2015 Volvo V40 Cross Country Review

Rating: 8.0
$25,530 $30,360 Dealer
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Volvo's entry into the compact SUV class has been revised for 2015 with a new engine and new gearbox. We're testing the V40 Cross Country in T5 guise.
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The 2015 Volvo V40 Cross Country is an interesting beast. Firstly, it’s only available in AWD when you opt for – and pay the requisite premium – for the range-topping T5 model despite Volvo claiming it’s an ‘SUV’. That’s exactly what we have on test in the CarAdvice garage for the week, the T5.

Technically, it’s called a Volvo V40 Cross Country T5 Luxury AWD. It’s just as well we have the AWD variant too, because I struggle to accept that anything with a 2WD platform, such as the D4 variant, should even be called an SUV. Let alone badged as Cross Country.

Anthony was impressed and scored the V40 Cross Country an eight out of ten at the launch of the previous model in 2013. While he also wondered about the 2WD underpinnings of the base model, he was impressed by the V40 Cross Country’s broad portfolio of abilities and creature comforts. Let’s see if a new engine, transmission and a week behind the wheel of the new model can dull any of that initial appeal…

There might be a cheaper variant in the V40 Cross Country range (the D4 starts from $47,990 plus on-road costs) but the T5, which starts from $52,990 plus on-road costs, is the one you have to have the way we see it. Even more so if you plan on exploring the depths of the optimistic ‘Cross Country’ nameplate. Cross Garden perhaps?

As before, there remains a slight premium for the step up to Cross Country from the V40 on which the high-riding model is based. A V40 T5 R Design starts at $49,990 compared to the $52,990 V40 T5 Cross Country we have here, while a V40 D4 Luxury starts at $46,490 compared to the V40 Cross Country D4 Luxury, which starts at $47,990.

For that nominal cost increase you get a jacked-up ride height (40mm higher), slightly more useful ground clearance because of it, and more purposeful black plastic trim designed to better cope with abuse when you’re, you know, going cross country.

So, here we have the V40 Cross Country T5 starting at the aforementioned $52,990. Strangely the 5 no longer represents five cylinders. The all-new engine is, in fact, a four-cylinder.

Our test model is lightly optioned (in Euro terms) with heated front seats ($375), panoramic tinted glass sunroof ($2650) and metallic paint ($1750). That takes the price to $57,765 plus on-road and dealer costs. What is interesting about the two-variant range is the fact that both come in top specification only, so both are effectively ‘Luxury’ models. On face value looking at those options, the heated seats seem cheap, while the metallic paint seems expensive. The sunroof might cost a bomb too, but it absolutely helps to give the cabin a light, airy feel.

As you’d expect, the V40 Cross Country is loaded with a full suite of tech heavy safety inclusions. Highlights are numerous, but include City Safety automated braking up to 50km/h, Pedestrian Airbag System, Dynamic Stability and Traction Control, Advanced Stability Control, Corner Traction Control, ABS with Ready Alert Brakes, Hydraulic Brake Assist, EBD, Emergency Brake Assist, emergency brake lights with hazard activation, two-stage driver and front passenger airbags, Roll Over Protection System with inflatable curtains, Side Impact Protection System including SIPS airbags in front seats, driver’s knee airbag, Whiplash Protection System, Intelligent Driver Information System, cruise control, rear parking sensors, rear parking camera, rain sensing wipers and auto lights.

There’s plenty of tech in terms of driver infotainment too, with an easy to set up and easy to use Bluetooth phone connection heading the list. Buyers new to Volvo might find the command system a little strange to begin with, but once mastered, it is quite intuitive. The 7.0-inch colour screen is clear and easy to view, with Bluetooth audio streaming equally easy to access once your device is paired. The screen itself does look a little old tech if you want to be picky though. The eight-speaker system can pump out loud music without losing clarity and full USB input connectivity means your auxiliary audio device can be utilised.

The steering wheel-mounted controls never get in the way of driving, which is a positive, but they are also easy to use when you need to access them as well. Internet connectivity and in-car web-based apps add to the flexibility, while the Volvo Sensus satellite navigation system is accurate and fast. The system features voice control, meaning you can issue commands on the fly. I only tried that part of the system twice and it worked flawlessly both times.

Under the stubby bonnet, there’s a new and impressive 1969cc four-cylinder engine, and thanks to efficient turbocharging, the compact powerplant churns out 180kW at 5500rpm and 350Nm between 1500-4800rpm. The engine is mated to Volvo’s smooth eight-speed Geartronic automatic with sport mode. As tested, the V40 Cross Country weighs 1588kg and Volvo quotes a 0-100km/h time of 6.1seconds along with a top speed of 210km/h.

