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Review: Volvo V40 Cross Country

Driven August 2013

Review: Volvo V40 Cross Country

In India, it’s been a while since the Swedes concocted a four-wheeled formula worthy of a win against stiff competition from the parts of Europe collectively known in the automotive world as Germany. The Volvo army has always looked prepped for the challenge, but on the field, as time has shown, this European battle was anything but hard fought – it all boiled down to the company’s insufficient number of dealerships.

The Volvo V40 Cross Country proves to be yet another potent explosive in the Swedish carmaker's artillery, and with good reason. At first glance, the V40 will definitely put a smile on your face. It’s got aggressive headlamps, a handsomely long, protruding bonnet, and a steeply-raked windscreen.

Adding further sporty intent to the car’s appearance are small roof rails that flow seamlessly to the Volvo’s beautifully sculpted posterior. There’s also lots of plastic cladding on the front and rear bumpers and the side-skirts to save the panels from denting whenever it goes off tarmac. The overall look may not be all that new, but the V40 most certainly looks unique on the road, and grabs as much attention as… well, any curvaceous Swedish beauty would when she strolled down the street.

Open the keyless-entry doors and get into the driver’s seat, and you feel as though you’ve settled into a sportscar – with that long dashboard and the bonnet. Up front, there’s a high floating two-tone brown-and-beige dashboard with silver plastic inserts all around, comfortable, electric-powered leather seats and a simple layout to the entertainment, air-con and vehicle configuration console. The seats at the back are as welcoming as those in front, but on long drives, the less-than-ideal under-thigh support will prove unwelcome.

Volvo claims the V40 is a five-seater. However, we would recommend you deduct one from that equation for the sake of comfort since the centre seat is uncomfortable, mainly  because of that hard backrest and the driveshaft tunnel intruding into foot space. Even with its low-slung design, headroom is sufficient for most passengers, unless they are over six feet.

Behind the chunky steering wheel lies a large, red backlit tachometer, which is the centre of attention on the instrument fascia, with a digital speedo readout in the middle. There’s loads of other information on display as well, such as trip and fuel consumption readings and a gauge that shows you the level of pressure on the accelerator pedal, along with other vehicle settings. Plenty of technology goodies too – climate control, fixed sunroof, heated seats, cruise control and safety equipment including ABS, EBD, ESP, eight airbags, rear wiper and a rear camera with parking sensors.

The V40’s build quality is fantastic and on par with the other top European brands. Interior quality and design here is definitely above average, but not the best. The 320+ litre boot and split-folding rear seats can accommodate a lot, but sadly, the Cross Country comes only with a puncture repair kit – there's no spare tyre. 

The car has a five-cylinder 1,984cc D3 motor mated to the responsive six-speed auto 'box. It develops 148bhp and 350Nm of torque. There is a hint of turbo lag initially, but just like a sleeping canine that’s suddenly been woken up by an exploding cracker, the V40 shakes it off and is on the charge.

Stick the transparent LED-lit gear leaver in ‘S’ or Sport mode, give it some stick, and the V40 holds on to each gear up to the 5,000rpm mark with a resounding battle cry from its chrome-tipped dual exhausts. There’s not much diesel engine grunt entering the cabin at low revs, but engine noise does increase past 3,000rpm, which is partially acceptable considering it’s around that point that a real sense of urgency kicks in with the motor.

With 225/50 R17 Michelin shoes on, the V40 feels firmly planted in a straight line at any speed, it’s just that the feel of the electric steering weighs up much better on the bends. Ride quality is a bit bumpy at low speeds thanks to the stiff suspension and 2,646mm wheelbase, but pick up the pace to around 60kph and this is negated. The V40 is one of those cars you don’t mind driving all day long because you’ll still be fresh enough to paint the town red at night. And its audio system sounds good enough to make even some cranky House music sound good.

The Volvo V40 Cross Country comes across as a very unconventional car from a company seemingly shackled by ‘safety’ chains. Once more, the Swedes have put forth a worthy challenger in an effort to pull the crowds away from the Germans, this time in the guise of a soft-roader hatch. The Cross Country shows its winning potential by ticking a lot of boxes across a range of categories that will appeal to potential buyers. All the Swedes need now is for their sales and service department to catch up.

The numbers
5cyl, 1,984cc, diesel, 148bhp, 350Nm, 6A, FWD, 0-100kph – 9.3s (claimed), 1,578kg, 14kpl (est), Rs 28.5 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi)

The verdict
Not exactly a spacious car, but balanced by sorted driving dynamics. And with the Volvo badge, safety is up there with the best.

Christopher Chaves

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