Tested: Volvo V40 Cross Country D4

The plastic-clad hellraiser

Add a big Diesel engine to a small car, tweak it with a turbo, raise the suspension a wee bit, clad it in a bit of plastic and voila – a spunky softroader is born. Volvo, what have you done?

I’m normally a huge fan of everything Volvo related – the styling of their new models, the quality of the materials, the driveability of the cars, the fantastic interiors and the ability to really make your car as unique as you are through well-priced options. However, I was to say the least somewhat disappointed by the V40 Cross Country D4.

I love Volvo’s V40 range.

It’s a great looking car – don’t get me wrong, and it was fun to drive on tar. I’d never take it onto even the best-maintained gravel road though. It’s too fidgety and hard. I love Volvo’s V40 range. If I were to choose a new car to own, this one is top of my list and has been for a couple of years. They’re sporty looking, with great engines, drive like a dream and still offer great storage capacity and performance. What’s not to like?

But I have a problem with the trend of covering a popular hatch in plastic cladding and calling it a soft-roader. Volvo’s gone from standing out from the crowd to following it sheepishly and creating yet another pointless car because it’s popular to do so. I can’t see it working…

To be honest, the V40 Cross Country delivered to our driveway the other day was certainly a looker – a peculiar grey-blue matt colour, it stuck out from the norm and the car’s lines were beautifully displayed in the matt paintwork. Volvo’s classic quality finishes, from heavy doors that thunk as you close them to perfect stitching on the leather seats and fine metals in the interior were prevalent as always. But the quality finishes were sadly marred by the low profile 18-inch wheels. Big wheels look great – but not on a soft-roader.

The pleasure that I’ve normally taken in driving a Volvo was stolen from me by those massive rock-hard wheels that felt every single bump in the road and provided a jittery, uncomfortable ride. The Volvo V40 CC is definitely not a soft-roader, more a city car wannabe.

Then there’s the engine. Volvo inserted their second largest diesel engine into this V40, tweaked it with an additional turbo charger and turned the V40 CC into a plastic-clad hot hatch. With oodles of power and torque being put down as you press the accelerator, I found the V40 CC to suffer from torque steer as this big diesel dominated the car at every turn and pull away. Sure, it made driving a lot of fun and somewhat exciting as you wrestled the steering wheel each time you pulled away into a corner, but what would you want to do that for the whole time? Plus is negated any fuel efficiency that a diesel engine is supposed to provide.

Prior to the V40, we’d had the same D4 engine in an S60 and it was unbelievable – constant, ample power delivery, incredible fuel economy and more were provided by the self-same engine in a bigger car. In the V40 CC, it was just too much. The power spiked too quickly with the Geartronic automatic transmission, resulting in a thrilling but wholly inefficient drive.

For mountain-biking city-slickers, it would certainly be an eye-catching car to drive…

The V40 CC still has lots to offer though besides a hair-raising, bone jolting ride. It has all of Volvo’s safety features, City Safety, optional blind spot detectors, great brakes, solid materials and loads of space. For mountain-biking city-slickers, it would certainly be an eye-catching car to drive, but I can’t see them heading to the hills and the off the tar roads with the specifications that our test car carried.

Smaller, higher profile tyres perhaps, but even then, there isn’t all that much more ground clearance to boast. Plus I’d still be very nervous about the fidgety rear end of the car with that D4 engine inside it. Sadly, the V40 CC D4 doesn’t offer all wheel drive capability, this is only on offer in the premium T5 (petrol) versions.

So, as a softroader, the V40 CC failed horribly in my opinion. As a plastic clad, striking cross-over hot hatch that follows the crowd in its conformity but which surprises in its performance, the V40 Cross Country D4 is a winner. However, if you’re just wanting a seriously good-looking car, stick to the straight V40 and eschew the plastic. It’s not necessary.

The V40 Cross Country D4 is available in two model types – the Elite (from N$413 800) and the Excel which we drove (from N$433 700). Both offer Geartronic (automatic) transmissions only.

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