Volvo has significantly raised the stakes with its new V40, tackling the German trio head-on with a hatch that stands out. And to broaden the appeal of the V40, a Cross Country or ‘activity’ model has been launched ahead of the SUV XC40’s launch in 2016.
What’s it about?Well, its for the driver who is a bit more adventurous and active, and needs a car that shows off that active streak. It offers slightly more practicality with some plastic and aluminum bits around the vehicle, protecting it should you venture off the tar road. It is the only vehicle of its kind in its class.
The lookThe ride height is raised by about 40mm from the standard vehicle, with dark contrasting bumpers, and aluminum skid plates and side-sills. There’s a different mesh grille and upright LED lights. It’s fairly standard stuff for these types of vehicles, but can look a bit ‘aftermarket-ish’, especially against bright colours.
Engine and gearboxEquipped with the D3 turbo diesel, the Cross Country did not lack power or torque. The 2 litre turbocharged 4-cylinder unit competes well, pushing out a familiar 110kW, with an impressive 350NM of torque, and it doesn’t sound rough on idle at all. The 6-speed gearbox does an excellent job of keeping the revs at the right range and I found it best leaving the gearbox to do its own thing. It’s a powerful engine and hauls the V40 along nicely, doing the weight of the vehicle justice, while returning reasonable fuel consumption. I averaged just over 7.6l/100km driving heavy highway and city routes.
DrivingThe daily drive is comfortable, due to the fatter rubber on the 17-inch rims, however the control-blade independent rear suspension setup did feel unsettled over sudden bumps and “jumped” a bit at low speeds. It was comfortable and quiet but was a bit more bouncy and wafty than the standard V40, which tends to happen with increased ride height. Interestingly, there isn’t an increase in wheel travel even though there’s increased ride height. A typical Volvo characteristic still alive in the V40 is the yo-yo feeling in the steering in corners, with detached feel (which is not something I was particularly enamored to!) Only the T5 is all-wheel drive, but you sacrifice fuel economy for that added grip which is probably not necessary.
The front-wheel drive unit squirms and tugs at the wheel when cornering or losing traction in sand. And these Cross Country-type vehicles rarely sport all-wheel drive as the front-wheel drive setup is good enough for what’s needed. I suspect only in colder climates where it snows does all-wheel drive make more sense. An impressive DSTC (Dynamic Stability Traction Control) system did a superb job of keeping the CC in line on gravel roads no matter how much torque the diesel engine threw down to the front wheels. Brakes did their job well and Volvo’s City Safety (monitors to stop the vehicle at speeds below 50km/h before a collision occurs) saved me in heavy stop-start traffic, by automatically braking the vehicle before it ran into the back of another car. A brilliant system that worked flawlessly, even though I wasn’t intentionally out to test it!
InteriorThe V40’s interior is typically ‘Volvo’. A simple layout with the familiar hangdown-gap dash as seen in the C30. The white stripe trim in my unit looked a bit tacky, but the ultra modern instrument binnacle with 3 different “looks” all but made up for that. These allow comfort, eco and sport “looks” in the dials that allude ever so slightly to the dials of competitor (cough MercedesBenz) vehicles, but they bring up different information and are fully digital. It looks ultra modern and gives the V40 something different in this category.
A host of standard features including Bluetooth, climate control and the usual Volvo safety systems are all standard. The view out the rear through the rather odd-shaped window is odd, let alone the difficult blind-spot view, which makes you crane your neck. Front seats are leather bound and comfortable, with a surprising amount of space for passengers in the rear. The boot isn’t big, but the seats fold flat and the CC also offers the option of a load net between driver and back seats keeping the Labrador from jumping through to the front seats.
OverallWith SUV’s becoming so close in ride and drive to city vehicles, these stick-on-activity vehicles are phasing out. I’d stick to the standard V40, as I don’t particularly care for the looks of the Cross Country, and feel a proper city SUV might actually be more practical in the long run. The standard V40 is a worthy competitor to the A3, 1 series and A-Class and the Cross Country only further widens that appeal to buyers who are more adventurous and don’t necessarily want an SUV. For those buyers, Volvo offers the Cross Country model in all engines and trim options!
Volvo V40 D3 Elite Cross-Country – R371 500
5yr/100 000km maintenance plan standard.
Also look atBMW X1 sDrive18 AT – 110kW/200NM – R375 000
Audi Q3 2TDI – 105kW/320NM – R370 000