Buyer's Guide Drive and Review Luxury Sedans and Hatchbacks

(Go Flat Out Review) 2015 Volvo V40 Cross Country D4: Is It A Crossover Or A HatchBack? (With Video Review)

Word: Isaac Atienza and Nico Ylanan
Photos: Isaac Atienza and Paulo Bustamante

What a way to start Go Flat Out’s first team review for 2015. We’re hitting the ground running with our impressions on the Volvo V40 Cross Country. The idea was to put the car through two different driving environments, where we would be highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of the vehicle. A bit more on that later on in the review. So let’s get started.

Most of us here at Go Flat Out are aware of the crossover trend. It’s clearly evident, from the Subaru XV, which is literally just a raised Subaru Impreza hatch, and the Hyundai i20 Cross Sport, which is already from its name, literally a raised, humble Hyundai i20 hatch, developed for the Indian market. We don’t like this new trend, to be honest, but the case is different to traditional crossovers based on the same sedan platform, such as the Mazda CX-5, Subaru Forester, and the likes. These crossovers are becoming popular because, for the same amount of money, instead of buying a large sedan such as a Honda Accord, people would much rather infuse their extra cash for extra ride height. Well, we couldn’t blame them. The Philippines has two seasons, the dry season, and the flood season, and even globally, people would prefer adding extra height instead of adding extra length to their cars. Volvo has been bridging the gap between traditional crossover SUVs and traditional sedans/wagons ever since with their XC70, and having said that, will we find a revelation here in the Volvo V40 Cross Country? Let’s find out.

Exterior

Volvo is a brand synonymous with the word safety, but lately, Volvo has been a making a name for themselves for their artistic and cutting edge designs. The standard Volvo V40 is a Go Flat Out favorite, design wise. The V40 is Volvo’s poster boy. With its typical Volvo wide shoulders, and LED tail lamps that conform to the shape of the rear, the Volvo V40 delivers a unique look unlike any other car in the premium hatchback segment.The overall shape of the vehicle is sleek, and dynamic. One of our favorite design cues with the Volvo V40 is the unique character line that starts at the headlamps and ends at the rear doors. The front is as stylish as the rest of the car too. The Bi-Xenons have discreet LED daytime running lights, while the main LED DRLs also serve the foglight’s duty. An aggressively designed grille create a front design that’s sleek and bold, enough for pedestrians and passer bys to give the Volvo V40 a second stare. Differentiating this Cross Country model from its standard sibling are the bigger rims, protective body cladding, and a raised ride height.

Interior

The interior of the Volvo V40 Cross Country is just as pleasing as the outside. A minimalist design approach has been the main focal point of Volvo in here. Volvo’s trademark floating center console is also present in this V40. Not just a design trait, the floating center console also proves to be quite useful, as it created a discreet storage bin, hiding unwanted clutter that could be preyed by notorious Manila thieves. The cabin is plush, and the leather is nice to hold. A reassuring thud when closing the doors create a sense of solidity when using the Volvo for everyday driving. Manila traffic has been terrible lately, and if you’re inside this Volvo, you wouldn’t feel bad sitting inside it just a little bit longer.

Space and Practicality

The Volvo V40 Cross Country has plenty of storage places inside the cabin. There are plenty of cupholders, cubby holes, plus there are side pockets just beside the rear seats, in addition to the already generous door bins on all four doors.

The boot is pretty decent for a hatchback, with 402 liters of space. Fold the seats down, and you might initially think that there’s a huge load lip, but don’t fret, because the rear floor of the Volvo V40’s trunk can be adjusted. With it in place in a higher position, you have now created additional storage space underneath the boot, which is perfect once again for hiding your laptop in order to avoid the eyes of preying thieves. A slight concern though is the boot opening, in which because of its sleek design, it has made the opening a bit narrower on top, which could be a problem when loading tall and wide items inside.

The V40’s driving position is excellent. The Go Flat Out team has given its driving position huge praises for its comfort and overall support. There’s more than enough thigh support, plus, there are bolsters placed on the seat bases and the seat backs, which gives the driver a snug but secure feel, akin to a hot hatch. High speed cornering wouldn’t necessitate the driver and passenger to lean onto something just for them to be kept in their seats. Tall, wide, narrow, short, whatever the person’s body type is, they will find a perfect driving position in the Volvo V40, thanks to a wide range of adjustments in the steering and the power adjustable driver and front passenger seats.

Features and Safety

First thing you will notice when stepping inside the car is its all-LCD gauges. There are no analog gauges inside the vehicle. The virtual gauges are presented in a tasteful and cohesive manner. All information is laid out in the LCD logically. There are three themes to choose from. Elegance, Eco, and Performance, with Performance and Elegance being the Go Flat Out team’s personal favorites.

Volvos are synonymous with safety, and therefore we weren’t surprised with how much active and passive safety tech this hatchback possesses. Apart from the plethora of airbags and other active safety features such as ABS with EBD, stability control, and traction control, Volvo’s City Safety is fitted in the entire V40 line-up. City Safety is one of the growing number of AEBs (Autonomous Emergency Braking) out there. City Safety can avoid a collision altogether at speeds of up to 30 kph, or just reduce the severity of the impact at speeds between 31 and 50 kph.

Volvo’s proprietary infotainment system, called Volvo Sensus, is fitted as standard across the Volvo line-up. Volvo Sensus is an easy to use infotainment system, controlled by a knob located on the lower right side. A telephone pad is present in the center stack, which make inputting telephone numbers easier than relying solely on a knob, as we usually experience in BMW’s iDrive and Audi’s MMI.

The Volvo V40 Cross Country has the capability to parallel park itself. The feature is activated by pressing the button on the lower left of the dialling pad with the steering wheel symbol. From there, a selection in the Volvo Sensus screen will appear, asking the driver which side is the parallel parking spot located. Once the side has been selected, it will search for a parking spot, and once it does, simply follow the instructions, with the steering input being left to the capable systems of the vehicle. We weren’t able to test out this feature since Volvo said that we can only use the feature if we have a Volvo assistant with us.

Powertrain

The Volvo V40 Cross Country in the Philippines is powered by one engine choice only, which is a 2.0 liter inline-5 cylinder Drive-E twin turbo diesel engine. It produces 187 hp @ 4,250 rpm, and an explosive 400 Nm of torque from 1,750 to 2,750 rpm, mated to an 8-Speed Geartronic Transmission. It is a semi-automatic transmission that works really well, especially give the jerky nature of most semi-automatic transmissions. This powertrain combination enables the Volvo V40 Cross Country D4 to accelerate from 0-100 kph in 7.8 seconds.

How It Drives

We move on to the more important question: what is it like to drive? Let’s get this out of the way; the torque is amazing and the automatic 8-speed transmission was great to manipulate. Gear changes, with either the paddle shifters or plus/minus on the gear shifter, are crisp and hardly felt. The suspension set up is a combination of McPherson struts for the front and a multi link rear, and there’s a good balance between comfort and sport. There were good levels of feedback coming from the wheel at any speed. The route we drove took us from Alabang, Naic, Ternate then on to Tagaytay. The V40 Cross Country performed admirably in the twisties, despite a bit of under steer, which is to be expected in a front-wheel drive vehicle of this size and weight. The 2.0-liter twin-turbo common rail diesel inline-4 with 187 hp and 400Nm of torque was responsive and gave the confidence we needed during overtaking opportunities. Get it in the mid-range RPM and the V40 Cross Country launches forward with ease coupled with a pretty good sounding motor.

Driving through the hustle and bustle of Bonifacio Global City, the Volvo V40 Cross Country’s ride was sublime. It soaks up the bumps really well. Because the V40 Cross Country has a taller ride height than the normal V40, the suspension benefits from a longer travel, making it absorb larger, deeper bumps exceptionally well. In city driving conditions, the V40 Cross Country performs well. Eco+ mode allows the E-Drive system to take over, adjusting valves and utilizing an intelligent injection system, resulting in a more efficient drive. The start/stop system is non-intrusive, but there was an obvious ”off” feeling when activated.

Obviously, with this V40 Cross Country being a diesel, fuel economy is expected to be excellent. In the entire 3 days that the Volvo V40 Cross Country was with us, we averaged 12.3 km/l, and given its performance credentials, that’s very impressive. Highway fuel consumption can easily reach 18-20 km/h in this Volvo V40 Cross Country, and combined with the fact that this thing can simply take-off when you put the pedal to the metal, this is nothing short of impressive.

On The Downside

As with everything in life, nothing is of course, perfect. Rear seat room can be a bit tight for large people. Legroom is generally good, but foot room is a it off for tall people. For reference, Isaac Atienza, Nico Ylanan, and James Tagle are 5 foot 10 to 11 inches tall, also, remember what I said that the rear passengers benefit from side seat pockets in addition to those already large doorbins? Consequently, those in-seat side pockets have pushed the seats inward, and while that increases the shoulder room of the 2 outer rear passengers, sitting a large third person in the middle seems to be a squeeze. As the saying goes, two is a company, and three is a crowd.

The final downside we have with the Volvo V40 Cross Country is that, despite being labeled as Cross Country, we still think its a normal hatchback and not a traditional crossover SUV. It has a bit of an identity crisis. Though it does have a (little bit) better ground clearance and fatter tires, the Volvo V40 Cross Country still isn’t aptly capable off-road, and at P2,795,000, we assume this car’s selling point will be its explosive but frugal diesel engine, and the better ride quality it offers over the normal V40. However, for the same P2,795,000 it is asking, there’s a Volvo V40 R-Design T4, which adds a sportier bodykit, bigger rims, stiffer suspension, and an R-Design interior, so it’s your call. You can make your V40 either more comfortable and frugal, or make it sportier.

Verdict

Sorry Volvo, the Volvo V40 Cross Country D4 is still a hatchback, not a crossover. For P2,795,000, you can either make your Volvo V40 more comfortable and thanks to the diesel engine, more frugal, or you can make the Volvo V40 sportier by purchasing the Volvo V40 R-Design T4. Despite all this, we sincerely enjoyed our three day drive with the Volvo V40 Cross Country D4. While the Volvo V40 R-Design T4 will offer a sportier drive, the Cross Country D4 will make long distance travel more enjoyable. To be quite honest, we do miss the V40 Cross Country D4. Despite a few niggles, we were genuinely impressed with the Volvo V40 Cross Country D4. It’s surprisingly fast, sporty despite the taller ride height, and very frugal as well. We tend to forget Volvo’s existence in the Philippines, which is a shame, because we can’t seem to find a reason why people wouldn’t buy a Volvo over its German counterparts. Not only are Volvos brimming with innovative safety tech, Volvo also undercut their German equivalents by around 10-20%. We just wish we could see a lot more Volvos roaming around our busy business districts.

Isaac’s Verdict

I honestly prefer the normal V40, because I don’t think the market needs another crossover, but, it doesn’t mean this is a bad car. As a matter of fact, I enjoyed driving the Volvo V40 Cross Country D4. It’s a genuinely comfortable and fun car to drive. While I’d rather spend my P2,795,000 on the Volvo V40 R-Line T4, the V40 Cross Country may justify some people’s purchases because of its potent yet frugal diesel engine, and its more compliant ride, especially given how bad our roads are. 

Nico’s Verdict

Make no mistake, the Volvo V40 Cross Country is great to drive. As a station wagon, it fills the role well enough. The efficient yet powerful engine, comfortable ride and decent road clearance validate the “Cross Country” label a certain extent. I just wish it had more space, and at P2.8-million pesos, the price might throw off a few customers.

James’ Verdict

I never really considered driving a Volvo or reviewing one to be honest. It just sounded boring and a bit old fashioned, but when a friend of mine offered me a drive with a Volvo V40 Cross Country, I was hesitant to take the offer. I knew it was going to be a boring car to drive and all, but I’ve never driven newer Volvo models so why the hell not? Got the car for 3 days and the first night when I actually picked the car up I immediately thought of what I said early about Volvo’s being old and boring. I was astounded, it was brilliant! We took the car around the city, doing films for it and it performed well since it’s made for the city. Took the car for a road-trip down south and I fell in-love with the V40 cross country. It’s surprisingly fast for a family hatch and very economical. Performance wise, it had a lot of understeer since it has a front wheel drive car, but you can fix that. Grippy tires, and the engine was very responsive. I also should mention that this particular test vehicle we had is a diesel, and I think that was one of the best sounding diesels today. It has a 2.0 liter inline-5 cylinder engine with 190 bhp which isn’t that much but it has 400 Nm of torque! That was, in my opinion the best thing about this car. Gear changes are fast and crisp and it can even rev match while down-shifting, with it’s 8-speed Geartronic. The only thing I don’t like about the V40 is the space at the back. I think they could’ve done much better. The interior was “OK” for me. Seats were great, lots of support and the seating position was spot on. Overall, the Volvo V40 Cross Country was awesome, driving through country roads, cities, etc. I would consider buying one but not the Cross Country version.

Paulo’s Verdict

As we were picking up the Volvo V40 Cross Country in their showroom at Pasong Tamo, my first impressions of it, the first time I saw the V40 was “Oh… Another geographer’s car and it’s brown…” So, yes, it sounds kind of harsh and kinda mean for a first impression, but yeah we checked out the car and stuff and it has all the proper tricks and toys and the comfort that you will never experience in a crossover like it, so definitely you’ll have all you need in your everyday travel. As me and my colleague are planning for the weekend trip, we have that tingling sensation of excitement as we take home the Volvo, and wonder what awesome stuff we could do with it. As the day came that we would use the Volvo for our weekend drive, me and my colleagues were surprise how good the V40 Cross Country drives and feels and the ride comfort is just right and forgiving, and as the day goes by, the V40 is somehow growing on us because it can go over the country roads and it can handle all the traffic it can get because it is very fuel efficient, and as the day ends and its time to return the Volvo V40, me and my colleagues had a very heavy heart seeing it go, because its pretty damn good car and it will never let you down on whatever you throw at it.

Our Rating

Exterior Design: ★★★★★
Interior Design: ★★★★★
Interior Quality: ★★★★★
Practicality:  ★★★☆☆
Features: ★★★★☆
Acceleration: ★★★★★
Handling: ★★★★★
Comfort: ★★★★★
Fuel Efficiency: ★★★★☆
Value For Money: ★★★☆☆

Overall: 4.4 out of 5

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