Volvo’s first stab at cool
By now you know the drill with Volvos—boxy, boring etc. All that changed with the new cars underpinned by the Scalable Product Architecture, or SPA, platform. Spearheaded by the stylish XC90 SUV, the range of new-age Volvo’s grew to include more sophisticated cars like the S90 sedan, V90 estate and, most recently, the replacement to the bestselling mid-size SUV in Europe, the XC60. And as effortlessly slick as these cars look, they are also decidedly mature. Grown up, pinned down and understated would be apt to describe the styling. The XC40 is the opposite of all those things. Thanks in part to the more vibrant colours but largely down to the more ‘fun-sized’ proportions. The first car to be based on the Volvo-Geely developed Compact Modular Architecture, or CMA, platform, the XC40 looks compact on the road, though up close you realise there’s a fair amount of sheet metal to take in.
At 4,424mm the XC40 is the same size as a Mercedes GLA but it looks much more substantial, more SUV than crossover. The long snout of the larger Volvo’s makes way for a stubby front end, still recognisable though as a Volvo with the signature Thor’s Hammer headlights and concave grille. From the side, it’s pure SUV with its clamshell style hood, a high shoulder line and large glass area. The reverse link in the C-pillar is an especially nice touch, giving the baby XC some nice
haunches and allowing the surfacing to taper in towards the boomerang-shaped tail lights. There’s also an interesting intersection of the sides into the roof, while up front there’s a dash of patriotism, in the form of the Swedish flag sticking out from under the hood. R-Design packages add a contrast black roof, apart from gloss black trim instead of rubber, larger 20-inch wheels instead of 19s and two exhaust cut-outs instead of the single. It also has a different interior trim and the super cool orange carpeting that extends up to the door pockets. The car maker claims that you can also order your Momentum or Inscription trim car with a white roof. While final configurations have not been finalised for India, we can expect wheel sizes to be downgraded to 18s as standard and 19s on the R-Design spec.
The interiors feel like they were designed by someone who’s spent a lot of time in other cars, noting down mistakes and then correcting them. Intuitive best describes the user experience in this cabin. All car functions are accessed via the central touchscreen that we love from the more expensive Volvos, leaving the central tunnel free for a wireless charging receptacle big enough for two smartphones, the gear lever, a removable waste bin and a large storage bin under the arm rest. Also by removing the lower mounted door speakers, there’s a lot of storage space freed up in the door pockets, good for two large bottles.
Volvo is also proud of their new air ventilated woofer tech that provides a resonance chamber for the central speaker placed right at the start of the windscreen. It adds bass to the already wide and impressive soundstage offered by the 13 speaker Harman setup. I love the deep dish steer-
THE CMA PLATFORM WAS ENGINEERED FOR
SMALLER CARS AND WE EXPECT TO SEE
THE NEW GENERATION V40 HATCHBACK BASED
ON IT SOON
ing wheel and the brushed silver spokes feel pure quality, just like the rest of the cabin. The seating is quite high, which gives you a good view of the road. It is something, Volvo tells us, that their customers look for in an SUV. In the back, you’re well taken care of with dedicated AC vents, two charging ports and a bench wide enough for three adults. The rear bench has a recline that’s more suited to short stints than long hauls but again under thigh support is good and knee room is adequate, except for the passenger in the middle. The XC40 is probably one of the roomier cars in its segment.
Like most others in the segment, it’s powered by a choice of 2-litre engines. In D4 diesel spec, figures are 190bhp and 400Nm torque which will take it to 100kmph from standstill in a respectable 7.9s. The T5 petrol is faster to the 100kmph mark at 6.5s, with its 247bhp, 350Nm torque output. But the diesel is quiet inside and refined and actually torquier in city traffic so you don’t really notice the difference. Both come with a BorgWarner AWD system that can split torque 50/50 between the front and rear wheels when needed while driving the front wheels under regular conditions. Both are fitted with an 8-speed torque converter automatic with paddle shifters. We discovered that the system makes some good decisions on its own. In any case, the box is a little reluctant with quick downshifts. While both engines offer
a healthy mid range for in-gear overtakes, the diesel felt more potent lower in the rev range. Conversely the petrol has longer legs and supports an enthusiastic driver better, especially in Sport mode, which adds a bit more heft to the steering feel and sharpens up throttle and brake response. Both aren’t really meant to attack mountain roads, favouring ride quality over handling. The ride quality in fact comes close to what’s offered on Volvos with air suspension. As a result, body roll is your first sign that you’ve entered a corner a little too enthusiastically. Though the XC40 will grip and hold on surprisingly well even if you decide not to lean on the progressive and predictive braking capabilities of the car. The weighty steering we talked about earlier feels a little lacking in turn-in feedback but makes up for it with confidence-inspiring stability at speed. Also boosting your confidence will be the plethora of safety systems that will come standard when the XC40 launches to India. On board is the new improved City Safety System that can even monitor four-way intersections and brake automatically, the semi-autonomous Pilot Assist that steers you to your lane at speeds up to 130kmph, as well as adaptive cruise control and blind spot assist in the outer rear view mirrors. Sealing the deal, eight airbags are standard.
Cabin feels remarkably well-made and premium, like on the bigger, more expensive Volvos
1. Carried over from the siblings we just mentioned, 9-inch infotainment is your window to the working of your XC40. 2. Three adults in the rear isn’t a squeeze. But let’s face it, these seats are more likely to be carrying your kids
Adding fire to an already super-hot premium crossover/ SUV segment, the XC40 stands out purely in terms of its interior class, feature list and safety tech. We also like that’s got funky styling on its side. It’s comfortable to be in and offers hugely practical touches like the shopping bag hooks and removable central bin for waste. That shows that Volvo’s been listening to its customers. And we have no doubt that the XC40 will earn them a whole new demographic in India.
1. No hump at the loading lip makes using the 460 litres of boot space a breeze. Thoughtful luggage partition has hooks for shopping bags, apart from preventing items behind it from rolling around. 2. Volvo’s smartphone app lets you do smart things with your XC40 like cool it in advance. 3. Updated safety systems now react to a higher number of hazardous situations