Volvo XC40 D4 AWD Geartronic

Volvo de­buts a promis­ing con­tender in the fast-grow­ing premium-com­pact SUV seg­ment

Car (South Africa) - - CONTENTS -

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.

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