First Drive Review: Volvo V40 T5 Cross Country

Volvo-V40-CrossCountry-T5_G0a

There were two questions we were keen to answer when we drove Volvo’s new V40 Cross Country last week – how different is it to drive than a regular V40 ES? And, what does it offer to justify its premium price in the V40 range? I’ll come back to that last point a little later.

But first let’s recap on the Cross Country itself and how it differs from a standard V40.

Apart from its rugged looks, the V40 Cross Country features a 40mm taller ride height, protective hard-wearing body panels, bigger wheels and tyres (up to 19-inches) and all-wheel drive on the top-of-the-range T5.

Unlike the estate-only V70 Cross Country which started the trend in 1997, the V40 is a compact hatchback, which might cause a bit of confusion as to who it’s intended for.

It’s certainly nowhere near as practical as the V70 (Now XC70), but like its larger sibling the V40 Cross Country will excel over the standard car in its ability to tackle unmade roads or when loaded up with a family of four’s ski gear. Try fitting snow chains to a conventional sports hatch when its full of people and luggage and you’ll know what I mean.

Think of the Cross Country as the V40 for people who enjoy using their cars for all kinds of leisure pursuits, and you’ll not be far off the mark.

As with the R-Design, the Cross Country is available with every engine in the V40 range – except the 148bhp petrol-powered T3. Prices range from £22,595 for the 113bhp D2 SE up to £33,875 for the T5 LUX, although the car we tested would retail at £40,425 (as fitted with; Driver Support Pack – £1,850, Park Assist Pilot – £850, Premium Sound Multimedia – £800, 18″ Mefitis Wheels – £700, Inscription Paint – £750, Power Driver Seat – £600, Winter Lux Pack – £375, Active TFT Display – £350, Tempa – £150, Flexible Load Floor – £100, PACOS – £25, Side Scuff Plates – tbc).

If you’re taken by the V40 Cross Country’s looks then let yourself be tempted by the optional 19-inch Alecto wheels – you’ll score 11/10 with the neighbours’ kids, although we’re less confident about their impact on the V40′s ride comfort. Still, for looks alone, their smoked rims with body-coloured highlights will get your V40 Cross Country noticed.

Despite costing £1,000 more than the equivalent SE model, Volvo expect the Cross Country to account for 11% of all V40 sales in the UK, with the R-Design accounting for a further 25% of sales.

Style

Volvo V40 CrossCountry T5 G0 999x619 First Drive Review: Volvo V40 T5 Cross Country

The V40 Cross Country gains a range of 13 exterior colours, including the distinctive Raw Copper you can see in the video below. Our test car was painted Inscription Electric Silver with Charcoal Leather, which suits the tough-on-the-streets look of the V40 Cross Country with its contrasting silver and black trim.

Sat side by side, the Cross Country looks broadly similar to the new R-Design, save for the front and rear skid plates and deeper side sills, but there are a few more details which the keen eye will spot – the more chunky honeycomb grille, ‘Cross Country’ embossed mouldings and extended black trim behind its vertical daytime-running lights.

Like the R-Design, the changes add a welcome dose of assertiveness to the otherwise timid-looking V40, which makes the friendly Swede seem more German – make of that what you will, but it’s an attractive and cohesive package that we’d recommend purely on its looks alone. If toughening up the V40 is top of your list of improvements, then look no further than the Cross Country.

From a purely practical standpoint you’d probably choose the smaller 17-inch wheels on a V40 Cross Country, but larger wheels suit its butch styling, so don’t play too conservatively with your choice.

If you’re downsizing to a V40, the Cross Country adds a welcome dose of road presence which you might appreciate if stepping out of BMW 3 Series. It’s still a compact premium hatch – lower in the range than a V60, but its rugged looks lend it a unique appeal.

* * *

Engine & Drivetrain

Volvo V40 CrossCountry T5 G3 First Drive Review: Volvo V40 T5 Cross Country

If you’re looking for a V40 fitted with Volvo’s 2.5-litre turbocharged engine, then the T5 Cross Country is the one to choose. Unlike the T5 R-Design, the Cross Country is fitted with all-wheel drive as standard. It also uses the regular V40′s power steering system, rather than the nervous rack on the T5 R-Design. The result is a car which can deploy all 250 of its brake horsepower, and flow smoothly between corners without the R-Design’s fluster.

You’re still saddled with Volvo’s 6-speed Geartronic auto transmission (with no choice of a manual), but at least it suits the Cross Country’s more relaxed demeanour.

Performance in the T5 Cross Country is ‘slightly’ diminished when compared to the R-Design, with a top speed of 146mph compared to 155mph in the R-Design, although 0-62mph improves to 6.0 seconds (0.1 seconds quicker than in the R-Design).

Volvo claim 34.0 mpg (combined) for the Cross Country which compares with 35.8 mpg in the R-Design model, while CO2 emissions increase to 194g/km from 185g/km in the T5 R-Design.

Because of the chassis ability to harness the T5′s power and torque, the Cross Country feels faster than the R-Design, which together with its more relaxed steering makes for a quicker car along uneven B-roads.

