2019 Volvo XC40: First Drive Review

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceNext Volvo Crossover
With the XC40, Volvo continues its run of crossovers that fit with the brand’s new stylish design as well as its reputation for safety. First came the XC90, followed last year by an updated XC60. Now Volvo introduces its first compact crossover to the U.S. market — the XC40. Clearly recognizable as a member of the Volvo crossover family, the XC40 brings many of the features introduced on those larger crossovers to a small, right-sized package.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceFirst Volvo Compact SUV
“The XC40 is our first entry in the small SUV segment, broadening the appeal of the Volvo brand and moving it in a new direction,” said Volvo Car Group President and CEO Hakan Samuelsson. “It represents a fresh, creative and distinctive new member of the Volvo line-up,” Samuelsson noted.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceNew Architecture
This new compact crossover is built on Volvo’s new Compact Modular Architecture designed for 40-series vehicles, indicating that smaller models are on Volvo’s horizon. This new framework features one fixed point between the center axle and firewall — the rest of the platform can be adjusted, meaning that new vehicles with longer wheelbases as well as different heights, overhangs and lengths can be built on this same platform, allowing designers to quickly respond to market demands without the need for an entirely new chassis.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceExterior Styling
The new XC40 has many of the same styling cues as the two larger Volvo SUVs — most notably the signature “Thor’s Hammer” headlights. However, the XC40’s grille juts out at the bottom with a more expressive style than the flatter XC60. At the rear, taillights feature the same vertical treatment as the XC60 and XC90, but the smaller model really stands out from the others thanks to its two-tone paint.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceModel Lineup
The XC40 is available in three trim levels: Momentum, R-Design and Inscription. Front-wheel drive will eventually be standard; however, all three variants will be launched with all-wheel drive as the only option. All-wheel drive adds $2,000 to the base price.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceXC40 Momentum
As the base-level trim of the XC40, the Momentum has a starting MSRP of $33,200. Standard equipment includes leather seat trim, an 8-way power driver’s seat, automatic climate control, a rearview camera, keyless start / stop, integrated roof rails, a power tailgate and 18-inch alloy wheels. A 9-inch vertical touchscreen display, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a 250-watt AM/FM/HD audio system with 8 speakers and Bluetooth streaming are also standard on all XC40s.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceXC40 R-Design
The base price of the stylish R-Design is $35,700. For the additional $2,500 over the Momentum, buyers get a black contrasting roof, dual exhaust, 19-inch R-Design alloy wheels, LED front fog lights and gloss-black trim on the grille, roof rails and side-mirror covers. The interior has Nappa leather trim, a perforated-leather steering wheel with paddle shifters, dual-zone climate control and aluminum deco inlays. The R-Design also features a Sport chassis with stiffer springs, thicker anti-roll bars as well as monotube rear shock absorbers.

© Volvo Cars North AmericaXC40 Inscription
The Inscription is the top-level trim of the XC40 lineup, and at this time pricing has not been released. This premium trim adds a panoramic moonroof, special 18-inch alloy wheels, driftwood inlays, keyless entry with a hands-free tailgate opening and an Orrefors crystal gear shift knob.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceCare by Volvo
With the rollout of the XC40, Volvo introduces a fresh method for buyers to get into the new compact SUV — and eventually other new Volvos. With Care by Volvo, consumers pay a monthly fee and in return get a new XC40, insurance coverage, all scheduled maintenance as well as a 24/7 concierge service and roadside assistance. An annual 15,000-mile allowance covers wear and tear items ranging from wipers to tire and wheel damage. The subscription term is 24 months; however, after 12 months the customer will have the option of upgrading to a different vehicle and starting another 24-month term.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceTwo XC40 Subscriptions
At launch, two XC40 variants are available via the new Care by Volvo program. The XC40 Momentum with the Premium Package, Vision Package, heated front seats and heated steering wheel will run $600 per month, while the R-Design equipped with the Premium Package, Vision Package, Advanced Package, heated front seats, heated steering wheel, panoramic roof, Harmon Kardon Premium Sound and 20” wheels can be had for $700 per month.

