When the Volvo XC40 was first unveiled to the world, it not only represented Volvo’s first formal entry into the small luxury CUV ranks, but it also came with a whole host of bold promises including youthful appeal, a budget friendly pricing ladder, as well as a revolutionary subscription service. But can the Volvo XC40 indeed be the one to fulfill these promises, while also still succeeding at its root mission in the CUV ranks at the same time?
At first glance, the XC40 certainly has the aesthetic goods to back it up. While the exterior canvas is distinctively Swedish, and lacks some of the design swagger wielded by the recently tested Jaguar E-Pace in the process, it is still a handsome CUV. The front fascia for example is very reminiscent of what has already been seen on the bigger XC60 and XC90 models, but the XC40 stands out by being more youthful, and has a higher degree of sportiness than either of its bigger corporate stablemates. The front grille is borrowed from the XC90, but the XC40 wears it inside out, and our R-Dynamic grade tester added some sporty trim to help enhance its sleek look even further. Meanwhile the “Thor’s Hammer” design for the LED headlights are a slimmer application here, and they ooze cool.
Meanwhile, the short overhangs push the wheels to the corners, and a prominent belt line leads up to a chunky C-pillar. We like the way the belt line swoops up, and it is certainly a more exciting design motif especially for Volvo, which has a reputation for being elegantly restrained when it comes to exterior design elements for its products. Like other Volvos, the tail lights are arguably the weakest link in the design. They are chunky in size, but look garish when compared to some of its rivals such as the fore-mentioned E-Pace which tend to have cleaner units than those seen on the Volvo.
The interior of the XC40 continues the youthful vibes generated by the exterior. The design is simple and elegant, but the orange carpeting is an interesting contrast element that should please younger buyers. The lack of wood trim in the interior is also a refreshingly nice change from other entries, and really meshes with the metal pedal covers that come as part of the R-Design package. The large door panel storage pockets, as well as other assorted hooks and storage crevices gives plenty of storage space to passengers.
This makes up for the fact that the XC40 offers slightly less cargo room than the Jaguar E-Pace with the compact Swede offering 20.7 cubic feet of cargo space with the seats up and 47.2 cubic feet of space with the seats down versus the Jag’s 24.2 cubic feet and 52.7 cubic feet of space. The Volvo gains some ground in leg room with front passengers in particular benefiting from the 40.9 inches of space available (rear passengers get 36.1 inches of space.)
The glaring weakness here is the 9.0 inch touchscreen infotainment system with Sensus Connect. On the surface, the screen meshes nicely with the rest of the dashboard, and even comes bundled with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability. However, it is still a beast to operate when driving, with our time being marred by laggy inputs, erratic load times, and often having to navigate various menus just to access a particular feature.
Annoyingly as was the case with the V90 we tested awhile back, getting to the home menu is an unnecessary frustration especially when closing certain functions. On a brighter note, our testers optional 13 speaker Harmon and Kardon sound system did a good job delivering excellent sound quality and we appreciated the way it even made classical music sound so crisp and life like.
Performance for our tester came from a 2.0 liter turbocharged four cylinder that produces 248 horsepower, and 258 lb-ft of torque. The buzzy engine is down on power slightly when compared to the E-Pace’s 295 horses, but it still proved to be a confident partner out on the open road. Volvo claims that the T5 can make the sprint to 60 mph in 6.2 seconds, and we believe them, with the engine boasting plenty of punch especially in the middle portion of the rev band.
All-wheel drive is the volume seller here, but Volvo also offers a base front wheel drive model that will be known as the T4. This particular model will have a 185 horsepower version of the 2.0 liter four cylinder and is aimed towards buyers that are willing to sacrifice performance in favor of increased fuel economy. An eight speed automatic is the sole transmission choice available in both engines, and in practice it turned out to be a mixed bag. Shift quality is butter smooth, yet still accurate enough for more spirited driving especially through twistier sections of tarmac.
Our gripe centers around the shifter itself which is perhaps one of the worst on the market today. In order to engage Drive or Reverse, drivers have to move the selector twice in either direction to formally engage it. Miss the second tap, and the transmission stays in Neutral forcing you to do the whole process over again. This trait could create a delay in certain parking maneuvers, and cause unnecessary frustration with owners.
Pricing for the 2018 Volvo XC40 starts at $33,200 for the base Momentum T4 model with the T5 engine adding $2,000 to the MSRP. Our tester had a final asking price of $45,935 which is a bit steep, considering that the less expensive E-Pace has more power and edges the Volvo in overall curb appeal as well. The Mercedes GLA also boasts more power, but it cannot match the XC40’s slightly cheaper pricing and the AMG model is in a league of its own. Lastly the BMW X1 has a bit more polish in its driving manners than the XC40, but in typical BMW tradition, pricing can easily eclipse the XC40 when equipped with certain trim and option packages.
Volvo is also keen on showing off the XC40’s nod to the future with a brand new subscription service for Momentum and R-Design grade models. These subscriptions aim to simplify the ownership experience, and bundle perks such as insurance, road hazard protection, maintenance, and normal wear and tear into one simple package. Bargain hunters need not apply since both subscriptions start at $650 and $750 a month respectively, with Inscription models being excluded from the offer. This is the first time an automaker has ever offered this kind of payment plan, and like a smartphone plan, Volvo buyers can upgrades to a new Volvo in as little as a year.
When looked at as a whole, the 2019 Volvo XC40 brings a funky charm to the brand’s lineup while also maintaining the spirit, cachet, and style that has defined recent Volvo models, with the subscription plan bringing a new and potentially game changing element into the overall car buying experience, We look forward to seeing what the future holds for the XC40, and whether more youth oriented features will make their way to this key model in the years to come to help it stand out from the E-Pace and other rivals.
Carl Malek has been an automotive journalist for over 10 years. First starting out as a freelance photographer before making the transition to writing during college, his work has appeared on numerous automotive forums as well as websites such as Autoshopper.com.
Carl is also a big fan of British vehicles with the bulk of his devotion going to the Morgan Motor Company as well as offerings from Lotus, MG, and Caterham. When he is not writing about automobiles, Carl enjoys spending time with his family and friends in the Metro Detroit area, as well as spending time with his adorable pets.
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