BATD ON Dec 27, 2013 AT 10:07 am

by Liz Turner

Volvo V40 Cross Country D4 SE Nav

Volvo V40 Cross Country D4 SE Nav

The East Wind was blowing as she landed on my drive, and she made it clear from the beginning that she knew best. At first, I felt inclined to sulk, but my life is hectic, and after a few days I began to appreciate being nannied by the Volvo V40.

I didn’t have to worry about putting my lights on (or having my husband point out that they should be on) the Volvo did it. I didn’t have to worry about folding in my mirrors when I parked on our narrow street; the Volvo did it. I didn’t have to worry about getting lost in a web of one-ways; the easy-to-use sat-nav guided me with voice and map.

The V40 Poppins suggested the best gear for the conditions, let me know if someone was lurking in my blind spot and warned me if I got too near walls when parking. If I chose, I could allow the car to scan a parking space and manoeuvre into it, instructing me when to select a gear or brake. I have a friend who joins her little girl waving her arms in the air while her Golf parks itself, and who would never buy a car again that couldn’t do it. I’ve tried a similar system before, it frightened the life out of me, so I would save the £850 for the Park Assist Pilot.

Hey, good lookin’!

Volvos have a reputation for being solid and boxy, but the V40 is anything but. It’s a strange mix of SUV and coupe with an attractive curvy rump. This Cross Country version is quite chunky, and has the determined stance of my granny at a jumble sale.

It has lots of interesting details and textures in the cabin; one being the ‘floating console’ – a metallic strip down the centre with a small space behind it. Maybe you could stow a make-up case in there, but mainly its role is as a ‘design delight’.  (There are plenty of other nooks and crannies for mere stowage.)

The boot is surprisingly small and high, so lifting in my weekend bag would need the knees-vent, straight-back technique to avoid a trip to the osteopath. There’s plenty of room in the back seat, though. I even managed to get my parents in – any out – without complaint.

The Volvo was extremely un-nanny-like to drive; it was lots of fun, and the bits you hold – the wheel and lobe-like gearlever – have tactile surfaces and a pleasant action. The diesel engine propelled us along smoothly and quietly so I could enjoy the excellent sound system. But this was the second test car I’ve driven lately without DAB radio, so no 6Music.

I could do without the eco gauge –it goes down as the revs go up, I could work that one out, and the stay-between-the-white-lines warning is just annoying, although, no doubt, useful if you nod off.

The safest car on the road?

The Volvo feels cossetting and solid, and it’s not all perception. The V40 is the highest-scoring car ever tested by safety ratings agency Euro NCAP.

Another feature I didn’t try, but want for my car is the Collision Warning with Full Auto Brake, which scans the road ahead and warns you with a buzzer, or stamps on the brake harder and faster than any human could to prevent a collision. This, along with the external pedestrian airbag, could save the lives of children – or the surprising number of young people – who are killed on UK roads every year.

A week went by too fast, the West Wind blew, and the Volvo was gone, off to look after her next family. She’d made me think about how cars will be in the future  – and I’ll miss her.

V40 Cross Country D4 SE Nav

Price from £26,220, as tested £33,220

Park Assist Pilot £850

Engine 2.0-litre diesel

Gearbox six-speed manual

Max speed 130

0-60mph 7.9 seconds

Economy combined 64.2mpg

CO2 117g/km

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