The engine uses an ADR claimed 8.4 litres/100km on the combined cycle. On test, covering just over 250km, we saw an indicated return of 9.9L/100km. That included a 100-kilometre freeway cruise in that total, but regardless, the real world return is impressively close to the theoretical claim.

Regardless of road speed, the four-cylinder is quite refined despite a little harshness at low speed. That disappears though once up to cruising speed. Even as you approach redline, it never shrieks in protest like many small capacity engines can. You can waft along the freeway with barely any engine noise entering the cabin at all. It’s serene – until you hit a section of coarse chip surface when a wall of tyre roar invades the cabin, but we’ll get to that later.

I didn’t like the stop/start system, so for much of my test period, I deactivated it. I found it tardy to kick back into life and not as seamless as I’d ideally like especially when I needed to dart across traffic into a side street. Some drivers won’t mind it, but I’m not one of them. In fact, you may very well get used to it and adapt your technique to drive around it, the longer you spend beyond the wheel. Around town though, I like the snappy throttle response.

With the engine idling as normal and not shutting down constantly, there’s a smooth idle around town and just a gradual increase in volume as you roll on the throttle. The surge of torque on offer from the engine kicks in at a low 1500rpm and keeps working until 4800rpm, which will be right where you start reaching the speed limit around town, so you could say the Volvo delivers exactly what you need, exactly where you need it. The torque also means the V40 is quite rapid too, there’s a surprising turn of speed, even when you need to roll-on overtake on the freeway. Knock the shifter over into sport mode and there’s even faster gearshifts on offer, crisp and precise.

Where the torque would be too much for the front wheels alone, especially on a slick surface, the AWD system beneath the V40 does a fantastic job of keeping everything under control and transferring power to the ground efficiently. It’s a reassuring experience regardless of road surface and rapid acceleration is never accompanied by any nasty torque steer.

The interior is compact but comfortable, and is assisted by the aforementioned skylight roof panel. I couldn’t spend long in the second row behind my own driving position, but shorter CarAdvice team members loved the comfort of the sculpted rear seats. As far as compact hatch designs go, the V40 Cross Country is par for the course in terms of the space on offer. The luggage area is equally compact, even by small car standards, but it will suit anyone who doesn’t need to haul loads of gear around often.

The driving position and visibility are both excellent, with the slightly higher ride height helping here and cleverly positioned pillars not obstructing the view forward either. Rearward visibility through the interior mirror is compromised by the small glass area at the rear of the V40. You can seat yourself high in the cabin, or drop right down into it, depending on your preference, but whatever you choose, the driving position is near perfect behind the wheel of the V40 Cross Country. Numerous CarAdvice testers reported that they didn’t need to compromise visibility to get comfortable.

Access to the major controls is well designed and you’re never reaching to adjust settings on the infotainment system, the satellite navigation or the air conditioning.

The engine’s punchy delivery means the V40 Cross Country is initially a surprise when you’re driving. It’s more potent than you expect, and continues to gather speed smoothly right up to redline. Switch over to ‘Sport’ mode and everything feels sharper, namely the gearshifts, which are snappier. In our opinion though, Sport mode is probably a little too edgy for regular, urban use. The option is there though when you find some country backroads.

While the V40’s ‘Cross Country’ credentials are a little flimsy in a harsh environment like Australia, the hatch excels on-road. The suspension tune borders on the sporty edge of comfort, and can at times feel a little too firm. The front end is beautifully spring, but the rear feels decidedly more taut and can therefore thump over larger, sharper road imperfections. It’s never too harsh though, and around town the V40 Cross Country is comfortable even with four adults on board.

I went for a short jaunt down a well-graded dirt road that was a little damp and the V40 was sure-footed and balanced, soaking up consistent ruts comfortably enough. The front-end grip, while eventually feeling like it would understeer if you tried too hard, was confidence inspiring on the scrabbly surface.

Volvo doesn’t offer capped price servicing for the V40 Cross Country, but it is covered by a three-year, unlimited kilometre warranty and roadside assist for that period is included as well.

The V40 Cross Country delivers on a promise Volvo always seems to conjure up – that is a unique feel and flavour for what is effectively a small hatchback. The potency of the performance on offer counteracts the understated maturity of the elegant cabin design. If you’re in the market for a proper hot hatch, the V40 Cross Country isn’t for you. If you’re considering a powerful, refined runaround with luxury appeal, it very much is though.

Photography by Trent Nikolic