. By raising the ride height of its family estate, fitting four-wheel drive as standard and beefing up the styling, it created a formula that’s been copied by the VW Passat Alltrack, Audi A6 Allroad and Skoda Octavia Scout. Now the VW Golf-rivalling Volvo V40 has got the off-road treatment.
The new version is called the V40 Cross Country, rather than the XC40 as many expected, and has all the hallmarks of a rugged Volvo. Silver roof rails, a chunky black plastic front bumper with integrated LED lights, metal side sills and a new rear bumper with the Cross Country badge above the skid plate help to convey a subtly tougher image.
But that’s where the makeover ends. Unlike the XC70, the V40 Cross Country isn’t designed for off-roading, with a ride height raised by 40mm about the only mechanical change. With so few buyers of small crossovers going off the beaten track, you can see why Volvo took this decision, but it’s a shame the package is so similar to the standard car’s.
In fact, only one version – the range-topping 250bhp 2.5-litre five-cylinder petrol – comes with four-wheel drive (it’s not an option on any other model). But with fuel consumption of 35mpg and a £33,875 price, it will sell in minuscule numbers in the UK. More popular will be the efficient diesels, all of which come with standard stop-start.
Most economical is the 113bhp 1.6-litre D2, which delivers 74mpg and 99g/km of CO2, while the D3 and D4 both get 2.0-litre five-cylinder engines. We tried the 175bhp D4, which packs a big punch. A 0-62mph time of 8.6 seconds doesn’t do justice to the way the car surges forward when you accelerate.
Inevitably, with 400Nm sent through the front tyres, there’s a hint of torque steer, but other than that the Cross Country holds its line faithfully in corners. The steering could be a little sharper and offer more feel, and there’s a smidgen of body roll before the car settles, but the V40 is always calm and composed. That’s helped by a new suspension set-up, which is better suited to the UK’s rough roads.
You can hear the diesel working, but the offbeat burble makes it a pleasure, not a chore. Refinement is impressive, too.
Available only in SE or Lux spec, this V40 is very well equipped, and interior quality is right up with BMW and Mercedes. Our top-spec Lux Nav test car came with 17-inch wheels, plus two-tone leather seats, active headlights and integrated sat-nav. But the asking price isn’t cheap – £28,085 is £1,000 more than the equivalent V40.