It was fitting in the year when the classic film Mary Poppins was re made, that Swedish pioneers Volvo have launched a new model the XC40, that is practically perfect in every way. Back in 1959, Volvo designed & patented the three-point seat belt that was launched in the Volvo Amazon & PV 544 on the Nordic markets. Volvo was thus the very first car maker in the world to equip its cars as standard with three-point safety & even gave the world this technology free of charge.
Volvo’s genius gained it a reputation for designing & building safe, practical cars, even being described in the 1990 film Crazy People, as “ Boxy but good.” Perhaps Volvo took this on board because when they revamped their model range & in 2002 launched their first luxury large SUV the XC90, they had more by luck then design stumbled on an actual boxy but good blueprint, that was to see the brand adding the XC60 to it’s range in 2008. The ensuing years, have seen an unbelievable demand from customers for crossovers & latterly new versions of the XC90 & XC60 were launched to much critical acclaim. Stoked by the success of Nissan’s Qashqai, every car brand produced their take on the compact crossover, with most of those at the luxury end, save for perhaps the Range Rover Evoque, lacking that certain “je ne sais quoi.” Step forward then the XC40, Volvos latest compact SUV, which aims to show that the premium car makers can get things right when building something more diminutive.
There’s no doubt that Volvo are on a roll. Now completely self funded, Volvo won several awards in 2018, including for the XC40 the What Car of the Year 2018 & the XC60 both European & World Car of the Year awards.
At first sight, the XC40 does look like a baby brother to both the XC90 & XC60. And like both, it is being offered with three & four-cylinder petrol & four-cylinder diesels only, with a plug-in hybrid arriving later. Petrol versions are the T3, T4 & T5 all turbocharged & producing 154bhp, 188bhp & 247bhp respectively. The T3 is available with front-wheel drive mated to a manual gearbox only, whilst the T4 & T5 are both AWD eight-speed automatics. For Company Car drivers the diesel options are the 148bhp D3 & the 188bhp D4.
Following the larger XC range, there are three model specs; Momentum, R-Design & Inscription, with all of them offering an additional “Pro” option. All come well equipped with Momentum offering 18” alloys, cruise control, the splendid Volvo 12.3” digital instrument panel & 9” Volvo infotainment system, dual-zone climate control & rear parking sensors. The Momentum Pro is up-specced to appeal to company car drivers & adds heated front seats, a heated windscreen, folding wing mirrors & adaptive headlights.
Next up is R-Design which adds leather seats, a gloss-black trim, tinted windows, a leather steering wheel & gear knob. R-Design Pro comes with 20″ alloys & a power adjusted drivers seat.
Inscription is up next & this includes a powered tailgate, metallic paint, front parking sensors & internal ambient lighting, with finally, the Inscription Pro, which tops off the range & includes LED front fog lights & a powered passenger seat.
It’s hard to differentiate the exterior of most compact SUV’s from one another nowadays & the XC40 is no different. The rear boomerang lights & front Thor headlights make it recognisably a Volvo. Otherwise at distance, it’s hard to tell it apart from the JEEP Compass, Skoda Karoq & SEAT Ateca. To make it stand out, you can have a colour contrast roof on the Momentum or R-Design models. Inside though, things get much better with a typically Swedish take on de-cluttering on offer, coupled with first-class build quality.
The infotainment screen & Volvo Sensus system are carried over from the larger XC’s, the air vents are narrower & sharper looking than those found on it’s larger siblings & the cabin itself comes with a plethora of clever touches that make this a truly practical family car.
Cavernous door pockets aided by placing the speakers on the dash rather than on the doors, a folding hook integrated into the glove box to hang your take away on, a removable compartment between the front seats that doubles as a bin & is large enough to fit a tissue box into, as well as the option of a wireless phone charger at the base of the centre console, all show that Volvo has been thinking about what customers want in their small Crossover.
Front seat passengers have great space & legroom in the rear is good too. We tested the launch model, First Edition which comes with a panoramic sunroof & in this version head room is hampered in the back by the glass roof with anyone over 5.10” finding it a little tight in there. We guess that the solid roof will add an extra couple of inches.
For those who require a practical boot, the 460-litre in the XC40 is not class leading. However, it does comes with a useful flat floor & the bonus of having no lip at the front edge, making loading & unloading easier. There’s also useful extra space underneath the flat floor as well.
If you spec the Convenience Pack, the boot floor can be cleverly divided to stop your shopping shifting around. Lower the rear seats & they fold flat, into there boot floor, which increases the capacity to 1,336 litres, which gives you plenty of space for a trip to IKEA.
Practicality extends to the infotainment system on the XC40. The Sensus system fitted to the XC40 range & controlled by the 9” touch screen which dominates the centre console is excellent. Sensus does take a bit of time to get used to & we don’t like that you can’t adjust the climate inside the car without going into the touchscreen, which is both distracting & fiddly on the move. We like that the 9” portrait screen offers a ‘collapsible blinds’ interface. This means that it is able to transfer key information, such as SatNav instructions, across to the digital instrument panel. The only negative is that Apple CarPlay & Android Auto are not standard on the range & will set you back an extra £300, which is a real shame when you can have it on much cheaper cars for free.
We drove the D4 190bhp diesel 8 speed auto AWD First Edition, which costs £39,905 OTR. The shortish wheel base makes for relatively sharp handling & in the mid-range of 1,500-3,000 rpm it’s really good fun to drive. The 19” wheels soak up the bumps in the road quote nicely & the suspension is not too firm. We’d expect the smaller 18” wheels to fare even better.
We had a play with the car’s drive mode, selecting Eco on the motorway to save fuel & Dynamic on the smaller roads, which added a bit of tightness to the engine & made the steering a little heavier.
Whilst the First Edition offers the retail customer exceptional value, it is the entry level diesel D3 which ticks the Company Car driver box. With front-wheel-drive & manual-gearbox, it emits a competitive 127g/km of CO2 & comes with a claimed combined fuel economy of 58.9mpg. Lower CO2 figures will come when the plug-in hybrid version arrives. It also offers the lowest BIK in the range, at least for now, at 27% meaning a higher rate tax payer will be asked to pay £259 per month for the privilege of driving one.
We spent a week & 300 miles in the XC40 D4 190hp diesel, which drove like dream, was as quiet inside as anything I’ve ever tested & offered us everything we could want of a compact SUV. An average fuel return of 34.4 mpg was the only disappointment, in what was a highly enjoyable week.
From a safety perspective, XC40 customers can relax with on board automatic emergency braking across the rang.The system is capable of spotting not only cars but also pedestrians & large animals. Every XC40 also comes with a lane departure system which will intervene and pull the car back into your lane if it fears you’re going to steer into the path of oncoming traffic. If that’s not enough, you can pay extra & add the Intellisafe Pro Pack & you will be further reassured with the addition of Pilot Assist up to 80-mph, Adaptive Cruise Control, Blind Spot Info System, Cross Traffic Alert with Autobrake & Rear Collison Mitigation.
Although Volvo have promised to end diesel engine production by 2020, in the short term, diesels still offer business users the best fuel economy & in SUV’s & Crossovers, it’s by quite some way. Volvo’s Twin Engine petrol model’s do offer customers a tax breaking alternative, so at least the Volvo customer will be able to choose. In the meantime, if you do big miles, diesel should be your choice. Regardless of engine unit though, the XC40 is a hit.
Volvo have built a great compact SUV that is practically perfect in every way. Unlike other cars in this sector, it’s not a compromise. The XC40 offers the most practicality, coupled to a strikingly different interior, making it the best of any compact premium crossover that we have ever driven.
A “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” 4.5/5.