Volvo V40 Cross Country review – D2 and T5 editions

6 February 2013

Volvo V40 Cross Country T5 AWD

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Good: Superb interior
Bad: Suspect exterior
Price: from £22,595
If I handed out a GreenMotor car-of-the-year prize, which I don’t, Volvo’s excellent V40 hatchback would be in with a loud shout for the 2013 title. While it isn’t perfect (the Swedish engineers stopped halfway through moving everything over for right-hand drive, for example) it is nonetheless entirely sublime. A beautiful interior, some frugal engines, outstanding safety tech and delightful details combine to create a sum far beyond the component parts.

If I were to change something about the V40 to improve it, I’d start with an electronic handbrake, then add an auto gearbox for the D2 diesel engine, then squeeze in a few careful tweaks to the instrument-cluster software. I don’t think it would ever occur to me to jack the car up by 40mm and add roof rails and plastic skid-plates.

But that is exactly what Volvo has done to create the new V40 Cross Country.

Volvo V40 Cross Country T5 side view

To be fair, the Swedes have also bolted together some actual 4x4 hardware for the V40, which I recommend to those people who dread the prospect of sitting, front wheels spinning, surrounded by an inch of snow, in a car that looks like it ought to cope, thus suggesting that the driver is a clot.

The snag with opting for all-wheel-drive is that it narrows the choice of engine somewhat. By which I mean it narrows the range entirely down to one – the T5 petrol. All the other engine options – D2, D3 and D4 diesels plus the T4 petrol – are resolutely front-wheel drive.

The T5 AWD (the silver car pictured) is actually a fine car that is very easy to live with, particularly as it comes only as an automatic. The 2.5-litre, five-cylinder engine sounds fabulously gruff yet melodious when roused – like a male-voice choir being paid by the note. The six-speed auto picks sensible gears very smoothly and will kick down promptly when asked. And very much to the point, the T5 won’t strand you if you accidentally do as I did, and mistake a roadside ditch for a grass verge.

Volvo V40 Cross Country interior

The T5 will also dart to 62mph in just 6.4 seconds, thrust along by 254 horsepower, and will zip around corners without a trace of roly-poly wobble.

The creepy-crawly in the ointment becomes apparent every time you glance at the fuel gauge, however, given that you will probably find it resting on empty. The best the four-paw T5 can manage in the official consumption test is a pitiful 36mpg, coupled with 194g/km of CO2.

Volvo V40 Cross Country instruments

And then there’s the price. The V40 T5 AWD Geartronic Cross Country Lux Nav, to give it full billing, has a starting price of £33,875. And that’s plenty enough to go shopping for a Land Rover Freelander.

At the other end of the Cross Country spectrum lies the D2 edition in SE trim – the red car pictured – which offers most of the many virtues of the standard V40 D2, slightly higher up in the air. The raised ride height, chunky 17-inch wheels and roof bars add a few grams to the CO2 score, but the base-model Cross Country still manages to slip through the test at 99g/km and 74.3mpg. And it starts at a more reasonable £22,595 – just £1,000 more than the equivalent ordinary D2 SE.

Volvo V40 Cross Country D2 front view

On the road the D2 Cross Country feels sluggish compared to the admittedly blistering T5, requiring some forethought about gears before venturing up steep hills, even when lightly loaded. Fortunately, the six-slot manual gearbox is clean-shifting and the clutch action smooth and positive. On the flat, 62mph will come up after 11.9 seconds of concerted effort, with the 1.6-litre motor able to muster 115bhp and 270Nm of torque.

Diesel drone is noticeable when the engine works hard, but always falls within tolerable limits, and I suspect tyre roar at speed is a tad worse than in the standard car. But all in all the D2 Cross Country remains a thoroughly pleasant and rewarding car to drive, with a uniquely inviting interior.

Volvo V40 Cross Country D2 side view

Which leaves the question of the point of it all. I very much like the standard V40 D2, and the Cross Country version is almost its equal, but costs more. So the appeal of the Cross Country, T5 version aside, rests entirely on whether you like the off-road stance enough to spend substantial money acquiring it.

It is also worth noting that even the 4x4 version of the V40 Cross Country is not labelled XC40. No doubt another small car will arrive from Gothenburg in due course, bearing that badge and boasting a taller body with more varied four-wheel-drive options. If you’re in the market for this kind of Volvo, it might be worth waiting a while.

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