If there is one brand that has long been associated with being too conservative, it's Volvo. Functionality, safety, minimalism and utilitarianism are fine attributes, but in today's car market, these qualities just won't stand out.
But that's all changing.
Over the past decade, Volvo has been seen shedding its boxy shell throughout its lineup thanks to Design Director Peter Horbury. The British designer literally brought the Swedish car brand out of the box by introducing shapely surfaces and much more curves than ever before both inside and out. Volvos have become more lifestyle oriented instead of just focusing on award-winning levels of conservatism that would make Confucius proud.
Now we come to this: the 2015 Volvo V40 Cross Country.
This V40 can be considered one of the ripened fruits of Horbury's design revolution; a proper swan song before its Chinese owners decided to move him to China to give the Geely brand a more 'original' design language.
The V40 Cross Country gets a more modern character than ever before with lines and shapes that exude dynamism and elegance. Penned by American designer Chris Benjamin under the tutelage of Horbury, it was a radical new look for a Volvo 5-door built on a 'new' P1 platform; technically speaking, the P1 is based off of the Ford C1 platform which underpinned the now axed C30 and S40 models.
A simple description of the new V40 Cross Country's exterior is to imagine it as the sexier result when you cross breed an XC60 and a C30. It takes the overall shape of the XC60 but is implemented in a lower riding vehicle with sleeker lines. The LED lights give a sense of modern tech while still maintaining its subtle appeal. The unpainted lower body claddings and 'Cross Country' stamped silver painted 'scuff plate' on the rear bumper give it a outdoorsman appeal while the funky 17-inch wheels wrapped with 225/50R17 tires add a nice finishing touch.
Step inside and you are welcomed by the large 'V' motif on the steering wheel with highlight lines stretching up the instrument cluster frame. The leather-wrapped wheel has a nice feel to it and the leather front seats are bolstered just enough for comfort in the city and support when the corners get more exciting. Both front seats are fully adjustable electronically. A two level cargo floor allows for more storage in the back.
Under the hood is a new in-house developed Drive-E 2.0-liter twin-turbo common rail diesel inline-4. The engine is quite capable, being rated as producing 190 PS at 4250 rpm with 400 Nm of maximum torque at 1750-2750 rpm. The engine is matched with an 8-speed geartronic transmission that propels the five door compact quite impressively.
There's plenty of power available on tap and there isn't much effort needed on the pedal to take it around town. With Eco+ mode you'll get to experience a smooth power delivery while reaping the benefits of fuel efficiency thanks to the Drive-E system which that combines the benefits of an intelligent injector system, start/stop technology, a smart valve solution system (reduces warm-up times) and reduced friction within the engine itself. If you feel the need for speed, the 'performance mode' will liven up the mood and can accelerate the V40 smoothly over 8 gears with sharper response from the lag-free twin-turbo diesel. While it does come with paddle shifters, they're really won't need them because the transmission is smart enough to upshift and downshift as needed.
In light to moderate city traffic, fuel mileage logged an impressive 12.4 km/l while I was able to clock 19.7 km/l on the highway with a slightly spirited pace, averaging a little over 16 km/liter for mixed driving duties.
The suspension set up is a combination of McPherson struts for the front and a multi link rear, both of which are supported by stabilizer bars. While the taut setup of the dynamic chassis setup promotes an alert and quick responding driving experience, ride comfort was not compromised. It felt confident on fast bends and tight corners as the capable engine propelled you out of the turns with ease. Bumps and uneven roads were taken care of with a bit of firmness.
Being a Volvo, the V40 Cross Country is fitted with virtually all the safety features you can think of. Basically the whole safety alphabet soup served in a nice shiny bowl such as SIPS (side impact protection system), IC (inflatable curtain) and WHIPS (whiplash protection). Newer features that offer both safety and convenience include City Safety and Park Assist. Dynamic safety features include stability and traction control, engine drag control, sport mode anti-lock brakes with brake assist, active 'bending' headlights, and ready alert brakes.
While the V40 Cross Country definitely feels nice to drive, there seems to be a bit of a disconnect between the 'Cross Country' label and its ride height. I feel that it needs a little bit more ground clearance and maybe a bit more rubber on the tires to deserve that monicker. The V40 is a safe and fun tall(-ish) hatchback, but it does come at a price. At PhP 2.795M, it is set to go against some serious competition such as the Mercedes-Benz A250 Sport, Mini Cooper S, and BMW 118d.