IF anyone still needs to be convinced that Volvo has made the transformation from dull to dramatic, they need look no further than the new V40 Cross Country. This new crossover is a compact wagon that has ruggedly sporty good looks. The rear three-quarter view is particularly distinctive, with the funky tail lights and two-tone tailgate. The dual tones continue inside with the dashboard and seats, while the familiar Volvo floating stack centre console features a mellow metallic sheen.
But what is brand new for the V40 Cross Country is the virtual instrument cluster. A TFT display is used for the single centre tube with a pair of flanking displays. With three colour themes - elegance, eco and performance - it can be customised to display different illumination, graphics and information depending on driver preference.
The V40 CC also introduces a new front seat design, which is arguably the most comfortable on the market. It literally hugs you, so unless you're hopelessly overweight, it should mould itself to your body contours.
And never mind if you're tall - the driving position is excellent. This carmaker not only understands ergonomics but also that not all its customers are torso-less hobbits.
Unfortunately, the drive itself doesn't quite match up to the superb seat. The Volvo V40 Cross Country T4 has a 1.6-litre turbocharged engine under the bonnet to drive the front wheels via a six-speed dual-clutch gearbox.
It has a commendable 180 hp with 240 Nm of torque and with the overboost function, it surges to 270 Nm for a few seconds. It hardly feels like a 1,600-cc unit, with the beefy torque providing exhilarating in-gear acceleration to haul the 1,438 kg body around easily. Few Cat A cars will overtake as enthusiastically as the V40.
But if you're accelerating from stationary, be prepared for palpable turbo lag, plus some torque steer if your right foot is uncharacteristically heavy going around a corner.
The steering can also be vague. At high speed, it becomes unnaturally light in the straight-ahead position, although the thick rim is extremely satisfying to grip.
The V40 CC T4 is well sprung though, with the Dynamic chassis setting offering a firm but surprisingly comfortable ride.
The car has a high level of equipment. Volvo's City Safety automatic braking system has been upgraded for the V40 CC and it is now active at speeds of up to 50 kmh, from 30 kmh previously.
There is a Lane Keeping Aid that helps to gently steer the Volvo back into the lane, along with a vibrating steering wheel, as well as a Road Sign Information feature that displays speed limit signs in the full colour display and Park Assist Pilot automatic parallel parking feature.
The V40 CC also has a panoramic sunroof with electric sunblind and theatre lighting with seven mood lighting options. All these in a package that is appropriately sleek. The Swedish carmaker which built its reputation on safety has become stylish too.
Volvo V40 Cross Country T4
Engine 1,596cc turbocharged
Transmission 6-speed Powershift dual-clutch
Max power 180 hp @ 5,700 rpm
Max torque 240 Nm @ 1,600-5,000 rpm
0-100 kmh 8.5 secs
Top speed 210 kmh
CO2 emissions 143 g/km
Price $215,000 (with COE)
Distributor Wearnes Automotive