7

10

Model

Cross Country

Price

$52,990

The Numbers

2497cc 5cyl, AWD, 187kW, 360Nm, 8.4L/100km, 196g/km CO2, 0–100km/h in 6.4secs, 210km/h, 1588kg

The Topgear Verdict

Looks tougher than the stock V40, and is marginally more capable in the rough, especially the AWD T5. But not really an off-roader at all.

2013 Volvo V40 Cross Country

We thought we knew what a niche was. (No, not Sean Connery’s brother’s daughter.) In Oz, carmakers have been identifying – and occasionally creating – niches for new models and variants for years; as a result, we’re now one of the most fragmented motoring markets on the planet: 256 passenger models for around 18 million driving adults.

The V40 Cross Country seems aimed at a wafer-thin niche: people who want a hatch, not a micro-SUV, but who want the capability to drive up a mountain in the event of a zombie apocalypse. Sort of like the Mini Countryman – except Mini had to slice about five grand off the price to revive moribund sales. Why would Volvo wade into that tepid pool of driving desire?

The V40 Cross Country sits 40mm higher than the ordinary V40. But there’s only 12mm of extra ground clearance. Does that really make it “cross country” material?

The T5 has all-wheel drive, but somehow doesn’t feel quite as spicy as the 187kW on the brochure would suggest. The D4 turns out more torque and pulls at the reins with a charming urgency, but is front-wheel drive only. Oh, the horns of a dilemma! Which one is best for driving up a gravel drive? That’s probably the only off-roading this not-especially-bad boy is likely to face.

Inside, there’s a copper-coloured tint to the console, and brown stitching, because… I don’t know, because the outdoors is dirt-coloured I guess. It’s roomy and comfy in the front, but the back seat is peculiar: a bit squeezy for adults, but the window line is too high for kids. So you could have uncomfortable grown-ups who can see out, or comfy kids who can’t. Maybe it’s for ferrying jockeys around.

I’m being sort of cruel to the poor V40 Cross Country. It’s a very pleasant ride, well kitted-out inside – it only comes in Luxury spec, and the interior is a leather-clad delight – and it’s a fine steed for the hills outside Canberra on the way to a winery for lunch, which is where we drove it: a couple of dirt roads, but nothing an ordinary V40 couldn’t handle. Do you really want to spend three grand over the top of an ordinary V40 for 12mm of clearance and a couple of scuff plates? And for what? To look intrepid? If I saw two blokes driving the Bulman Track, one in a Land Rover and the other in a Camry, I’d hand the Balls Of Steel Award to the Camry bloke. If you want to look intrepid, buy an ordinary V40 and go off-roading in it. And for all the times you’re just driving around town – aka all the time – you don’t look like a person who wears a leather Akubra with plastic croc teeth on it… an outback faker.

Reviewed by: Tim Keen

Driven: September 09, 2013