Performance, stability and safe as a tank, Volvo V40 Cross Country has plenty to offer, says Shapur Kotwal

Volvo’s new V40 Cross Country promises to deliver an alluring blend of luxury crossover and compact city runabout. What gets your attention first are the aggressive, beak-like bonnet with its cuts and creases, and the extreme rake of the windscreen. There’s a strong bonnet ‘V’, the headlights are angled back appropriately, the black roof looks stunning, and the rising waistline and the tight-fitting top meet each other at the rear of the car quite elegantly. Off-roader details include an unpainted plastic cladding that runs around the car, faux scuff plates, both front and rear, and sleek rails that seem to float over the roof.

The Cross Country also gets 40mm more ground clearance and larger tyres than the regular V40 hatch. It’s not exactly your regular off-roader, but you’ll get plenty of attention, for sure.

Build quality on the outside is as good as and it’s nice to see consistent gaps and seams all around. The cabin isn’t as flashy as the exterior however. The designers seem to have been considerably more restrained here. Most of the bits are well constructed and have a certain heft to them. What’s also retained from the bigger, more expensive Volvos is the look.

The cabin is still a celebration of plain, IKEA-like surfaces and minimalist details, all tastefully trimmed in black and dull aluminium. Some large bits, such as the floating centre console and the sculpted door-pads give the cabin a bit of a lift. Still, that plush is missing. The only concession to the plain-Jane detailing seems to be the shiny white central console and the transparent LED illuminated gear selector. They either look cool or a touch garish, depending on your perspective. Other unique bits include a frameless rear-view mirror and a massive full-length glass roof.

Practical cabin

Nearly all Volvos have brilliant seats, and the V40 is no exception. It takes mere seconds to get comfortable and there is fantastic support for your back and thighs. Head, elbow and shoulder room at the front of the V40 is plentiful too. This is also a very practical cabin with plenty of space for water bottles and other odds and ends.

Legroom at the rear is sufficient for most frames and since the rear bench seats are placed higher up, they give passengers at the rear a better view of the road ahead. Headroom for very tall passengers could be an issue though due to the tight-fitting roof. The third passenger at the back is also unlikely to be very comfortable — space for the middle seat is minimal and there’s a tunnel for a propeller shaft (for the all-wheel-drive version) on the floor that reduces legroom even further. And while boot space is generous, there’s no spare wheel. You only get a puncture repair kit and an electric pump that runs off a 12-volt jack.

Volvo will bring two motors to India for the V40 Cross Country, a 180bhp T4 petrol and this five-cylinder 148bhp D3 diesel.

Unlike some modern diesels, this 2.0-litre unit is extremely responsive and quick off the mark. There’s no turbo lag or delay from the six-speed transmission when you tap the accelerator, and the front-wheel-drive V40 leaps forward as soon as you place your foot on the pedal. What’s even more gratifying is that there’s plenty of linearity. Step hard on the gas and the V40 takes off like a scalded cat, the tug from the mid-range staying strong for quite some time. The performance figures speak for themselves. 0-100kph takes just 8.6 seconds and 150 is reached in 19.9 seconds. The V40 excels at covering ground quickly in urban confines and it’s surprisingly brisk out on open roads as well, pulling really effortlessly and strongly even at speeds as high as 180kph. You may want more power but its performance will be more than sufficient for most. The automatic gearbox is also reasonably good. Manual intervention is possible and the box feels pretty responsive at most speeds. Refinement, however, isn’t great. The motor gets a bit gravelly when pushed past 3500rpm.

Straight-line stability

Sat on taller springs with more suspension travel, you’d also expect the V40 Cross Country to roll around a bit and feel a touch sloppy from behind the wheel. This isn’t the case. Body roll is well contained and the Cross Country really enjoys being cornered. Straight-line stability is really good, with the big hatch tracking dead straight at speeds in excess of 150kph with no need for correction on the wheel. It feels planted and relaxed in long corners too. There is a hint of body roll on tighter bends before the V40 settles down, but then you can push really hard and enjoy the corner. What makes punting the Volvo around corners even more enjoyable are the brakes and the steering. The former have loads of stopping power and a good amount of feel and this allows you to brake late with plenty of confidence. In addition, the accurate electric power steering is adequately feelsome. Centre feel is poor, but turn the wheel and steering weight and responses are much improved.

The sharp handling, however, does have its downside. Ride quality is good and the suspension is reasonably pliant and absorbent, but on sharper-edged craters, that layer of underlying stiffness in the suspension can be felt. Despite this, the suspension remains very comfortable, and because the ride is flat, the Cross Country encourages you to drive over broken sections without slowing down. Expected to cost upwards of Rs. 25 lakh when it is launched around Diwali.

It’s not very spacious in the back, it doesn’t sit high enough off the ground to have genuine SUV appeal, and this two-wheel-drive version won’t be too useful off-road. But, if you are looking for a self-driven compact luxury car, however, the V40 Cross Country has plenty to offer. Its radical and quite attractive shape is different from anything else around, it is comfortable on the inside and will come loaded to the gills with features and options. Performance is strong, stability is fantastic and it is fun to drive as well.

And it’s a Volvo, so it’s sure to be safe as a tank.