© Volvo Cars North AmericaSafety
No other auto brand has become as synonymous with safety as Volvo, so its no surprise that the new XC40 comes well equipped with the latest safety technology. Standard on all XC40 trims is City Safety, which features collision avoidance that detects vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists and animals and can automatically apply brakes as needed. Also standard is Run-off Road Protection & Run-off Road Mitigation, Lane Keeping and Oncoming Lane Mitigation, and a Whiplash Protection System for front seats. A blind spot information system and cross traffic alert are available as additional options.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceInner Space
As with the larger XC90 and XC60, the centerpiece of the XC40 is the large vertical 9-inch Sensus touchscreen display. Aside from volume control and defroster buttons, all entertainment, climate control and vehicle settings are accessed via this display. Several menus are available, accessed by either main selections or by swiping left or right.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceFrustrating Touchscreen
The touchscreen display in the XC40 presents multiple bits of information simultaneously, and the navigation screen is large and clear. However, accessing temperature controls via the touchscreen rather than knobs or buttons can be frustrating, and it can be difficult to accurately select radio stations or other items due to the selection area being too small and sensitive. Attempting to simply select an item can initiate an unintended swipe, making selection difficult. This behavior occurs for driver or passenger, so it seems to be a matter of sensitivity rather than operator error.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceExcellent Front Seats
In keeping with other Volvo interiors, the XC40’s front seats are among the most comfortable on the market. Side bolsters keep the driver and passenger stable without being too tight, and the curved seatback puts the head restraint in just the right spot.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperiencePlenty of Storage
The new XC40’s interior has adequate storage up front via a standard glove box as well as a covered center console. Centrally-located cupholders easily fall to hand, with additional storage forward of the gearshift. A wireless phone charger makes this location extremely functional; it also has two USB outlets. A hook can be deployed from the front glove box to hold a bag or purse.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceRear Seat
For a small crossover, the XC40’s rear seat is surprisingly comfortable. Legroom is reasonable for two passengers without needing to move the front seats forward. Ingress and egress presents no notable issues. The center position in the rear is usable, but the seat is stiffer and leg space is extremely limited.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceCargo Space
The XC40 offers an impressive amount of cargo space, and the rear seatbacks fold down to offer even more room. A versatile bottom panel can be folded so grocery bags or other cargo stays in place to prevent spilling when the vehicle is in motion. A hard-shell cargo cover can be removed and stored beneath this panel.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceUnder the Hood
Powering the all-wheel-drive XC40s is a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder T5 engine that produces 248 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. Volvo reports that acceleration to 60 mph takes 6.2 seconds with a tops speed of 140 mph. Front-wheel drive variants also draw power from a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine, but this unit is designated T4 and has a different turbocharger that reduces output to 187 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of torque. All XC40s employ an 8-speed automatic transmission.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceFuel Economy
Fuel economy numbers have not been released by the EPA; however, based on the engine’s performance in the larger XC60, drivers can expect to see the XC40 deliver low 20s for city driving and approaching 30 mpg on the highway.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceAll-Wheel Drive
The XC40’s all-wheel-drive system features a lightweight, compact coupling that under normal conditions delivers almost all power to the front wheels. The system constantly calculates where torque is needed and can deliver up to 50 percent of the power to the rear wheels. At a standstill all-wheel drive is always engaged to provide maximum traction during acceleration. The XC40 offers an impressive 8.3-inches of ground clearance — although most will never go off-road, the new Volvo should be perfectly capable in mud or snow.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceDrive Modes
Volvo offers multiple driver-selectable modes that set the vehicle up for different situations. Comfort mode is the default, which is the setting for the smoothest ride. Dynamic mode calibrates the engine and transmission for more aggressive driving, providing quicker engine response, faster shifts as well as quicker steering and brake response. An ECO mode programs the engine and transmission to provide optimum fuel economy.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceOn the Road
On a recent press trip, auto journalists had the opportunity to test the new XC40 in and around Austin, Texas, spending time driving in town as well as beyond the city limits. Its small size and high seating position make the XC40 ideal for a busy downtown core, providing good visibility, maneuverability, and parking ease.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceWet Weather
During the drive in Texas it rained almost nonstop, which showcased how well the XC40’s all-wheel drive system works on slick roads — so well drivers that didn’t notice the system at all. Accelerating into traffic in wet conditions does not present any problems, including no noticeable wheelspin — even under full throttle.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperiencePower
Although the XC40 won’t win any races, the turbocharged engine offers commendable performance. Accelerating to freeway speeds occurs quickly, and the transmission operates seamlessly. Cruising along at 70 mph seems effortless with very little road noise.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceHandling
The XC40 is quite fun to drive when roads get a little twisty. The small crossover feels stable with quick direction changes, and it possesses plenty of power for steep inclines. On one occasion during the Texas drive the vehicle crested a hill at a good clip, resulting in the seat belts cinching up in preparation for a crash — it seemed like the XC40 was preparing for the worst. Thankfully the preventive actions were simply a welcome reassurance, and the XC40 continued on its merry way.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceRight for You?
The small premium crossover market is one of the fastest growing in America, with many new entries set to arrive this year. Vehicles such as the BMW X1, Audi Q3, Infiniti QX30, Jaguar E-Pace and Mercedes-Benz GLA are but a few of the strong competitors to the XC40. That said, the Volvo XC40 will certainly hold its own thanks to attractive styling, fun paint treatments, a spacious and comfortable interior, versatile cargo space and a strong turbocharged powerplant.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceRating: 8.5
Pros: Attractive styling; extremely comfortable seats; versatile cargo space.
Cons: Frustrating touchscreen; bumpy ride on rough pavement.
Bottom Line: A premium compact crossover that completes and complements Volvo’s SUV spectrum.


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