Take an existing vehicle. Add a dash of extra ride-height, a pinch of protective body cladding and a pair of shiny roof rails. Voila! You're now looking at a lifestyle vehicle.
Volvo, of course, has been following this recipe for some time now, creating particularly delectable offerings in its range of already capable wagons. But it has also been known to apply the idea to its C-segment premium hatchback.
This, then, is the updated V40 Cross Country. And, while its appearance here is thanks to little more than a minor facelift, its very existence has perhaps never been more relevant, what with the fascination of today's consumer with rugged, off-road-ready looks.
Of course, since it's essentially just a raised, front-wheel-drive hatchback, the V40 Cross Country isn't exactly in its element once the tarmac gives way to the rough stuff, even if the range-topping T5 derivative comes standard with all-wheel drive (and all models gain a 12 mm hike in ride height, to 145 mm). That, though, matters little to the typical buyer, who will likely never venture further off-road than down the odd gravel path.
Like the standard V40, models bearing the Cross Country badge gain a handful of mid-cycle styling updates, including fresh treatment for the grille, new alloy wheel designs and the option of the Swedish brand's eye-catching Thor's Hammer lighting signature. Inside, the changes are even harder to spot, unless you opt for the new tweed-like upholstery, City Weave, that is.
Plenty of standard kit
The T4 Momentum model under scrutiny here, though, boasts leather as standard, along with the sort of features – from a plush, electrically adjustable driver's seat to rear parking sensors and dual-zone climate control – that its German rivals often consign to a lengthy options list.
While the T4 Momentum is rather generously equipped as standard, our test unit was furthermore fitted with a pair of optional packages: the Sport Pack (R29 500), which includes the likes of LED headlights, keyless entry and a parking assist function; and the Driver Support Pack (R32 500), which adds all sorts of safety kit to the already bursting list, such as blind-spot monitoring, a lane-keeping aid, active high beams and a reversing camera.
So, what's it like to drive? Well, little has changed in this department: the V40 Cross Country still rides with a certain litheness (even on optional 18-inch wheels) and is pleasingly refined at both city speeds and out on the highway, while its six-speed automatic transmission swaps cogs smoothly and intuitively. But the 2,0-litre turbocharged petrol mill in the T4, though carried over from the pre-facelift range, is perhaps still the highlight of the package.
More than sufficient grunt
With a substantial 140 kW and 300 N.m on tap (the latter across the usefully broad range between 1 300 and 4 000 r/min), the plucky cross-hatch sees off the obligatory sprint to 100 km/h in a claimed 7,1 seconds. Handily, that considerable shove doesn't come at the expense of efficiency, with the T4 returning a figure of 7,0 L/100 km on our standard fuel route. An ideal mix of grunt and economy? Not far off…
There are, as always, a few shortcomings to consider. The ageing facia, for instance, is somewhat button-heavy, and thus not the easiest to use on the go. The stop-start system, meanwhile, is often over-eager, cutting the engine even if the brake pedal is not fully depressed. And, as with the standard V40 hatch, neither luggage (which we measured at 216 dm3) nor rear passenger space is quite on par with that of the competition.
Not that there's much in the way of direct competitors for this Cross Country derivative. Other than perhaps the Subaru XV and new Mini Countryman (scheduled to arrive locally in March 2017), the Mercedes-Benz GLA is likely the chunky Volvo's closest rival. And the A-Class-based crossover costs quite a bit more.
Well worth a look
So, while the facelift changes little, it does serve as a reminder that the classy V40 Cross Country deserves more than a mere passing glance from consumers in the market for a premium hatchback with a lifestyle slant. It's a comfortable, exceedingly well-mannered thing that, while by no means cheap, offers a certain sense of value for money courtesy of its extensive standard features list.
And, thanks to current consumer tastes, it's more relevant to local buyers than ever before.