The Sun (Malaysia)
Despite its shortcomings, there is so much to like about Volvo’s hatchback
AFTER the 122 Amazon, almost every Volvo which rolled out of the company’s production line ended up being big, bulky, boxy, and lacked the visual appeal their rivals had. As safe and reliable as they were, Volvos only attracted customers who were at least 30-years of age.
However, it all changed when the brand unveiled the C30 in 2008. Since then, every car that the Swedish marque unleashed kept looking better and better, regardless of whether it was a wagon, a sedan, or a hatchback.
That being said, we managed to get our hands on one of the brand’s best looking cars in the stable at the moment – the V40 T5 Cross Country, to find out if it performs as good as it looks.
EVERY car brand has its own strength. While Mercedes-Benz is known for luxury, BMW is known for making cars that are really fun to drive, there are also brands like Audi that is known for its build quality, Saab for its stock turbochargers, Citroen for its complexity, and of course, Volvo, which is synonymous with one aspect – safety.
The Swedish marque might not be known for producing the most exciting cars on the market, but we can rest assured that what the brand offers in terms of safety and reliability is top notch. Many of Volvo’s recent models have received full five stars in the Euro NCAP crash test. In fact, these models were even rated as the safest cars Euro NCAP has ever tested.
As safe and reliable as Volvos were, they also had a weakness – the rather ‘traditional’ sense of design. More often than not, these cars appealed to buyers who were 30-years of age or older. In fact, the first thing that would come to mind when one mentions “Volvo” is probably the boxy 240 or the 940. After the glory days of the Amazon, almost every Volvo that made it to the production line was bulky and lacked the visual appeal many of their European rivals had.
And then came the C30 hatchback in 2008 after a few decades of “bulkiness”. The hot hatch took the world by storm as it looked like no other Volvo of recent times. After a long time, the term ‘sportiness’ and Volvo could be placed in the same sentence. Following the C30 were models like the V60, S60 sedan, the V40, and SUVs like the XC90; all of which had a generous dose of curvy character lines, and an attractive design philosophy. Volvo had finally stepped up its game.
That said, the model which we got our hands on recently was the V40 Cross Country T5. Compared to the base V40, the Cross Country is essentially all about style. Volvo has integrated the additional bodywork such as silver roof rails, a chunky black plastic front bumper with built-in LED daytime running lights, metal side sills, a new rear bumper, metal skid plates, and of course, the raised ride height by 40mm. The aim here was to give the hatchback characteristics of an SUV, at least in terms of looks.
As far as its abilities are concerned, it is still a car and the most you would want to do with this car is drive it through gravel. The extra 40mm of suspension height does make a difference, helping the car to float over small imperfections, round off bigger jolts, and tackle bad village roads, but by no means was it an off-roader.
On the road, however, it was more potent than we expected, and continued to gather speed smoothly right up to redline. When we switched over to ‘Sport’ mode, everything felt sharper, namely the gearshifts, as well as the throttle response.
The suspension setup borders between sportiness and comfort, and felt a little too firm at times. While the front end felt balanced, but the rear felt decidedly tauter and thumped over larger, sharper road imperfections. Overall, it was never too harsh though, and felt comfortable even with four adults on board.
As far as the V40’s interior is concerned, build quality and comfort level was top notch, but the car felt too compact for our liking, as tall occupants would have issues with head space in front, and leg space in the rear. The driving position and visibility were both excellent, thanks to the slightly higher ride height, and the cleverly positioned pillars that didn’t obstruct the view.
As you would expect, the V40 Cross Country is loaded with safety inclusions, with features like the City Safety automated braking up to 50km/h, Pedestrian Airbag System, Dynamic Stability and Traction Control, Advanced Stability Control, Corner Traction Control, ABS with Ready Alert Brakes, Hydraulic Brake Assist, EBD, Emergency Brake Assist, emergency brake lights with hazard activation, and Intelligent Driver Information System among many more.
There’s plenty of tech in terms of driver infotainment too, with an easy to set up and easy to use Bluetooth phone connection heading the list. Buyers new to Volvo might find the command system a little strange to begin with, but once mastered, it was quite easy to operate.
Going against models like the Volkswagen Golf GTI and the Mercedes-Benz A-Class, Volvo’s V40 Cross Country has its strengths and shortcomings. While it is not the most spacious or the best driving car in its segment, it is definitely among the most eyecatching, and without a doubt, the safest.
The extra 40mm of suspension height does make a difference.