Browse the Volvo V40 line-up today and you'll feel like you've just entered the latest role-playing game. You don't just go out there and drive your car, first you have to choose your character.
Even in its most basic form, the Volvo V40 is an unconventional presence in its segment. Unlock the full map and you'll see it flanked by two other types of heroes, both available with the standard model's full range of engines.
From the land of the hot hatches, comes the V40 R-Design, which may or may not back up its claims with performance, depending on the powerplant.
And from the world of... typical Volvo-ness, we have the V40 Cross Country, which promises a crossover experience with or without all-wheel drive.
We don't quite like stuff that includes the word "without", so we wanted to test drive a Volvo V40 Cross Country that had all-wheel drive. This meant that we had to also use the range-topping T5 petrol engine. How unfortunate.
But before we shut the door and see if the turbocharged five-cylinder still has the vibe that made it famous on the previous-generation Ford Focus ST and RS, we can't help notice something.
The V40, in any of its incarnations, is a proper hatch. Volvo has left the laboratory-like experimental nature of their previous compact, the C30
, behind. As we've just seen, they're still playful, but this time it's all serious.
The Cross Country ups this ante and tries to pose as something more than just a hatchback with a heftier ride height. Nice attitude, time to see what the rest of it is made of.
Let's face it. When you think of a Swede, the rather shy image of the Volvo V40 isn't exactly what comes to mind. However, the V40 Cross Country is the kind of car that can turn heads, as we've seen during our test drive.
And it wasn't just the people on the street that liked the appearance of the V40 Cross Country, we did too. That's because it looks pumped-up, but not like a guy who spends five hours per day at the gym. It's more like a sleek Parkour athlete.
The Cross Country rides 1.57 inches (40 mm) higher than the normal V40, but that doesn't actually say much, because the latter is pretty low. Still, it's got an impressive stance, given by the combination between the ground clearance and the compact dimensions.
Sure, there are also body protection elements that help with this. Up front, we have a rock ballade-inspired bumper
, which features a honeycomb grille and vertical daytime running lights.
The side sills continue this theme and while they may never be given the chance to do their job and direct mud or stones away from the shiny paint, they do take out attention towards the rear of the car.
Here, we find an apron that features a skid plate
, so when you overtake some other car, it shouldn't even think about cutting the corner on the grass to overtake you back.
But the Volvo V40 Cross Country also uses softer decorative elements. Yes, the car has some more refined details that contribute to its image, such as the sleek roof rails or the black trim used around the side windows and for the mirror housings
All the aforementioned bits and pieces create a strong contrast to the body of the car, which makes it stand out.
Sometimes when you reach a certain place, be it a room or maybe a new continent, you just feel like you belong there, like you could perfectly adapt starting from day two. This is exactly the feeling you have when you enter the Volvo V40 Cross Country.
We rarely get to see a good car with interior styling cues that are bolder than those on the outside, but this Volvo is definitely one of them. The design uses strong lines, but somehow the atmosphere is warm.
And the ergonomics are excellent. It’s almost as if your mother broke into the design offices just before they released the final project and made sure that you have everything you need, where you need it. On her way out, she also made sure that, despite the complex angles of the car, the visibility is good.
Of course, being a mother, she overdone things a bit and we’re talking about the cluttered button arrangement on the center console
here. Even so, we have to notice that this doesn’t take long to get used to and it does leave the rest of the dash free. We’ll just cover it with a nice little poster and everything will be fine.
The driving position is... surprising. Volvo is no stranger to the aviation industry and they probably couldn’t resist making you feel a bit like a pilot. The seats give you the necessary support and comfort without too much fuss and there’s a shifter that you could swear is taken straight from the concept.
However, the real aircraft treat comes in the form of the digital dashboard
. We’ve got a 3D, convergent layout that’s both pleasant to look at and easy to read. This comes with three modes and while all of them are nice, the dynamic one is where you’ll want to keep it.
In a dogfight of the digital dashes, the Volvo V40 would eat cars like the Range Rover
and the Mercedes S-Class alive, with its arrangement feeling much more natural. Amusing.
As for your passengers, the one on your right has a pleasing amount of space, while those in the back receive a decent treatment from this point of view.
When it comes to your luggage, this can be stowed in many ways thanks to an intelligent space- splitting solution, but you’ll be forced to stick to just cubic feet (335 liters). We don’t want to be around when you’ll be explaining this to your female friend.
There were quite a few people who smiled at us during the time we spent on urban roads. Not everybody reads about pedestrian airbags in the morning, so they probably don’t know about this feature, which means that they simply liked the Volvo V40 Cross Country’s looks.
