Volvo may be too laid back to call out its German rivals, but make no mistake, the 2017 V40 is a serious stunner (for lack of a better word) thrown down in the midsize luxury segment. Determined to prove the XC90 was no fluke, and instead the first step in an aggressive full-range refresh, the V40 Cross Country takes much of its SUV cousin’s charm and condenses it into a form-factor better suited to take on the Mercedes-Benz A-Class, VW Golf and BMW 1 Series.
I really like the XC90’s style, and once the V40 CC arrived on my driveway I immediately felll in love with what Volvo’s designers have done with it. The result is a beautiful, classic silhouette, with sweeping lines and a combination of sharper edges and light-catching surfacing.
Volvo’s attention to detail is superb, too. The grill, with its concave strakes, is inspired by the classic P1800 coupe, paired with the distinctive – and technically complex – Thor’s Hammer LED lights. Together, they make for a fascia that’s both suitably imposing for a luxury car but without some of the outright aggression others in the segment chase.
Driving in my hometown, the front of the vehicle makes onlookers curious to see who’s driving the vehicle and what make/model it is. The striking rich java metallic colour wets the appetite too, but sadly curiousity plunges with the realisation that its a Volvo hatchback and no GTi or A-class. It could be that in this side of town Volvo is still classified as a grown-up car. The car that your well respected uncle drove wearing his Sunday’s best. It felt darn good getting the stares though.
Driving in my hometown, the front of the vehicle makes onlookers curious to see who’s driving the vehicle and what make/model it is.
If I’m honest, I’m even more of a fan of the newly introduced XC60 – which I like so much, I’ll tell you about it separately – but that requires patience since Volvo isn’t bringing it to local soil until next year.
Volvo offers two drive modes, Comfort and Dynamic, which adjust steering, transmission, and other factors. It also adjusts the feel from the optional air suspension, which replaces the standard traverse leaf-spring with rear integral link at the back of the car; either way, you get double-wishbone suspension at the front.
With the right mix of drive preferences, there’s a whole lot to like about the v40 – both behind the wheel and as a passenger. It’s smooth and poised, and the D4’s peak torque arrives at just 2,200 rpm so overtaking was never an issue. Engine noise – massaged electronically, as is so often the case in modern cars – gets noticeably harsh as you approach the redline, but I’m pleased that you at least get the option to rev that high before you hit an upshift. The biggest problem is engine noise; this diesel model of mine was quite loud.
Unfortunately inside, the interior takes no cues from the XC90. Rather, Volvo has chosen to stick to the classic V40 interface we’ve grown to love. No bad thing since it’s one of the cleanest designs out there right now on a hatchback. For the V40, Volvo has made the whole thing more sculptural, centered around the SENSUS display in the middle of the dashboard. A long, architectural metal band runs across it, bowed to accommodate the screen, and then curving up at either end around the vents.
Still, legroom and headroom in the back are ample for a child (the shape of the seating and the narrowness of the interior make the back very tight for three adults) and Volvo’s leather is a step above most rivals in quality. The seats don’t lack in adjustment up-front, though while comfortable they do seem to prefer keeping you sitting upright, perhaps a side-effect of the various inbuilt safety features Volvo includes.
My D4 review unit came with various active safety features both as standard and a few as optional add-ons. That includes everything from the XC90, like warnings if you’re drifting out of the lane, but also three new systems (to me).
Pedestrian Detection with auto-brake – aka the v40’s “people detector” – does just what it claims to, spotting people, a person, a couple and anything else large and two-legged in the road before you crash into it. As well as audio and visual warnings, it’ll automatically slam on the brakes, with Volvo saying it can shed about 20km/h from your current speed.
Every V40 comes with alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control, a digital radio, steering wheel-mounted stereo controls and a Bluetooth hands-free phone connection, while upgrading from the entry-level Momentum specification to Inscription brings cruise control, satnav, leather seats and the digital instrument display.
If you want your V40 to look and feel sportier there’s the R-Design spec, which adds more aggressively styled bumpers and LED headlamps. But you won’t need this when you’re driving the Cross Country.
The 2017 V40 Cross Country D4 is no monstrous sports hatch, therefore, but it does offer something equally compelling to a lot of drivers. Comfortable, but without wallowing; relaxed, but not slow: the V40 cossets with the crisp, friendly conviviality you might expect to find in a Swedish spa. Combine that with excellent safety features and handsome design, and you have a car set to do for midsize luxury what the XC90 did for luxury SUVs before it.
Our V40 Cross Country D4 test model will set you back R555 500 (with sport pack, driver support pack and metallic paint)