It’s not hard to see why the Volvo V40 is a popular family hatchback. Distinctive looks inside and out, competitive efficiency and an understated premium image all give it real appeal.
However, it has always fallen short when it comes to some of the everyday basics that are crucial in this class. Rivals such as the Audi A3 Sportback or Volkswagen Golf offer better ride comfort, roomier rear seats, a more practical boot and more user-friendly infotainment, among other key advantages.
The Cross Country version we’re testing here gets a 40mm jacked-up ride height over the standard hatchback but remains front-wheel drive. It’s fitted with a new D2 engine. Until last year the V40 D2 models came with a 1.6 diesel, but a new 118bhp 2.0-litre diesel has replaced it and brought lower CO2 emissions, so the Cross Country now achieves 96g/km (that drops to 89g/km in the standard V40 hatch).
Other than that, the biggest change for this facelift are the new LED headlights, which are reminiscent of those on the XC90 and are standard across the whole V40 range. The equipment line-up has also been changed, too, so Cross Country is now a trim in its own right.
What is the 2016 Volvo V40 Cross Country D2 like to drive?
There are no mechanical changes other than to the engine, so the V40 Cross Country remains adequate but unexceptional in terms of its ride and handling. It doesn’t feel too jarring over bumps and ruts but the body moves about a lot, leaning heavily through corners and bobbing up and down over most scruffy surfaces. Still, at least it settles well at higher speeds, and while the steering feels vague, it’s weighted well enough to offer confidence whether you’re in town or on the motorway.
This new 2.0-litre diesel is the big improvement. Previously the 1.6 felt quite slow and suffered from great lethargy at low revs before delivering all of its acceleration in a brief, sudden burst. The new engine makes things feel brisk enough to be relaxing in everyday driving and it delivers its power more progressively.
It does feel a bit flat at low revs but picks up smoothly and feels punchy enough from then on to make for relaxed progress. A slicker gearshift for the six-speed manual gearbox would be welcome, but you don’t have to change down too often to get the best from the engine.
Refinement is a bit mediocre. There’s quite a bit of tyre noise at higher speeds, and the engine does sound gritty and strained if you let it rev, but on a steady throttle or at lower speeds it’s fairly quiet.
What is the 2016 Volvo V40 Cross Country D2 like inside?
Again, nothing has changed beyond a few extra colour additions. That means that the driver’s seat and position is about the most comfortable of the family hatches (but it doesn't feel at all SUV-like, if you were hoping for that from the Cross Country), and the dash looks and feels really classy. Only an Audi A3 rivals the V40 on this front.
However, visibility to the rear three-quarters is quite poor by class standards, thanks to the narrow rear window and chunky pillars, and rear parking sensors are an optional extra.
The infotainment system isn’t the best, either. You have to pay £500 extra to get the 7.0in colour screen and sat-nav, and it takes quite a lot of time to get used to how the system works, with its small rotary controller and array of buttons.
It’s also a shame that you have to pay extra for cruise control and auto lights and wipers, which are generally included on most mid-spec rivals. Still, you do get the excellent LED headlights, which are generally expensive options on those same rivals, while safety equipment is as good as it gets and includes automatic emergency city braking.
Just don't go for the Volvo if practicality is a priority. Rear passenger space is a bit limited and the boot is also smaller than many rivals' and has a narrower opening.
Should I buy one?
Not in the Cross Country guise as tested here. It pushes the price up too much over that of the workaday V40 hatchback – by around £1800 over the cheapest trim, or £800 over the much better-equipped Inscription V40 hatch. Given that the Cross Country's driving position is distinctly that of a hatchback and not an SUV, and there is no benefit in terms of off-road ability other than its better ground clearance, it's hard to see why you would spend the extra money.
More to the point, an Audi A3 Sportback 1.6 TDI is a better option in just about every way and is available with four-wheel drive and better equipment levels (barring the LED lights) for less money. Which leaves the V40 Cross Country D2 as next to impossible to recommend.
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Volvo V40 Cross Country D2
Engine size 2.0 diesel
Price from £23,805
Torque 207lb ft
Top speed 118mph
Fuel economy (official combined) 76.4mpg
CO2/BIK band 96g/km/19%