Volvo’s best product might just be its least expensive. While all their new products bear a strong familial resemblance to each other, the XC40 has more of that quirky charm Volvo is known for.
The current range of Volvos are all a master class in functional and elegant design and the XC40 makes it accessible to more people with a starting price coming in just under $40,000 for the base Momentum trim.
In exchange for your hard-earned cash you get one of the best looking crossovers in the subcompact entry-level luxury segment with a turbocharged two-litre four-cylinder, all-wheel drive, a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, and a nine-inch portrait-oriented centre touchscreen set in an ultra-cool, minimalist cabin. And being a Volvo, safety is always a priority with things like power child locks, forward collision mitigation with pedestrian and large animal detection, a lane-keeping aid, and whiplash protection as standard.
I’ve read good and bad about Volvo’s smartphone-like Sensus infotainment software but I find it a refreshing departure from just about everything else out there. The screen is segmented into four main sections: navigation, media, phone, and recently accessed functions. A home button at the bottom will bring you back to base after accessing one of the functions. The system is intuitive and takes full advantage of the vertical screen’s real estate. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto only take up the bottom half of the screen, so both systems run simultaneously. A physical controller, however, would be a welcome addition and would make it safer and easier to use on the move. Touch screens are great but they are distracting and it’s a problem with all manufacturers that use them exclusively, not just Volvo.
The XC40 takes thoughtful interior design to a new level by peppering the cabin with all sorts of cubbyholes and storage spaces you didn’t even think you needed. I mean who needs credit card holders, anyways? But Volvo gives you a couple by your left knee, which might come in handy at the drive thru window you’ll be visiting much too often.
Need somewhere to toss that cheeseburger wrapper? There’s a small trash bin in the centre console for collecting refuse that might otherwise clutter up your swanky interior. There are also handy little nooks at the base of the rear seats and a slide out drawer under the driver’s seat. The front door pockets can hold a 15-inch laptop and the cargo area load floor doubles as a handy divider complete with grocery bag hooks. Spend some time in one of these and you’ll begin to wonder why more car companies don’t put this much thought into designing their interior spaces to work with people’s lives.
Then there are the supremely comfortable seats, a Volvo strong point, which you can sit in all day. It’s also surprisingly roomy given its compact stature and the cargo area easily swallowed our large stroller, a toddler-sized bicycle, and a week’s worth of groceries.
For a small crossover the XC40 does many things right, but that’s not usually enough. With so much competition from the likes of the Audi Q3, BMW X1/X2, Range Rover Evoque and the new Mercedes GLB, the Volvo also has to deliver when it comes to the drive. Good thing that it does, then.
Right away you get the feeling that Volvo designed the XC40 to be fun, and not as serious as its rivals. It feels frisky and light on its feet with a slightly touchy throttle response that’s backed up by a swell of torque that pulls you down the road with more urgency than you expected. The turbo four-banger with 248 hp and 258 lb.-ft. of torque give the XC40 enough shove to keep most happy.
There’s a pleasing lightness to the steering but also a modicum of body roll reminding you that there are sportier alternatives out there, but the XC40 counters back with a silky ride that made short work of pothole-ridden downtown Toronto streets.
The Inscription tester, provided to me by Volvo, gets a few extra visual elements like a crystal gear lever, driftwood inlays, and “Inscription” badging on the rear pillars and headrests. It signifies the most luxurious trim of the XC40 and also commands the highest price tag ($48,200). Surprisingly even at this level, the navigation system remains an optional extra.
A premium package, which my tester was equipped with, adds some of those storage items I mentioned earlier but also things like a power tailgate, auto-dimming mirrors, heated rear seats and steering wheel, a wireless phone charger, and blind-spot monitors.
If you want semi-autonomous cruise control, and a 360-camera system, you’ll need to tack on the premium plus package, and adaptive dampers are another $1,000.
While it seems like you’re getting a pretty good deal with the amount of stuff they cram in the premium pack, many of these items like the power tailgate, and heated rear seats should come standard on a vehicle nearing $50,000.
Something else that irks me with most every new Volvo I drive is the electronic gear shifter that you have to double-tap to put into drive or reverse, and no matter how many times I get in one I never get used to it. The Orrefors crystal topper, though, looked especially cool at night, reminding me of a frosty ice cube in the palm of my hand, a nice touch.
The Volvo XC40 positively drips with style inside and out. It makes the driver feel good, like they’ve gotten more than what they paid for. If you’re shopping in this segment and want something that everyone else didn’t buy or if you just want a very well designed crossover, the XC40 needs to top your list.
2020 Volvo XC40 T5 Inscription
BODY STYLE: 5-door, 5-passenger subcompact SUV
CONFIGURATION: Front-engine, All-wheel drive
ENGINE: 2.0L turbocharged inline-4; Power: 248 hp @ 5500 rpm; Torque: 258 lb.-ft. @ 1,800-4,800 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 8-speed automatic
CARGO CAPACITY: 586-1336 litres
FUEL ECONOMY: (Regular Gasoline in L/100 km) 10.7 city; 7.7 highway; 9.4 combined
OBSERVED FUEL ECONOMY: 10.1 L/100 km
PRICE: $48,200 (base); $53,825 (as-tested)+ $2,015 freight + PDI
WEBSITE: Volvo Canada