4×4 reviews: Volvo V40 T4 SE

I was inspired to review the new Volvo V40 Cross Country by a flyer from my local dealer offering a test drive.

I assumed that the new car would have 4WD, but it is merely branded “Cross Country” with front-wheel drive only.

Volvo’s 250bhp V40 R–Design model does have 4WD, and I’m told that it might become an option for the V40 Cross Country, but not yet.

That’s a pity, because the V40 T4 is a great little car within the quality hatchback and estate market in which it competes, but as a shooting car I found it to be compromised by its lack of both space and off-road ability.

The striking test car — in a metallic beige colour that Volvo calls raw copper — was the top of the Cross Country range, fitted with Volvo’s punchy T4 1.6-litre, four-cylinder, double overhead camshaft, turbocharged petrol engine.

This develops 180bhp at 5,700rpm and 177lb/ft of torque from 1,500–5,000rpm, returning a maker’s combined cycle fuel consumption of 51.4mpg, and emitting 129g/km of CO2.

I liked the T4 engine’s smooth power delivery combined with its slick six-speed manual gear change, and its flexibility enables one to pull away vigorously from low speeds in third or even fourth gear, making it a pleasure to drive in busy traffic.

It’s no slouch either — 0-60mph takes 7.4 seconds, strong mid-range acceleration enables swift overtaking, and at 70mph in sixth gear, the engine spins at a miserly 2,200rpm, making for relaxed and economical motorway cruising.

Though the engine is quiet, I noticed on coarser surfaces that road noise can be obtrusive.

The V40 Cross Country is comfortable and fun to drive, with taut handling, and its longer suspension gives it a more refined and absorbent ride than the standard lower-slung and harder-riding models.

This is in spite of the test car being equipped with snazzy but vulnerable alloy wheels and low-profile tyres, both of which are impractical for a car labelled “Cross Country”, but full of urban chic, which is appropriate for the younger market at which it is really aimed.

The rear seats are too cramped for tall adults, but they quickly fold flat to provide a useful extra load area.

The neat fascia has a central “infotainment” screen, and comes fully equipped with satnav, radio, CD, iPod input and Bluetooth, all controlled by a small knurled control on the steering wheel.

The main instrument panel is a departure from my preferred white-on-black rev counter and speedometer dials, with smaller gauges for coolant and fuel.

Instead, the speedometer dominates the binnacle, with the rev counter reduced to a small needle to its right, plus white bars for fuel and temperature and a numerical reminder of which gear you are in.

It’s all a bit over-stylised and, more to the point, offers no improvement in clarity of information.

CONCLUSION

The V40 Cross Country is something of a sheep in wolf’s clothing — with its slightly raised suspension and some rugged styling cues, it is trying to look like a crossover, but it isn’t one.

“Cross Country” is a misnomer, as it has no off-road ability, and it is too short on space to be a serious shoot car.

You can just about squeeze a sleeved gun diagonally across the 335-litre boot which, after you’ve loaded an overnight bag, cartridges, boots and the rest of your shooting kit, is full up.

In comparison with the £27,930 list price of the front-wheel-drive V40 CC on test, the 4WD BMW X1 xDrive18d costs £26,460, while the 4WD Hyundai ix35 2.0 CRDi starts at £21,700, and I would consider these models, and others, rather than the Volvo if you’re in the market for a 4WD sporty crossover hatchback.