The V40 Cross Country’s offroad credentials are thin on the ground but Paul Acres finds there’s still more to this Volvo than just rugged good looks
The V40 Cross Country is Volvo’s attempt to grab a piece of the lucrative crossover pie and, despite the fact that the rugged looks are all show and no go –a 40mm increase in ride height is the only mechanical change over the standard model – I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my slice of the high(ish) life.
Visually the Cross Country is differentiated from its other family members by silver roof rails, a chunky front bumper with integrated LED lights, metal side sills and a new rear bumper with the Cross Country badge above the skid plate to create a more rugged image.
The only version of the V40 range with four-wheel-drive is the 250bhp 2.5-litre petrolengined T5 but, with so few people inclined to take their small crossovers off-road it’s easy to see why Volvo took the decision not to go down that route.
The Cross Country is very well bolted together, as you’d rightly expect, and there’s a list of safety features as long as your arm. As with the exterior, the cabin is standard Volvo fare, with the central floating console with its tasteful brushed metal look present and correct.
The Lux model comes with an impressive list of equipment which includes heated front seats, 17in alloy wheels, active xenon headlights, automatic wipers and cruise control.
Room in the rear is a little restricted and taller passengers could find longer stays in the back a tad uncomfortable. I think it would be fair to say that trying to squeeze three across the rear bench is far from ideal but that’s largely the case with many of the V40’s rivals in this class.
While the Cross Country might not possess the off-road prowess that its looks suggest, the changes to the suspension do improve the V40’s ride over our roads. At low speeds the chassis is particularly forgiving although there is the occasional thump as the pace picks up.
Impressively there’s little trade-off dynamically with only the slightest hint of body roll in corners as the accurate and nicely-weighted steering feeds useful information back to your fingertips. The chassis is nicely balanced and there’s a confidence-inspiring unity about the way the front and rear axles work together to combat understeer.
The engine, which produces 148bhp and 236lbft of torque, is punchy and responsive and well suited to the Cross Country’s personality. Refinement is decent and, even under hard acceleration, the engine remains unobtrusive while at cruising speeds it becomes barely audible.
What it all boils down to is a comfortable, capable and accommodating drive. The beefed-up look costs about £1,000 over the standard model and, if you bear in mind those modifications are largely cosmetic it might make that additional outlay appear unreasonable but when you factor in the improved ride and handling that premium suddenly makes a lot more sense.