SITTING pretty much on its own in a nether world somewhere between a hatchback and a compact crossover, the Volvo V40 Cross Country defies motoring stereotypes.
Based on the Swedish car maker's impressive V40 hatchback, it looks much the same from a distance - but closer inspection reveals an elevated ride height, contrasting black sills, chunky cladding and roof rails which are all characteristic of the booming crossover sector.
Depending upon your viewpoint it's either typically clever Scandinavian packaging or sheer laziness - but Volvo have come up with a motor aimed at those who like their car to look a little bit tougher without actually having to design, launch and market a completely new model.
If you want to be picky, maybe the name's not the greatest idea, because with only range-topping petrol models getting four-wheel drive it would be a foolish driver who took the Cross Country tag literally.
Although primarily cosmetic, that extra ride height actually increases comfort as the raised suspension soaks up more of the lumps and bumps on our increasingly pot-holed roads.
But it hasn't affected the sharp handling you get with the standard V40. Aside from a little body roll in bends the Cross Country is very settled with good grip.
Couple that with some perky performance from the 2.0-litre, 190ps, D4 diesel engine in my test car and you've got a drive which, although not the sportiest, still has the ability to put a smile on your face.
The 0-62mph benchmark sprint comes up in an impressive 7.3 seconds while a top speed of 130mph means there's no chance of you being left behind on the motorway.
But it's the mid-range punch which impresses the most, especially when the power pack is paired with Volvo's smooth eight-speed Geartronic automatic transmission.
A prod of the right foot, to snatch an overtaking opportunity, for instance, elicits a swift injection of pace which will push you gently back into the supportive front seat.
The interior of the Cross Country is pretty much identical to that of its sibling, which means it's stylish and well appointed with high quality materials that have a reassuringly long-lasting feel about them.
The dashboard is clean and typically minimalist with Volvo's trademark floating control panel. The controls will be familiar to Volvo regulars, but others may find the amount of buttons a little bewildering - and some of them a little on the small side.
Space and comfort for those in the front is plentiful but legroom in the rear is a little tight. Four adults should, nevertheless be comfortable on most journeys although shoulder room is tight if you need to get three in the back.
The boot, although equipped with a flexible floor system, is not as spacious as that in some rivals but the 60/40 split rear seats do fold flat to create extra load space.
The entry level V40 ES trim is not available in Cross Country garb, with just SE and Lux versions on offer. This pushes up the base price but does mean that all models come generously equipped.
The Flagship Lux Nav car I drove had 17-inch alloys, leather upholstery, electronic climate control, automatic lights and wipers, sat nav, Bluetooth, cruise control and electric folding door mirrors.
Of course, no Volvo skimps on safety kit and as well as traction control and all the usual airbags all V40 Cross Country versions get a city safety system, which brakes at up to 31mph if the car senses an imminent front-end bump, and technology which lifts the bonnet slightly to protect pedestrians in any impact.
If you want even more reassurance, for an extra £1,900 you can get the Driver Support Pack which adds enhanced collision warning and cyclist and pedestrian detection as well as blind spot warning and lane keeping alert systems.