This test came about quite by accident but it seemed such a good opportunity I couldn’t resist. My wife’s car was garaged for a minor repair and I volunteered – I say volunteer but press-ganged is closer to the truth – to sit and wait for it to be done. Long story short, the garage messed up, the part was late, they arranged a courtesy car, I did a road test and hopefully you are reading the results rather than just turning the page.
So what’s the verdict on the Volvo V40 Cross Country? Well it’s the smallest of the estates in the Volvo range so don’t expect the cavernous interior that traditionally accompanies the words “Volvo” and “Estate”. To be ruthlessly honest it’s a little disappointing in terms of space. There’s plenty of room when you’re sitting up front but the further back you move the more you feel like you’re being squeezed through a tube of toothpaste. Rear headroom is somewhat restricted by the slope of the roof and the luggage space is a bit too narrow. There’s a sense that Volvo have taken the decision to forgo space in favour of looks and design.
As it transpires that was a good decision because the V40 is much better looking than the larger V60 and V70 models in the range. It’s a sleek design that looks particularly good in grey. It’s understated and elegant and because it’s smaller it looks clean and contemporary. The Cross Country variant adds larger bumpers and scuff plates, roof rails and raised suspension but rather than spoiling the look it wears the additional robustness well. The standard V40 has a tendency to be a bit too firm on the road so the extra height on the suspension of the Cross Country is an excellent idea. Yes, it raises ground clearance but the V40 isn’t really an off road car so that’s largely irrelevant. What the extra springiness really brings is a much more comfortable ride and improved view of the road and for that reason alone it’s infinitely nicer to drive than the standard car.
The interior design is shared across the V40 range and it’s fair to expect a certain touch of luxury. The leather seats are as comfortable as that battered old armchair you refuse to get rid of and the cabin is well laid out. In typical Volvo fashion the buttons can be a bit crowded and fiddly but as a regular Volvo driver I know that you may not like it but you eventually learn to live with it. Volvo predominately aim for the premium market and the V40 is intended to take on the likes of the BMW 1-Series, Audi A3 and VW Golf and interior wise they’re doing a pretty good job. Fiddly bits aside it feels solid and well built and easily comparable with the Germans. The only thing that drove me mad was the brushed metal finish on the trim that looks lovely until you accidentally catch your fingernails on it while changing gear. If you can drag your fingernails down a blackboard without driving yourself barmy you’ll be fine with it, if you’re human you’ll hate it. Thankfully there are alternate finishes to choose from.
The Volvo comes with a few engine options but the consensus seems to be that the D2 is the one to go for and I’m inclined to agree. To be fair the engine choices don’t make much sense but they are what they are. The Cross Country SE is only available with a 1969cc diesel which is tuned to 3 different specifications: The D2 is the lowest option with 120bhp, the D3 has 150bhp and the D4 has 190bhp. This isn’t a car that requires massive chunks of power and the D2 is more than capable of delivering everything you need for everyday driving. I can’t see a compelling reason to opt for the higher fuel consumption and increased purchase price that comes with the other options when the D2 is more than sufficient.
Speaking of purchase price, that’s the unfortunate question mark hanging over the V40. I know we have to bear in mind the premium nature of the D2 Cross Country SE but with an OTR price that’s only half a tank of fuel short of £24,000 you have to ask where the value is? If you get carried away with the options list there’s only one way that price tag is heading and your wallet may not appreciate the extra demands. Yes it’s well equipped, good looking and comfortable but that’s a big chunk of cash for a car that’s not really any better than the alternatives and in some cases it might actually be worse. It’s not that the Volvo is in any way a bad car, it’s just that I’m not convinced it’s as good as the price tag would have you believe.