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Macho Swede.

Byline: a matter of OPINION By Alistair Coull and Val Jessop

DESPITE its macho, pumped up looks, only one of the engines powering the Volvo V40 Cross Country range comes mated to a four-wheel-drive system.

Surprisingly, it is not a diesel but a potent 254bhp turbocharged 2.5-litre five cylinder petrol unit. But if you are in the market for a versatile hot hatch then the T5 V40 may be the one for you.

It is not cheap with a price tag starting at PS34,065. The test car''s optional extras pushed that up by another PS6575 Up against performance cars like the Audi S3 and Mercedes A45 AMG, the Volvo has to be good - and it is.

The five-cylinder engine produces 254bhp, 360Nm of torque and has a superb raspy engine note. Thanks to its four wheel drive system it also has plenty of grip while its 40mm higher ride height means it can tackle ground its rivals can''t.

Perhaps the V40 T5 is a left field choice but it will certainly be of interest to those who don''t need a full-blown SUV but who occasionally might need to drive or tow across a muddy field or who live in areas like North Wales where extra grip is needed to cope with severe winter weather.

It''s maybe not as exciting as the Audi or Mercedes to drive . The steering is rather vague and there''s quite a bit of bodyroll but the engine is excellent, as is the six-speed automatic gearbox. It''s maybe not as razor-sharp as some but, nevertheless, it is smooth and direct.

Fuel economy figures are reasonable but certainly not near best in class.

Its claimed 34mpg average means a top-up every 420 miles. In real life, I would expect nearer 350 miles. A week''s ''normal'' driving saw me average around 29mpg.

Inside the car it is familiar V40 territory - a quality interior. It has the same muddle of buttons for the stereo and heating controls but you''ll soon learn to live with them if you own the car. All the materials are soft touch and the dashboard is clear, the trip computer easy to operate and the seats very comfortable.

The test car came loaded with optional extras. Among the best was the Xenium Pack which for PS2000 gives you a panoramic sunroof, electric front seating and a rear parking camera.

There was also a PS1,900 Driver Support Park which includes a low-speed automatic braking system in the event of an impending collision, adaptive cruise control, a lane-keeping assist system to keep you in the right lane, automatic high beam headlights, road sign display system and a blind spot monitor. All very useful and I think they should be standard on all cars.

VOLVO''S 4x4 version of its V40 family hatchback is more about on-road safety and competence than off-road gymnastics.

The Cross Country model certainly looks beefier and more wholesome than its good-looking stablemates, but while it might drive happily along rutted farm tracks it is far from a mud-plugger.

To be fair, it''s not what Volvo had in mind.

It left the rough terrain stuff to the off-road, field-romping competence of family members like the XC70 and XC60 SUVs.

But imagery and perception rule the day, rather than reality. What is important is that the car looks the part of a rugged, go-anywhere hatch, even if its scope is limited off-road.

Customers want a vehicle to look macho, convey an adventurous attitude but drive with the greatest-of-ease. In effect, like a car. The Cross Country achieves all this.

Volvo have certainly achieved a more tough stance with the V40 Cross Country with its raised suspension - affording a better command position - meatier bumpers and side skirts, underbody protection and roof rails.

This treatment will cost you an extra PS1,000 over the regular V40 -but the test car has also something special: a lively 254bhp, 2.5-litre petrol powerhouse which is the only engine to get all-wheel drive in this range.

With a generous amount of eager power on tap, the car is propelled from 0-62mph in 6.4 seconds and achieves a top speed of 146mph.

The hatchback feels alert and flexible and the automatic box doesn''t falter. Steering also is alert and direct, though more feedback to the driver''s fingertips would be welcome.

An emergency stop, courtesy of a young dog that hadn''t observed survival skills while crossing the road, demonstrated the brilliant grip and traction control of the T5. This is where the four-corner grip came into its own and will be a huge confidence-booster in dicey weather conditions.

So, while Volvo has turned up the tempo with a 20-valver petrol engine and given it a macho makeover, it has also made the T5 a highly responsible and safe car with the accent on driving pleasure.

There''s good composure, despite the hatchback sitting 40mm higher than the straight V40 and bodyroll is well within tolerance levels and quality, as you''d expect with Volvo, is right at the top of the priority list. Good materials, excellent fit and finish - both inside and outside the car.

Volvo V40 T5 Cross Country ENGINE: 2497cc 5-cyl 20v 254bhp@5400rpm 360Nm@1800rpm PERFORMANCE: Top speed: 146mph 0-62mph: 6.4 secs ECONOMY: Combined: 34mpg CO2 EMISSIONS: 194g/km INSURANCE: Group 30 PRICE: PS34,065 PS40,640 as tested)
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Publication:Daily Post (Conwy, Wales)
Date:Aug 22, 2014
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