Stylish, practical, and eminently likable, the XC40 is a winner.
– Detroit, Michigan
The virtues we’ve come to love in Volvo’s new larger cars trickle down successfully to the company’s smallest crossover, the XC40. Premium yet affordably priced, sporty and stylish yet still sensible, the 2019 Volvo XC40 makes a big impression. It also stands out in its class because so many other small premium SUVs are tough to recommend – some are too cramped, others are expensive, others have brittle ride quality. This one, however, seems a great choice in every way. Because our ranking system compares the XC40 to all SUVs, some of these category numbers may look only average. But rest assured, the XC40 earns high praise all round.
Starting from $35,200 for the T5 Momentum and running up to $39,750 for the glitzy T5 Inscription, the XC40’s pricing structure is par for the course for premium small SUVs. This mid-grade version, the R-Design, starts at $37,700 before destination and options. But its as-tested price of nearly $46,000 reflects the fact that it is easy to add a lot of cost when you elect Volvo’s many options packages; order carefully to keep you car’s price in check. Later, Volvo will add a front-wheel-drive XC40 trim level that’ll be more affordable, starting at $33,200, though it will also have less horsepower. You can even “subscribe” to the XC40 through a new program called Care By Volvo that bundles insurance and lease payments into one easy program; click here for a full breakdown of how that scheme works.
The XC40’s design is far funkier and less generic than its competitors; close rivals include the Audi Q3, BMW X1, and Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class. Available contrast-color roofs help it stand out, while the bold lines and clever details like the clamshell hood lend the Volvo a premium appearance. It rides high, too, with 8.3 inches of ground clearance to justify its “crossover” description, along with plastic fender cladding for that all-important sense of ruggedness. All told, the XC40 has a very cool design that appeals more to the eye than some other models in its class.
Material choices throughout the XC40’s cabin are not quite as special as we’ve lauded in more expensive models like the XC60, S90, V90, and XC90, but they’re still more than deserving of the “premium” label. The design of every surface is clean, minimalist, and pleasant to the touch. This R-Design model has a funky orange carpet option that, while cool for Instagramming, seems a little impractical in the long run. Driver and passenger have plenty of space in all directions, and despite the XC40’s modest exterior dimensions, the back seat is just fine for adult passengers, too.
Moreover, you’ll find tremendous amounts of storage: the center console cubby is roomy and there’s a removable trash can ahead of it (yes, really). The door pockets are spacious enough to hold my 15-inch MacBook Pro laptop, too. Cargo room, at a total of 57.5 cubic feet, is generous for a crossover of this size. With the back seat raised, take advantage of built-in hooks to keep your grocery bags from wandering, and prop up the in-floor cargo divider to keep small items separated.
Volvo scores high marks for its tablet-like, portrait-style, nine-inch touchscreen. With high-contrast, high-resolution graphics, it’s easy to pick out relevant functions at a glance; swiping between three main pages of information keeps diverse buttons and options separate. Moreover, there’s integration for your phone, via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, plus built-in navigation, excellent voice controls, and third-party apps like Spotify, Pandora, and Yelp. Interestingly, Volvo does not offer an analog auxiliary audio port, but you can stream music over Bluetooth or use the USB port. Surprise-and-delight features include self-parking, color-changing ambient lights, and a 360-degree camera system. The full-color instrument cluster is also extremely usable, showing the navigation map and other vehicle alerts directly ahead of the driver.
As with most competitors, a turbocharged 2.0-liter is the standard engine, and here it provides plenty of instantly available thrust, with 248 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. The Volvo XC40 feels like a car, with agile steering and handling (aided in part by the 19-inch wheels on this R-Design model), a quick-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission, and excellent control feel. At times the ride can be too firm over big impacts, yet it can also, counterintuitively, feel a little floaty on the highway; I’d like to try an XC40 with smaller wheels (and thus higher tire sidewalls) to see where its ride-and-handling balance falls. All told, the XC40 is fun to drive and vice-free on the road – traits that cannot be said for all of its competitors.
Volvo’s reputation for safety is well-deserved when you look at the features that are offered on the XC40. City Safety comes standard, providing pre-collision warnings and braking, as do technologies Volvo calls Run-Off Road Mitigation and Oncoming Lane Mitigation. Pilot Assist, an advanced form of adaptive cruise control with lane-centering, is part of the Premium package, while the Vision package includes blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert.
Though those features are optional, Volvo doesn’t make you pay too much for them, and bundles them with lots of other nice-to-have features. All told, the XC40 has many features to keep you safe, and at a reasonable price. On the other hand, the safety rating takes a mild hit due to the so-so rear visibility. A giant C-pillar and that upward-sloped beltline do constrict sightlines over your shoulder. At least the blind-spot monitor and an available 360-degree camera help make up for that demerit.
Rated for 23 miles per gallon in the city and 31 mpg highway, the XC40’s efficiency ratings are good within the class considering its power and the fact that all-wheel drive comes standard (a cheaper, more fuel-efficient, front-drive model is due later). Premium fuel is required, though, costing the Volvo some points. And in my week-long test I struggled to do much better than 21 mpg in mixed driving.
Photos: Jake Holmes / Motor1.com