• New range-topping V40 models driven in the UK
• Sporty R-Design model costs from £22,295
• Cross Country has SUV-style looks, but most models are 2WD

Two new flagship models have joined the Volvo V40 range: the R-Design gives the car a sporty look to rival Audi’s S line and BMW’s M Sport trims, while the Cross Country model has a more rugged, SUV-style feel.

In effect, both are styling packs for the V40 and the new models are sold as part of the regular Volvo V40 range, broadening its appeal.

Cross Country models cost £1000 more than the equivalent standard model and come only in SE and Lux trims, corresponding to the regular SE and SE Lux trims. Despite the looks, though, only the dear T5-engined models have four-wheel drive; the rest are front-wheel drive, like all other V40s.

For that extra money, you get a visibly different car. Most notably, the car sits on a raised (by 40mm) suspension, but there are also several new styling touches: dark contrasting bumpers, a honeycomb front grille and upright daytime running lights. The rear, too, has a unique look, while inside there is a unique mix of colours and trims.

R-Design trim, on the other hand, gives the car a sporty makeover. Costing £2300 more than the ES model (and another £1750 if you want the Lux version, with leather-faced upholstery and ‘bending’ headlights), it has a metal-framed grille, twin exhaust pipes and larger alloy wheels, as well as unique bumpers. It’s also available in ‘Rebel Blue’ paint, a colour uniquely available on with R-Design trim, and has unique trim detailing in the cabin.

Despite all these changes over the regular V40, the two new models don’t drive in a markedly different fashion. There’s certainly no discernible difference in the cars’ performance.

As you would only expect, R-Design models have a firmer low-speed ride, but it settles down a little once you reach the legal limit on main roads. However, that’s not to say it settles down totally, and no matter how smooth the road you’re on, the suspension seems a little unsettled at all times.

On the positive side, these cars have plenty of grip and decent body control. But, rather more disappointingly, R-Design models aren’t as sporty as they look. The steering has the same vague feeling as standard V40s and the car feels no sharper through the bends. That said, the models we drove had the standard chassis; it may be that versions with the Sport chassis will feel sharper.

One of the main advantages of the Cross Country is that you sit a little higher, which gives you a better view out – although, as in any V40, over-the-shoulder visibility is not great because of the swooping roofline and thick pillars.

Unsurprisingly, there’s more body roll than in the R-Design models, but it’s well controlled, so you can still corner in confidence. More disappointingly, though, the Cross Country’s ride also never seems to settle – a shame in a such a family-focused car.

Overall, the new cars’ strengths and weaknesses are very much in line with those of the standard V40: the quality, style and generous equipment are real plus points, while the sub-100g/km CO2 emissions on D2 models make them very appealing to company users. However, the ride and refinement could be better, and the car isn’t as good to drive as the Audi A3 and Volkswagen Golf.

For all that, the V40 remains a decent choice, and both the R-Design and Cross Country models certainly extend the appeal of the range. Ultimately, though, the only real reason to choose one of them over the standard car is because you like the way they look.

By Andy Pringle

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