Oh, if only they knew that this Volvo is “reading” them like the secret services. It’s for their own good, of course, but the fact that they’re not aware of it makes us feel a bit evil right now.
Actually, the Volvo V40 Cross Country allows you to feel however you like. That’s because it’s top-notch soundproofing and upmarket interior create a feeling of relaxation. The city can’t touch you here, we bet you could stick your tongue out at people and nobody would be able to do anything about that.
We were afraid that the steering would be too light when we rolled around the parking lot at the beginning of the test drive, but as your speed increases, this has just the right consistency.
The brake pedal is the only one that requires you to get out of your vibe and pay attention, as the travel is a bit short. We can hear the engineers giggling and saying “you can never have too much brake!”
The T5 V40 Cross Country provides an exquisite experience for the city. It gifts your right foot with almost the same abilities that you find in a hot hatch, but without any of the tightness. As for the fuel consumption, we received 20 mpg (11.7 liters per 100 km).
You can drive around peacefully and the car is always there, it’s enough to give it half the command and it will do what you want. Dip into the throttle though and things become hot as fast as you’d pump up the volume upon hearing your favorite tune on the radio.
The Volvo V40 Cross Country is a delight to drive in the city and we’re pleased to tell you that, in its rugged-ization process, it doesn’t lose anything compared to the standard V40.
The feeling of familiarity we’ve had when entering the car, despite this being our first date, is amplified once you get moving. The Volvo V40 Cross Country is very easy to drive, be it slow or fast. From the shape of the seats to the power delivery, this thing comes with an extended acceptance of the word “ergonomics”.
We’re gripping the steering wheel of our T5 AWD
tester and we can’t help but smile a bit. There’s something unique about the way in which the massive center, which reminds us of old Volvo wagons, meets the thick, sporty rim. The latter, with its flat sides, makes us think about Polestar stuff. Let’s not get too excited though, as this is connected to a steering that’s just fair.
The T5 AWD model we drove offers an experience that’s usually hard to find. It provides the firepower of a hot hatch, but doesn’t offer that feeling of a dazzling progress on a B road. This is replaced with an aura of comfort that is normally characteristic for larger cars.
Step on it and you’ll understand how the vehicle is set up. The Volvo V40 Cross Country works best for cruising, driven somewhere up to eight tenths. There are important reserves and, between 3,000 and 7,000 rpm, the muscle comes in a linear way. The lack of turbo lag and the smooth operation of the automatic gearbox work together to provide a pleasant feeling of dependability.
The ratios are balanced and while a seventh gear would be good for the efficiency, you don’t get to feel the need for one as a driver. That’s because the powerplant has enough resources to sustain a normal trip at relatively low revs. Speaking of efficiency, the overall figure returned during our test drive was 18.5 mpg (12.7 liters per 100 km).
And if you do insist with the throttle, the transmission will send a slight shock through the car as it upshifts, reminding you that this thing can cover the 0 to 62 mph sprint in 6.1 seconds. Keep up the foot work and up to about 124 mph (200 km/h) the acceleration is strong by any standards. Don’t worry though, the other people in the car can be aware of your speed at all times. In the right upper corner of the navigation screen, the system displays the velocity in a way that makes the Ferrari FF
’s passenger display seem a bit ridiculous.
In the same manner, the soundtrack is always restrained, but the car does allow a fair degree of communication, just enough to keep you from getting bored.
Compared to the normal V40, the Cross Country does lean a bit more in the corners, but this never becomes a problem, as the difference is small and you get more comfort in return. The Cross Country says “no” to the wheel scheme of the V40 and borrows the one of the Volvo V70. Nevertheless, we’d advise you to stick to the 17-inch rims, despite the offer going all the way up to 19 inches. It would be a pity to ruin the ride.
As for the handling, it doesn’t matter if you have the DTSC On or in Sport mode (there’s no Off), on dry tarmac the car won’t let its rear cross the line one millimeter - it stays neutral.
We’re on the highway now and we see a pair of mountain bikes sitting quietly on top of an estate. Yep, it’s a Volvo XC70. As we get side by side, we check out our cars and it all ends with a mutual thumbs-up.
This brief encounter has made us thirsty. We’d really like some mud or sand right now and this is what we’re going to have. The Volvo V40 Cross Country isn’t the kind of car that you take offroading for sheer pleasure, but you can rely on it even when things get rough.
Switching the DTSC to Sport mode allows controlled slides and the low mass of the car means that its movements are easy to predict no matter how low the grip is. Nice. If only we could have some ice with the V40 Cross Country...