VOLVOS ARE SYNONYMOUS with safety and the Swedish carmaker makes solid cars that come loaded with safety features and powered by refined motors. Unfortunately, in EU, Volvo suffers from something of an image crisis.
The allure of the ‘big three’, Mercedes, Audi and BMW, ends up tempting luxury car buyers away from the Volvo brand, and that’s something the company is looking to change.
Volvo is in the process of readying its V40 hatchback and its variants to tempt the young-at-heart European buyer with a promising combination of luxury, features and style. We’ve gotten behind the wheel of the V40’s Cross Country variant, and here’s what we think.
First appearances matter, and with this car, Volvo has nailed the styling; it looks positively stunning. Right from the aggressive, beak-shaped bonnet with all the right cuts, to the sleek roof rails that seem to float over the black roof.
There’s also the strong V-shaped bonnet line and the angled back headlights that flow smoothly into the rising waistline. Then there are the sculpted tail-lights that are typically Volvo.
On the outside, build quality is good, with consistent gaps and seams all around. In fact, the Volvo V40 is as well constructed as its German competitors. But when you hop into the cabin, it does not have the same flash as the outside.
The cabin is where function wins the battle over style, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The cabin is bathed in tastefully trimmed black and aluminium, and maintains a feel similar to its more expensive siblings. Large bits like the ‘floating’ centre console, the sculpted door pads and the transparent, LED-illuminated gear selector give the cabin a bit of a lift. Still, we can’t help but notice that the interiors just don’t feel as plush as, say, a Mercedes cabin.
Other unique bits include a frameless rear-view mirror, which is a nice touch, and the massive, full-length glass roof, which is sure to garner a lot of attention with buyers.
All Volvos have brilliant seats, and the seats in this car are no different – you’re comfortable the minute you get in. Head and elbow room in the front are good, and there’s lots of space for your knick-knacks. But at the back, this car is better suited for two rather than three, mainly because of the transmission tunnel (because Volvo sells a four-wheel drive variant abroad) that runs through the centre of the cabin, intruding on rear legroom. And tall passengers may find it a little tight because of the sloping roof. This may also have to do with the rear seat being higher than the front seats, but it gives the rear passenger a better view of the road, and legroom is sufficient. The boot is quite spacious, but there’s no spare wheel – you only get a puncture repair kit and an electric pump that runs off the car’s 12-volt outlet.
Volvo has seen some success in EU with the introduction of its 2.0-litre D3 diesel engine, and the Swedish carmaker will introduce the V40 with this engine as well as a more powerful 180bhp T4 petrol engine. We’re driving the D3, which should account for most of the car’s sales. As soon as you press the accelerator, you realise this is not like most modern diesels. There’s almost no turbo lag and the engine is extremely responsive and quick off the line. There’s no delay from the six-speed automatic gearbox either, and power delivery is quite smooth throughout the range. The performance figures speak for themselves, the D3 Cross Country gets to the 100kph mark from a standstill in only 8.6 seconds, and the car cruises effortlessly. The automatic gearbox also works quite well, and you have the option of manually shifting too. The engine refinement isn’t as good though, especially once you go past 3500rpm – the diesel motor starts becoming quite vocal at this stage.
The Cross Country is the V40’s pseudo-SUV crossover variant, so it sits on taller springs and a raised suspension, but it doesn’t have the typical body roll around corners that SUVs are known to have. The car feels quite secure through corners and straight-line stability is also commendable. The electric power steering weighs up quite well as you go faster too. However, the stiff suspension of the Cross Country means it does get caught out on sharp edges, but since the ride itself is quite flat, you’re probably better off just whizzing over that crater without slowing down.
This is a hatchback that’s not designed to appeal to the conventional hatchback-buying masses, and expect it to cost upwards of 35.074 EUR when it is launched. As an owner-driven compact luxury car, it has plenty to offer. It’s got youthful appeal, it’s loaded with features, and because it’s a Volvo, it is safer than a tank. Performance is strong, stability is good, and it’s genuinely fun to drive as well. For someone looking for an alternative to the luxury segment’s ‘big three’, this car ticks all the right boxes.