First Drive: Volvo V40 Cross Country
Sector: Lower-medium Price (March 2013): £22,595-£33,875 Fuel: 34.0-74.3mpg CO2: 99-194g/km
It does make you wonder what the world is coming to, when Volvo launches a car with Cross Country emblazoned all across it that isn’t diesel and four-wheel drive.
The new V40 Cross Country comes with either a diesel engine – and very clean it is too – but only two-wheel drive, or four-wheel drive but with a stonking great five-cylinder petrol engine, which in the UK should be amazingly unpopular.
So what we have here for fleets is a car that looks like all those excellent, utilitarian, but with a smattering of luxury, Volvos that are enormously popular in the shires. But it isn’t.
That said, I like it a lot. The V40 purports to compete with Golfs, 1 Series’, A3s and A-Classes but while they mostly feel like cars for younger, less laden drivers, the V40 seems more of a chopped-down estate for families.
Expected to account for 11% of all V40 sales in the UK, the chassis of the V40 Cross Country has been hiked up by as much as 40mm, depending on engine and wheels fitted, while the front bumper has been re-designed to incorporate lower black bumper inserts, which also houses new vertical day-running lights and is fitted with a front skid plate.
The front bumper is also fitted with a honeycomb grille while at the back there’s a silver-coloured plastic skid plate with ”Cross Country” moulded into it. The side sills have also received the Cross Country treatment and are made of the same black moulding as fitted to the front and rear bumpers. The result is a handsome, chunky-looking car.
It’s also safe too, fitted as standard with Volvo's low-speed collision avoidance system, City Safety, and the world's first pedestrian airbag.
The biggest seller is expected to be the 1.6-litre four-cylinder diesel D2, accounting for just over 60%, and it will appeal to company car drivers, with its 99g/km CO2 figure and 74.3mpg on the combined cycle.
Maximum power is 115hp, and it drives OK. It’s no ball of fire, but is decently refined and capable. The bigger and more powerful 2.0-litre 150bhp D3 and 177bhp D4 engines also have low CO2 figures, both below 120g/km but for most drivers their improved performance over the D2 won’t outweigh the extra tax burden. Also, it just doesn’t feel like a car that is begging to be raced along – it’s a great family car, not a hot hatch.
Mention must be made of the four-wheel drive version. There are engineering and space reasons why the diesels can’t be fitted with the system, so it is left to the five-cylinder 2.5-litre 254bhp to fly the flag for all-wheel drive. As it is, it is pretty quick, but almost entirely irrelevant in the UK, and was built for other markets.
Prices start from £22,595 on the road for the V40 D2 Cross Country SE, up to £33,875 for the V40 T5 AWD Geartronic Cross Country Lux Nav. That means it is about £1,000 more expensive than the standard V40, and you are effectively paying for a bit of brightwork and some modified bumpers. Also, you will need to do some comparison work between the extra kit on the Volvo and the cheaper front-end price of equivalent competitors.
Whether that will be enough to attract fleet buyers remains to be seen, but it is a very handsome and likeable car and should look good on the used market, where it will appear in significantly smaller numbers than the standard V40.
There’s not really any reason to choose this Cross Country version over a standard V40 if you’re being entirely rational about it, but it’s a good-looking thing, redolent of all those excellent, chunky Volvos that manfully contend with the great outdoors, and it’s efficient too. And that will be enough for some.