We drove a D4 Cross Country before setting out in the T5, and while the diesel may offer more torque (400Nm versus 360Nm), we’d still opt for the T5 which feels quicker when extended with the added bonus of its all-wheel drive.

* * *

Steering

Volvo V40 CrossCountry T5 G6 First Drive Review: Volvo V40 T5 Cross Country

There’s not much to say here apart from, unlike the R-Design, the T5 Cross Country comes with the same power steering setup as other models in the range. It steers accurately, consistently and without the kick-back which blights the more sports oriented R-Design.

Ignore the naysayers who moan about a lack of steering feel – feel is overrated – the V40 has one of the sweetest steering systems on the market, letting you get on with driving without overloading you with unnecessary feedback.

* * *

Ride & Handling

Volvo V40 CrossCountry T5 G2 First Drive Review: Volvo V40 T5 Cross Country

This is where we answer the question, “how different is it to drive than a regular V40 ES?”

First and foremost, you can tell the difference – there’s a few degrees more movement before the chassis settles, but not so you’d alter your driving style. The standard V40 sits quite low, so despite riding up to 40mm higher (depending on engine and wheels) the Cross Country only looks around 10-15mm higher than most conventional hatchbacks.

As we said earlier on, the Cross Country isn’t just a jacked-up V40, Volvo’s engineers have lengthened the front wheel spindles by 20mm, while modifying the subframe bushings. At the rear, the link arms and track rods have been modified together with changes to the shock absorbers, springs, anti-roll bars and rear subframe.

Ride quality feels slightly softer, but we’re talking by fractions here, as is turn-in and body roll. But otherwise the chassis movements feel well-damped, predictable and safe. It can be fun, but not in the lift-off tail-out sense which a Subaru Impreza might offer.

Overall, you’ll notice the difference between a V40 Cross Country and a regular ES, but there are no penalties to its higher ride and you might even prefer its slightly more relaxed demeanour.

* * *

Confidence & Driveability

Volvo V40 CrossCountry T5 G4 999x619 First Drive Review: Volvo V40 T5 Cross Country

Fitting a 250bhp engine plus all-wheel drive into a compact hatchback used to suggest a Subaru Impreza rival – that’s not the case with this V40 T5 Cross Country – although I’ve no doubt you’d have plenty of fun on a slippery roundabout. Instead, the V40 T5 Cross Country is all about safe, secure and confident progress regardless of road conditions.

If you’re looking for the most effortless Volvo V40, then the all-wheel drive T5 Cross Country certainly fits the bill. Our test route featured lots of greasy back-roads which the Cross Country tackled (at speed) with aplomb.

* * *

* * *

Fitness for purpose

Most buyers will opt for a lesser-powered Cross Country, probably the 113bhp D2 or 148bhp D3, in which case the lack of all-wheel drive traction will probably not be missed.

Besides, most will choose the V40 Cross Country for its looks – which is something we think it excels at.

Whether this taints the Cross Country’s image (when it reaches the second hand market) only time will tell, because if you’re an Equine enthusiast, a regular on the ski slopes or have a driveway littered with pot-holes, you’ll find plenty to like about the V40 Cross Country.

We’ve marked the Cross Country down slightly, purely for its lack of all-wheel drive (except in the T5), otherwise Volvo’s latest V40 variant offers precisely what you’d expect – a more versatile take on Volvo’s impressive V40 hatchback.

* * *

Conclusion

Volvo’s Cross Country formula makes for a more appealing V40, even if the virtues which will appeal the most are purely aesthetic. Unless you’re a hard-nosed petrolhead the Cross Country may just be the best V40 variant yet, with no discernable downside to its slightly elevated ride height.

The V40 T5, in the specification we tested, starts to look pricey alongside other premium all-wheel drive hatchbacks such as Audi’s S3 (c.£31,000) and Volkswagen’s Golf R, but neither of these offer the Cross Country’s off-tarmac prowess. Audi’s 2.0 TFSI Q3 and BMW’s X1 xDrive 25d lack the V40 T5′s performance, and weigh nearly 200kg more, so will appeal to a different kind of customer.

So that leaves the Cross Country, in a league of its own, which I’m sure was exactly what Volvo intended.

Pros

  • Looks stronger, more confident and (dare we say it) more ‘manly’ than the standard V40.
  • Offers the confidence and security of a conventional SUV in a lighter and more compact package.

Cons

  • Pricey, especially in T5 guise.
  • Lack of 4WD for the more powerful diesel models.

Bottom Line

The first time you see a V40 Cross Country on the road you’ll look twice – it’s visual appeal is that obvious – but so is its driving appeal once behind the wheel. While it may lack the sharper dynamics of an R-Design model, it turns in cleanly, feels unflappably poised and is an easy car to live with on British roads. We’d opt for the £28,045 D4 Lux.

V40 T5 Cross Country SE Lux Nav

Style

8/10

Engine & Drivetrain

7/10

Steering

7/10

Ride & Handling

7/10

Confidence & Driveability

8/10

Fitness for purpose

7.5/10