Style and practicality meets value as Y’s Digital Editor, Alvin Thomas, take a spin in the V40 Cross Country – Volvo’s entry-level premium hatchback.
The concept of owning a luxury hatchback is one that’s overlooked here in the draconian GCC market, with car dealerships often leaving sales to chance than spending dough on marketing it beyond its true potential – which rarely, if ever, goes above that of more practical SUVs and larger sedans in the market.
It isn’t hard to understand why that’s the case either: why would you shell out brass for a four-seater hatchback when you can fill out that parking space with a larger – and much more practical – vehicle?
By those standards, luxury hatchbacks are deemed to falter in this market; but one has stood the test of time among a sea of similar cars in the Sultanate: the Volvo V40 Cross Country.
A global sales success when stacked up to its competitors from Europe, the Swedish-born V40 has been in the market for over five years now with only a mid-cycle facelift distinguishing the first generation of the hatchback that initially took over from the V40 sedan of previous years.
Yet, you couldn’t tell its age. From a design standpoint, the V40 Cross Country borrows all the bells and whistles from its bigger siblings – the S90 sedan and the XC90 SUV – and chucks in just enough wavy lines and character to help distinguish it as a stand-alone product.
So, in comes the Thor’s hammer headlamps and LED headlamps, alongside the familiar bold fascia that we’ve come to terms with. The grille maintains its distinctive character, with the Volvo logo running across from end to end, and the lower portions of the bumper housing curvy plastic panels as a part of the ‘Cross Country’ package.
This package also lifts the suspension to offer a tad bit more ground clearance – 145mm to be precise – and adds in large 19-inch alloys in place of the regular 17-inch ones from the V40.
The stance is aggressive for what’s essentially a lifted hatchback with plastic panels on the lower portions of the car and is quite endearing – and daring-looking – when pitted against its rivals from Volkswagen and even Audi who opt for relatively conservative styles.
This can also be said about the posterior, which embraces its curves with trowel-shaped LED tail lamps and small tailgate. There’s also ‘Cross Country’ debossed into a grey panel and dual exhausts worked into the rear bumper.
The interior is unmistakably Volvo from 2012 – but with added tech (and frills) to keep the cabin in check with current times.
So, there’s no tablet-styled touchscreen interface to operate the infotainment screen or piano black gloss panels flanking the dashboard. Instead, Volvo sticks to their Scandinavian roots and keeps things simple. The leather and soft-touch plastic combo kept things in our tester well-rooted, while the brushed-metal finish on the centre console added to the overall appeal of the interior.
The centre console is laid out neatly, and there’s just enough buttons worked into the grey panel to help you control everything from the air-conditioning to the music, and even your touchscreen unit.
We couldn’t find fault with the screen controller – it’s fast, efficient, and responded well to our touch. Moreover, the screen also renders excellent graphics and allows you to control vehicular functions if need be. The UI will take getting used to, but the user-experience is still up there with some of the best currently in the market.
This can also be said about the instrument cluster, which displays graphics in place of the traditional dials. The graphics on the LCD screen are quite smooth, easy to understand, and customisable.
They can display anything from your speed in digital numerals, oil temperature, power delivery in digital bars, and your fuel readouts in LED dots. These can also be altered to your taste depending on the mode you’re in – Sport, Eco, and Elegance.
Space inside the car is adequate for five people – and it’s sizable when compared with its competition. Legroom and headroom upfront is excellent, while the rear can just about fit three adults in comfort. The seats are comfortable and unrestrictive with its side bolsters, but hold you in place when needed.
The V40’s cargo capacity is rated at 335-litres, which is good enough for two full-size suitcases and a smaller bag, though it must be kept in mind that the aperture of the boot is quite narrow owing to the stylish boot lid.
Where the car really strikes gold is in the safety department; cramming in just about enough tech to keep it from an accident (even those that aren’t created by you).
Our tester came fitted with Lane Keeping Assist with a vibration emanating through the steering wheel when you veer off-track, Lane Departure Warning system, Road Sign Information system that reads signs to display speed limits, and City Safety technology that brakes automatically if it detects the possibility of a crash.
The powertrain is completed by a 2.0-litre turbocharged, four-cylinder motor that’s mated to an eight-speed automatic. It pumps out 245hp and 350Nms of torque, and routes it all to all four wheels.
Our tests helped propel the car from a standstill to 100kph in just above six seconds, owing to the low-end torque that kicks in at about the 2,800rpm mark. Impressively, the power band also extends across the rev range as the car red-lines at the 6,000rpm mark with nothing more than an enjoyable growl played through the exhaust.
On road dynamics it’s impressive, with no real understeer or oversteer creeping in from the all-wheel drive system. Noise, vibrations, and harshness levels are kept to a minimum at speeds of up to 120kph, and the tune from the suspension is adequate for smooth and civilised driving.
The steering setup is light, with not much of the road surface relayed back to the driver. Yet, the 225/40 rubber around the alloys do a great job in translating some of the road surface details. The added ground clearance (10mm from the regular variant) also allows the car to partake in mild off-roading.
Body roll is prominent in corners but only to a marginal extent, and is only noticeable when you take corners at high speeds. Still, the balance between ride and comfort is balanced – with just a touch of sportiness sprinkled in to the mix when the gearbox and pedals are tuned to overdrive in the ‘Sport’ mode.
The luxury car market may be a difficult one to penetrate. Yet, Volvo’s V40 Cross Country blends the three elements that keep it in contention for the top spot in the segment: top-notch styling, technology, and functionality.
But it’s the overall value that the car offers that separates it from a myriad of hatchbacks that do no better than street-cruising. And for that very reason, the V40 is aces in our books and remains our choice of car in this niche segment.
• Engine: 2.0-litre ‘turbocharged’ in-line four-cylinder
• Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
• Power: 245hp
• Torque: 350Nms
• Top Speed: 240kph
• All-wheel drive
• Park Assist Pilot
• 7-inch infotainment screen with Sensus navigation
• Panoramic moonroof
• HID headlights
• Leather upholstery
• Auto stop-start
• 335-litre boot space
• Radar-guided cruise control
• Lane Keeping Assist and Lane Departure Warning System
• Harman/Kardon premium audio