Volvo XC40 D4 AWD Geartronic
Volvo debuts a promising contender in the fast-growing premium-compact SUV segment
THE Swedish manufacturer revealed its target-market intentions when it published teaser images of the XC40 Concept in May 2016. The images weren’t offered on its website … they were unveiled on the social-media platform Snapchat. And it was done with a caption reading, “Not your daddy’s Volvo.” Who this new crossover would be aimed at was clear: successful, individualistic, tech-savvy Generations Xers.
One of the last models penned by Thomas Ingenlath before his appointment as CEO of Volvo’s performance division, Polestar, the XC40 adds a playful element to the design DNA seen in the XC90 and XC60. This smaller SUV adopts the signature Thor’s hammer LED headlamp design and concave grille, but high door sills and a two-tone roof give it a lower, sportier appearance that, along with more angular lines, constitutes a more striking look than its bigger siblings.
Little design details – honey traps for a Generation Xer – abound and include a small, rubber Swedish flag found between the front-left fender and bonnet, much like a label tab you’d find on your favourite tailored shirt. It’s a clever touch that adds a bit of flair and unashamed pride in its country of origin.
The XC40 is based on the new Compact Modular Architecture platform co-developed with Volvo’s owner, Geely. This layout gives the XC40 a wheelbase of 2 702 mm and body width of 1 863 mm, making it slightly larger than the Mercedes-benz GLA and Audi Q3. Inside, the XC40 feels quite compact despite a claimed headroom of 991 mm up front. While rear headroom is plentiful, taller passengers sitting in the back will find legroom somewhat of a squeeze.
Rear patrons do, however, have access to their own air vents, seat heaters and charging ports. A benefit of the XC40’S packaging is the abundant amount of storage space available in the doors and centre console, making it the perfect cabin for water bottle hoarders. The XC40’S boot space falls in line with what you would
find in the segment, but also has additional hidden storage below a boot board to safeguard your belongings.
The interior mimics the cues of the company’s larger SUVS and the XC40 features a simpler version of the XC90’S multifunction leather steering wheel, a digital gauge display and the familiar nineinch Sensus Connect touchscreen infotainment system. In this cabin, however, it is now angled more towards the driver, making it easier to access information. The cabin maintains solid fit and finish throughout, along with some suitably quirky touches that include optional Lava Red trim that complement the cabin’s leather upholstery and aluminium inlays.
An element that does feel misplaced is the centre-console armrest that isn’t on the same level as the ones on the front doors. If you’re the type of driver who prefers to rest their elbows while driving, this could be an irksome setup. Despite being branded as comfort seats, I found the XC40’S bonded-leather pews harder than expected, even with the lumbar deflated to the softest setting. This could hamper the light SUV’S long-distance driving appeal for some.
In the D4 variant, Volvo’s familiar Drive-e 2,0-litre fourcylinder turbodiesel delivers 140 kw and 400 N.m to all four wheels through an eight-speed, torque-converter automatic transmission. Benefiting from the XC40’S lighter mass, the engine is alert and smooth, and works comfortably both in city-bound and long-distance environments. Considering it’s a diesel, the D4 is also relatively quiet. Coupled with the XC40’S well-insulated cabin and the comfortable ride on the test vehicle’s 235/50 R19 tyres, the vehicle exhibits impressively low noise and vibration levels.
This is complemented by the Volvo’s plush ride. The suspension uses Macpherson struts at the front and multilinks aft. We have criticised some of the German SUVS in this segment for possessing a ride that’s too choppy, but this isn’t the case with the XC40; the suspension successfully negotiates uneven surfaces.
The cabin maintains solid fit and finish throughout
Dynamically, the chassis plays its part, too. On-road, the XC40 exhibits plenty of grip through the all-wheel-drive configuration and felt sharp, direct and more interactive than I anticipated. Our route didn’t involve any gravel driving, but given its absorbent ride and ground clearance of 211 mm, I would anticipate its gravel-road manners to be impressive, too.
Much of the rest of the drive in the XC40 was spent on the congested streets of Barcelona – a realistic environment for a car like this – and, thanks to its compact proportions, elevated seating position and light controls, navigating the crossover through the busy lanes was light work. One area that did bother me somewhat was the sensitivity of the brakes. There’s considerable bite right at the top of the pedal’s travel, and that will take some acclimatisation.
The XC40 is a promising offering and an excellent entry-point to the Volvo SUV family thanks mainly to impressive equipment levels and Volvo’s full suite of safety features; a composed ride; a punchy powertrain; and appealing design. When it arrives here in April, it will have a starting price of under R500 000 for the D3 and T3 entry-level frontwheel-drive models, with the top-spec D4 and T5 AWD variants coming in at roughly R600 000.
At first glance, that might appear to make the XC40 a pricey addition to the fold, but have a look at the facing page and you’ll realise that’s exactly where the German competition is pegged. Standard specification will be generous, says Volvo, and despite some serious competition in the segment, this new baby SUV will likely persuade many new customers to try out the bullish Swedish brand.
clockwise from right Instrumentation consists of a 12,3-inch TFT display; optional Lava Red carpet trims the door pockets; Sensus Connect system further refined and now angled towards the driver; seats feel a touch too firm, but are supportive in the best Volvo way.
from top Thor’s Hammer signature headlamp design has become a Volvo calling card; CMA platform affords XC40 a plush ride and bodes well for upcoming V40; not merely an XC90 clone, the small SUV has a distinct personality.