It’s the age of fusion. Consumers’ demands have evolved and so have the options available to them. And one of the most popular trends today is products which offer the best of many worlds. Crossovers are a result of this trend. These are regular cars that have the much-desired SUV look and feel, but come with very few SUV penalties; exactly why Volvo is in the process of readying its V40 Cross Country for sale in India. It’s targeted at the young-at-heart owner-drivers who are looking for something different.
The V40 competes with the likes of the Mercedes-Benz A-class and B-class and also the BMW X1 and Audi Q3 when Volvo begins to import them. The Gothenburg-based carmaker isn’t expecting any miracles. It’s well aware that the Cross Country will only appeal to those looking for luxury, features and style in a compact package. But is the V40 Cross Country attractive and feature-rich enough for the smartphone generation?
With regard to looks, Volvo has gotten it perfectly right. Our red V40 Cross Country regularly had people craning their necks to get a better look at the car and we got thumbs ups and smiles from total strangers all day. 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. An unpainted plastic cladding that runs around the car, faux scuff plates, both front and rear, and sleek roof rails gives it an off-roader presence. The Cross Country also gets 40mm more ground clearance and larger tyres than the regular V40 hatch.
The exterior build quality is as good as, if not better than most competitors from Germany, and it’s nice to see consistent gaps and seams all around. The cabin isn’t as flashy as the exterior however. The design is a lot more restrained here and the Volvo parts bin seems to have been thoroughly raided; not necessarily a bad thing as 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, like the floating centre console and the sculpted door-pads give the cabin a bit of a lift. Still, it’s not the kind of interiors that would give you feeling of luxury like an Audi cabin would. The bits which stand out are the shiny white central console and the transparent LED illuminated gear selector. Other unique bits include a frameless rear-view mirror and a massive full-length glass roof.
The V40’s seats have the trademark Volvo levels of comfort. There is fantastic support for your back and thighs and this is especially noticeable if you’ve just climbed out of another car. 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 futher. 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 more than promptly, 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, and then there’s no need to guess what fuel the car runs on.
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 – a mini-luxury in itself.
The Volvo V40 Cross Country isn’t for everyone. It doesn’t have the butch appeal of SUVs and the two-wheel drive version isn’t very useful off-road either. But it’s not a regular car either. Its design is different from most of its contemporaries and that is what helps it stand out. Moreover, its comfortable on the inside, is packed to the gills with features and is great fun to drive with strong, good performance. And of course, being a Volvo, safety levels are up there. Volvo has priced the V40 at Rs 28.5 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi).