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2014 Volvo V40 Cross Country D4 review

New D4 version of the Volvo V40 Cross Country is powerful and frugal, with CO2 emissions of just 104g/km, but how does it compare to its rivals? We drive it in the UK to find out.

Words ByPaul Bond

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Volvo is gradually replacing all of the engines in its range - and we’ve been impressed by the powerful, efficient new D4 in the S60 saloon and XC60.

Slotting it into the smaller, more attractive package that is the V40 Cross Country makes for a rather tempting proposition. With 187bhp on tap, a 0-62mph time of 7.7 seconds and a company car-friendly 104g/km CO2 figure, the D4 is the most powerful diesel in the range, and is almost as frugal as the much slower D2 version.

Those official stats put it in the same league as diesel performance hatches such as the Volkswagen Golf GTD and BMW 120d - or front-wheel-drive SUVs such as the Audi Q3 and Mini Countryman.

Unfortunately, the V40 Cross Country also costs about the same as this rather talented spread of rivals; if you want this engine your buying options are restricted to either the SE Nav or Lux Nav trims - with prices kicking off at a hefty Β£26,770.

What’s the Volvo V40 Cross Country D4 like to drive?

Fast. Surprisingly so in fact. Given how similar the D4 looks to a standard V40 Cross Country, the potent surge of acceleration you experience when flooring the throttle in second gear comes as something of a shock. This really is a fast little hatch.

The way the 2.0-litre diesel motor delivers that power is a bit less impressive. There’s a large flat spot below 1800rpm before it really gets going, and pushing it towards the higher reaches of the rev range is not advisable; it feels coarse and strained when pushed hard.

The front tyres are not always able to cope with the full brunt of the engine's 295lb ft of shove either. Get on the throttle too early, and the traction control warning light will flash in protest as the front end of the car scrabbles for grip.

You need to be equally patient with the six-speed gearbox, which has a long, notchy throw that makes quick changes difficult to execute with any real precision. The steering has a nice heft to it, but provides little feedback when cornering, and is quite slow in its responses.

Despite being a high-riding version of the V40, the Cross Country still handles fairly well. It turns in to corners gamely and remains fairly planted, with good body control. It will start to understeer in tighter turns, though, where rivals such as the Volkswagen Golf GTD will keep gripping.

Ride comfort is generally good and, along with that muscular engine, give the V40 excellent motorway manners. It settles down to a comfortable cruise, and smoothes out the edges off any nasty bumps or potholes in the surface.

At low speed the V40 can feel a bit less supple though, with sharp-edged ridges sending a nasty jolt through the cabin. Suspension noise can be a bit intrusive around town, and at higher speed the tyres rumble away loudly, so you may find yourself reaching for the volume on the stereo.

What’s the Volvo V40 Cross Country D4 like inside?

The V40’s interior has always been a strong point, particularly in terms of the sense of solidity that pervades everything, and the comfortable, supportive seats are great on longer journeys.

The Cross Country D4 is available in two trims. SE Nav models all get a 7.0-inch colour display as standard, complete with Bluetooth, USB-input, CD player, multifunction steering wheel, climate and cruise-controls, and – of course – sat-nav.

Step up to the Lux Nav trim for an extra Β£2000 and you get leather upholstery, xenon headlights, 17-inch alloys, reading lights in the back and LED daytime running lights, along with the auto lights and wipers that are standard across the range.

While all that infotainment kit is one of the things that could sway you in favour of the well-equipped V40, it’s worth mentioning that the system is tricky to use, with confusing menus and various knobs to twiddle, sometimes even when trying to perform basic everyday functions.

Although it might look rugged and practical on the outside, the Cross Country is no more spacious than the standard V40 inside. That means there is just about enough space for four adults (headroom will be tight in the back for anyone approaching six feet tall) and a modest 324-litre boot.

Most hatchbacks will be able to carry a considerable amount more luggage, then, and while the boot is cleverly designed, with a variable height floor and a useful grab handle for pulling it up or down. The load bay is quite narrow though, and not as deep or square as the best competitors’.

Should I buy one?

Combining such a high power output with such low CO2 figures is no mean feat, and Volvo should be rightly pleased with its D4 engine. It bodes well for forthcoming models, especially the XC90 SUV.

In the V40 Cross Country, it certainly provides lively performance, so it's a bit of a shame that the rest of the driving experience is so decidedly average. The D4 has the power to take on some brilliant diesel hatches, but not the handling poise or practicality that most buyers will demand in this class.

It does come well equipped as standard, and that low CO2 output could be enough to tempt company buyers, but with a starting price nudging Β£27,000, there are better, more spacious cars out there for a discerning private buyer - an Audi A3 Sportback with a similar power output costs nearly Β£2000 less.

We would recommend choosing this engine in the standard V40, but the Cross Country version adds very little to the overall package, has no four-wheel drive to call upon and is needlessly expensive.

What Car? says…

Rivals

Volkswagen Golf GTD

Audi Q3

Volvo V40 Cross Country D4 SE Nav

Engine size

2.0-litre diesel

Price from

Β£26,770

Power

187bhp

Torque

295lb ft

0-62mph

7.7 seconds

Top speed

130mph

Fuel economy

70.6mpg

CO2

104g/km