What is it?
What you need to know first about this, the Volvo V40 Cross Country, is that unless you order it as a range-topping, £33,975 T5 with a 247bhp turbocharged petrol engine, it comes only as a two-wheel-drive car, and is therefore no more able to cross a ploughed field than the standard V40. Unless its raised right height happens to prove advantageous.
Sill protectors and plastiminium skid plates you may get, but this is barely a mild off-roader, never mind something for venturing mud-wards when the asphalt runs out. There is, however, a useful advantage to choosing the faux off-roader version of the Volvo V40, which we’ll come to.
The Cross Country package costs £1000 more for the two-wheel-drive version, for which you get a car that rides 40mm higher and looks a little tougher than the stock V40, what with its standard-fit roof rails, a rear bumper with in-built (plastic) skid plate, a front bumper flaunting a much more emphatic lower air intake, upright LED running lights and plastic sill extensions.
Inside, there’s attractive upholstery of rather more robust texture than usual, but little else to differentiate this Cross Country species. All of which looks rather slight compared with the reconfiguring of the bigger V70 Cross Country that established the genre back in 1997, that car providing standard all-wheel drive and a generally more thoughtfully provisioned specification.
Consider the Cross Country package as merely a dress-up kit for the V40 and you’ll be less disappointed.
What's it like?
The upside of the new suspension set-up is that it’s better suited to Britain’s neglected roads, with the V40’s low-speed ride proving exceptionally pliant. Oddly, it occasionally thumps at higher speeds, but for the most part this is a very comfortable car.
There’s little penalty to pay in terms of dynamic prowess, either. You soon get used to the body’s well controlled, settling tilt on turn-in, after which the Cross Country spears bends with satisfying accuracy, aided by a back axle that you can feel working with the front to beat understeer. And that’s a rare sensation in a Volvo. The steering is accurate and adequately feelsome too, even if its lock isn’t up to Volvo’s usual standards.
All of which makes this car quite an enjoyable drive – on asphalt, at least. It's also a decently brisk one in the case of the 148bhp diesel D3 sampled here, with itss 2.0-litre engine yielding a stout 258lb ft shot of torque from a fairly low 1500rpm to provide some pleasingly strong zest.
Less impressive is the diesel’s subtle but perpetual clatter, and there’s enough commotion of motion at motorway speeds to have you stabbing the stereo’s volume control. It certainly isn’t noisy, but a Volkswagen Golf is distinctly more restful.
Still, the V40 is civil in other respects, not least its cabin furnishings, which are robustly finished and elegant in Volvo’s pleasingly spare Scandinavian style. The optional textured copper finish for the centre console (not present on the test car) is particularly appealing.