The chunky appearance of off-roaders is a big plus point for a lot of car buyers, but not all of them want or need four-wheel-drive vehicles.
Volvo’s V40 Cross Country models offer the 4x4 look without the four-wheel-drive capability, which is exactly what a lot of motorists are seeking.
The Cross Country is loosely based on the popular V40 hatchback and is available with a wide choice of both petrol and diesel engines, including the company’s best selling 1.6-litre D2 model.
All but one version come with front-wheel-drive only. The exception that breaks the rule is the T5 hot hatch model, which not only looks like it should have all-wheel-drive but actually does.
The D2 Cross Country, on the other hand, talks the talk but can’t actually walk the walk. No super 4x4 grip here for when the going gets really tough.
That said the D2 has a lot going for it and cosmetically looks virtually identical to the T5 Cross Country.
It’s one of the most refined 1.6-litre cars I have driven. Sit back at speed on the motorway and the ride, comfort and noise level are on a par with executive saloons costing twice the price.
The steering is positive but on the light side, the gearbox one of the smoothest around and the clutch is probably the lightest of any car I have driven all year. And the bonus is this car will average more than 70 miles per gallon and runs so cleanly you don’t have to pay a penny road tax. In fact for some days I was convinced the fuel gauge on my D2 test car was broken because it barely moved.
All Cross Country models not only look different to the V40 hatch but have a higher suspension, giving them more ground clearance – up to 40mm higher depending upon model. Suspension apart, the differences between a standard V40 and a Cross Country version is purely cosmetic, designed to give it that tougher look.
With the exception of the T5 Cross Country what you see is what you get. The front bumper has been re-designed to incorporate black bumper inserts, housing new vertical daylight running lights and is fitted with a front skid plate. There is also a larger honeycomb grille.
The rear bumper also has lower black inserts as well as a silver-coloured plastic skid plate with ‘Cross Country’ moulded into it.
The side sills too get the Cross Country treatment and are covered in the same black moulded material as fitted to the front and rear bumpers.
The interior of the car is clean cut and stylish with a host of nice features like subtle blue lighting which illuminates the cabin just enough after dark without becoming a distraction. There’s even an illuminated gearshift.
I also liked the dashboard layout which offers drivers the choice of three different types of graphic display. Select “Sport” and you get a virtual dial immediately in front of you featuring a large digital readout in the centre with the rev counter encircling it, all illuminated in bright red.
The D2 version is likely to account for a hefty 60 per cent of all Cross Country models, mainly because of its price and frugal running costs. It may not have the punch and grip of the T5 Cross Country but it doesn’t have its £34,000 price tag either – and visually few people will notice the difference.
Model: Volvo V40 D2 Cross Country
Mechanical: 1560cc, 115 bhp, 4 cyl diesel engine driving front wheels via 6spd manual gearbox.
Max speed: 115 mph
0-60mph : 11.9 secs
Combined mpg: 74.3
CO2 emissions: 99g/km
Warranty: 3 years/60,000 miles