XC40: Gothen­burg’s Evoque is gor­geous

The E Pace on the cover won’t have things all its own way. Volvo’s got big am­bi­tions for its small pre­mium SUV.

CAR (UK) - - Contents - By James Tay­lor

T

HE RIGHT CAR, for the right mar­ket, at the right time? You’re look­ing at it. The XC40 is Volvo’s first proper en­try into what com­pany pres­i­dent Håkan Sa­muels­son de­scribes as the world’s fastest-grow­ing seg­ment – small, pre­mium SUVs. He says: ‘We have the right prod­uct for the fu­ture.’ Hard to ar­gue. As first at­tempts go, it’s an im­pres­sively well-re­solved one, with all the de­sir­abil­ity of its big­ger 60 and 90 sta­ble­mates in a smaller and more af­ford­able pack­age, with its own dis­tinc­tive char­ac­ter.

‘Be­cause this is a new seg­ment [for us] we had the chance to do some­thing new,’ says se­nior vice pres­i­dent for de­sign Robin Page. ‘This car didn’t have to [look like] a sib­ling to the 90 or 60 fam­ily – it could ac­tu­ally be more like a cousin.’

The chic, blocky cross­over is the first ar­rival of a new 40 fam­ily. Al­though yet to be of­fi­cially con­firmed, it’s highly likely to be joined by a suc­ces­sor to the cur­rent V40 hatch and a more elon­gated ver­sion aimed chiefly to­wards the Chi­nese mar­ket. XC40 is the first car to be built us­ing Volvo’s new CMA (Com­pact Mod­ule Ar­chi­tec­ture) plat­form, co-de­vel­oped with Chi­nese owner Geely, which will use the same un­der­pin­nings for its re­cently an­nounced Lynk & Co brand. Volvo’s de­sign­ers in­sist that de­spite shar­ing plat­forms the cars will look very dif­fer­ent.

To be­gin with noth­ing but 2.0-litre four-cylin­der en­gines will power the XC40, launch­ing with a 187bhp D4 diesel and 244bhp T5 petrol, both with all-wheel drive and auto gear­boxes. Fur­ther four-pot en­gine op­tions with front-drive and man­ual vari­ants will fol­low shortly, and will later be joined

by a three-cylin­der petrol en­gine be­ing co-de­vel­oped by Volvo and Geely, to­gether with a plug-in hy­brid XC40 and – quite a bit later – a full plug-in elec­tric ver­sion.

Launch­ing si­mul­ta­ne­ously with the XC40 is Care by Volvo, ‘the world’s first sub­scrip­tion model for cars’ ac­cord­ing to the com­pany. Sim­i­lar to mu­sic stream­ing or mo­bile phone pack­ages, cus­tomers get the car for 24 months at a flat monthly rate of £629, in­clud­ing in­sur­ance, tax and ser­vic­ing – after which they get a new one. Ini­tially it’s avail­able only to peo­ple liv­ing within the M25 and on se­lect en­gines and trims; it’ll be rolled out to other vari­ants, and to cus­tomers liv­ing else­where, at a later date. With younger driv­ers re­luc­tant to com­mit to ful­lon own­er­ship of any­thing, Volvo’s try­ing to get ahead of the curve; in five years, it ex­pects a fifth of its sales to come from Care by Volvo.

Buy an XC40 the old-fash­ioned way and the range starts at £27,905 for the front-wheel-drive man­ual 154bhp T3 petrol Mo­men­tum, with the equiv­a­lent 148bhp D3 diesel at £28,965. Flashier-look­ing R-De­sign ver­sions (black roof, dual ex­hausts, lower sus­pen­sion) mostly oc­cupy the low-to­mid £30k bracket, and the range tops out at £40,355 for the kit-laden T5 First Edi­tion launch special. Those prices put the XC40 broadly in line with the Audi Q3 (which Volvo in­sid­ers say was the chief bench­mark) and Jaguar’s new E-Pace, and a lit­tle be­low the Range Rover Evoque.

The XC40 has just as strong a de­sign per­son­al­ity in­side as out. The por­trait touch­screen is the same one found in 60/90-se­ries mod­els, but its sur­round­ings are unique to the XC40, and won’t be car­ried over to other 40-se­ries mod­els. In­ven­tive stor­age so­lu­tions in­clude a re­mov­able rub­bish bin in the trans­mis­sion tun­nel con­sole (which won’t fea­ture on the hy­brid ver­sion, as its bat­ter­ies eat into tun­nel space), and mov­ing the bass speak­ers from the doors to be­hind the dash­board, re­sult­ing in gi­ant pock­ets big enough to take a lap­top. A nice touch (lit­er­ally) is the use of felt made from re­cy­cled bot­tles, found in larger Volvo mod­els to quell rat­tles in the door pock­ets, but spread across the en­tire door in­ners and trans­mis­sion tun­nel to trim the XC40.

At 4425mm long the XC40’s around 260mm shorter than the XC60 but there’s still a use­ful boot, plenty of legroom front and rear, and those gi­ant cu­bist bell-bot­tom C-pil­lars don’t block as much side and rear vi­sion as you might ex­pect.

UK de­liv­er­ies be­gin early in 2018. We sus­pect it might just sell like par­tic­u­larly hot cakes.

HELLO SPACE BOY Ian Ket­tle was lead ex­te­rior de­signer: ‘I based the de­sign around the phrase “tough lit­tle robot,”’ he says, cit­ing sci-Œi Œilm Elysium as an in­spi­ra­tion. ‘It’s a new car – not a scale model of a 90/60-se­ries.’ SHADES OF THE PAST The Ama­zon Blue paint op­tion is the same shade o ered on the 1964 Volvo Ama­zon – which was also com­bined with a white roof. Con­trast­ing roof, wheel and mir­ror colours are avail­able only with Mo­men­tum spec.

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