The Volvo gods have smiled on me and after a media trip a fortnight ago to drive vehicles from this Swedish marque with their new-generation engines in France, I found myself testing the V40 Cross Country on Gauteng roads.
And while Gauteng scenery can’t compare to the south of France, it helped that I was now driving on the correct (left) side of the road and could relax and enjoy the car.
I drove the petrol-engined V40 T4 Cross Country Essential version selling for R326 400, which is the entry-level version (the car is also available in a more powerful T5 petrol derivative as well as D3 and D4 diesels).
Staid and boring this Volvo T4 certainly isn’t.
Swooping coupé-like styling has been merged with a raised ride height resulting in an eye-catching vehicle that wouldn’t look out of place with other well groomed vehicles belonging to the horsey set parked at the polo club. The XC has a slightly raised ride height of 12mm over the standard V40 hatch, which doesn’t make it a pukka SUV by any means, but does give it better ground clearance on dirt roads.
Plastic body panels and a skid plate add to the go-anywhere look and provide some peace of mind when driving on gravel where loose stones may be thrown up against the body.
SLICK AND SMOOTH
The T4 has a 1.6-litre turbopetrol four pushing 132kW and 270Nm and I would have bet my bottom dollar I was driving a larger-engined vehicle thanks to the advances in engine technology. The only drawback is some turbo lag on pullaway, but once this Swedish filly gets the bit between her teeth there’s no stopping her all the way up to 210km/h.
The six-speed manual gearbox is slick and smooth with well-matched gear ratios, and the ample 240Nm of torque - with another 30Nm available on overboost when needed - translates into effortless cruising.
We were unable to match the fuel consumption figures provided by Volvo, with our test vehicle using a little more than seven litres per 100km compared to the ultra-light 5.5 claimed. But I had stopped using the stop-start system after the V40 XC stalled on pullaway at a traffic light, causing traffic to back up behind me, and this would have affected the fuel consumption.
REFINED DRIVING EXPERIENCE
The V40 provides a refined driving experience with little road noise intruding, while roadholding and ride quality on tar roads are good; it soaks up most ripples and the low-profile tyres ensure sure-footed cornering. But the downside of the 50-profile tyres is that the Volvo doesn’t feel at home on rougher surfaces such as dirt roads, despite the extra 12mm of ride height, which makes the Cross Country badge a bit of a misnomer. Higher-profile tyres would certainly do much to give the car better dirt-road cred.
The cabin is modern and classy with the familiar floating console where the MyCar button is placed from which you can adjust a host of features such as My V40 (for disabling the DSTC for sports mode, using City Safety, Reduced Guard, Active Bending Lights), DRIVEe (for start/stop operation) and Settings (car settings, driver support settings, audio and climate settings).
All of this is easy to operate even while driving.
The radio/CD audio system has connections for USB, iPod and Bluetooth, while the Sensus infotainment system can also be accessed by pressing the end of the indicator stalk where the driver can choose between three graphic displays: Elegance, Eco and Performance, which change the instrument layout.
I must admit I spent quite some time playing with them before deciding the Elegance display with a two-tone silver and black background was my favourite. The Eco option is light green and has an Eco meter indicating when eco-driving is optimal.
For a surge of visual adrenalin, switch to the Performance display which has a red background with tachometer, while the speedo becomes a smaller digital display.
A neat feature is a power meter that informs you how much engine power is being used and how much is still available, while a dimming function makes it possible to change the colour intensity of all graphic themes.
The V40 Cross Country T4 Essential has all the nice-to-have features such as as electric adjustable seating, satellite controls on the steering wheel for the menu, and climate control. But some of the other really-nice-to-have-features such as Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keeping Aid and Blind Spot Information System come with an additional price tag as optional extras.
Rear passengers are well catered for with cupholders in the centre console that pop out at a tug of a strap, as well as an armrest that folds down. Rear leg-and headroom is also quite good.
The T4’s diesel sibling, the V40 D3 has just been named as one of the nine finalists for the Car of the Year, which indicates how highly the V40 is rated by fellow journalists. The V40 Cross Country comes with all the traditional Volvo traits such as outstanding safety features, as well as good build quality and great looks. Would I like one in my garage? Is the Pope a Catholic? - Star Motoring