CHOOSING one outstanding car in any one year can be tricky but for me there is a car that stood out head and shoulders above the rest in 2013.
It was the new Volvo V40, a car that not only demonstrated that a manufacturer can successfully produce entirely new models in a ruthlessly competitive market but can also conjure up a car that does not compromise the reputation on which its maker’s success was founded.
In my experience, Volvo has excelled itself in recent years. Despite being now owned by the Chinese after a period with Ford, the Swedish car company has proved that with regard to the cars it is currently producing, it is still its “own man”.
There have been the naysayers, those who cannot get round Volvo’s tendency in the past to present a safe and sensible image somewhat lacking in style. But the recent years of production to my mind have seen Volvo correct this imbalance.
Not only are newer Volvos still safer and eminently sensible (as is their wont) they are stylish, too. And none more so than the V40, the Swedish car company’s “baby” and a welcome addition to the fold.
So I have chosen the Volvo V40 — and particularly my Christmas Cotswolds’ test drive, the V40 CC D2 Lux — as the Henley Standard Car of the Year 2013.
Having put that small fanfare to one side, I have to say that when I first encountered the V40 CC, or cross-country version, it did not strike me as being quite as appealing as the V40 hatch I tried earlier in the year. However, over Christmas I have been driving a higher spec version of the V40 CC, the D2 Lux, and this has changed my view of this more rugged version.
I think its leather seats and high comfort interior zone plus its good looks, including new livery colours and attractive six-spoke alloy wheels, make this V40 very desirable.
For me living on the edge of rural Gloucestershire, the V40 Cross Country is a good option. Quite often I am driving in town but more often than not I am bounding along the rural rides of this lovely county. The design of the Volvo V40 Cross Country includes protective body panels, bigger wheels and tyres and an increased ride height, making the occasional rutted track and rough ground I encounter less of a challenge.
There is a powerful T5 petrol version delivering 254hp but I found the ultra-efficient D2 diesel, which emits just 99g CO2, the engine I would choose for everyday use. As part of Volvo’s Drive-E, the carmaker’s approach to “sustainable driving”, all of the V40’s engines come with start-stop technology.
It is Volvo’s attention to detail — the kind of detail that makes driving safer and easier — that makes this manufacturer stand out. Park Assist Pilot makes parallel parking easy: you control the speed and direction of the car while the technology does the rest.
There is even an airbag that will help reduce the severity of pedestrian injury. This is a Volvo car safety world first aimed at limiting the consequences of frontal collisions between cars and pedestrians.
I think if there is one feature of driving today I want to scrutinise more in 2014 on all test cars it is safety. Economy and comfort have their place certainly but I find daily driving now so potentially hazardous that you have to have faith in the safety features on your car, for your own sake as well as your passengers’.
The Volvo V40 Cross Country has a range of “safety-first” technologies including Adaptive Cruise Control, the “pedestrian-aware” features — Pedestrian Airbag technology, Pedestrian Detection with full auto-brake and City Safety, which automatically brakes the car in an emergency at speeds of up to 31mph. Volvo calls this programme IntelliSafe, part of its approach to car safety.
The seats fitted to the V40 Cross Country are the same as those fitted to the V40. They offer comfort and support for drivers and passengers — one of Volvo’s trademarks. The rear seats offer two sculptured seating positions, and there is room for three rear passengers, all with three-point safety belts.
There is another V40 on the horizon for me — the V40 R-Design. I have not yet driven this model but look forward to testing it in 2014 and reporting back to you in due course.
In the meantime, I would recommend the V40, my car of the year, as one to add to your wish list.
– The V40 Cross Country is available in two specification levels, Cross Country SE and Cross Country Lux.
– Prices start from £22,595 on-the-road for the V40 D2 Cross Country SE, up to £33,875 for the V40 T5 AWD Geartronic Cross Country Lux Nav.
– The V40 Cross Country is fitted with SENSUS, Volvo’s infotainment system, designed to give outstanding connectivity, security and personalisation.
– Fitted as standard in all specification levels, Bluetooth offers hands-free mobile connectivity, along with music streaming from a compatible device.
– The V40 Cross Country SE is fitted as standard with 16in six-spoke Geminus alloy wheels and 17in six-spoke Larenta alloy wheels on the Cross Country Lux.
– There is a cost option of upgrading them to the 18in six-spoke Mefitis alloy wheels. All three wheels are unique to the Cross Country.