Volvo’s XC40 looks set to lure buy­ers in the bur­geon­ing pre­mium small SUV class, but Ger­many and Bri­tain have other ideas

Wheels (Australia) - - Contents -

New Swede hits out to herd pre­mium SUV flock its way

NOWA­DAYS, the way we use apps to dine, date, hail a taxi, and even watch TV seems in­cred­i­bly nor­mal, but did any­body fore­see any of this a decade ago?

Same oe fo th fledglin sub­set pre­mium com­pact SUVS stream­ing into buy­ers’ con­scious­ness the world over. Yes, we’d seen un­der­wheeled frumps like the 2009 BMW X1 but un­til the Range Rover Evoque swag­gered into view dur­ing 2011, cashed-up but com­pact-minded buy­ers sim­ply didn’t have a seriously stylish SUV op­tion in their sights.

Since then, de­sign-led pre­mium-brand com­pact SUV con­tenders have spread like mod­ernist fur­ni­ture fanciers, driv­ing a class that has jumped 20 per­cent year-on-year (or roughly the amount the pre­mium medium set has slipped…), with the rather hatch-like (and set for re­place­ment in 2019) Mercedes-benz GLA cur­rently wear­ing the small-suv sales tiara.

Bu no for long, if he ates posse of pre­mium pe­tite hope­fuls have their way, as wit­nessed by this quar­tet of 2.0-litre four-cylin­der turbo-petrol Euro­peans, with the in­trigu­ing Volvo XC40 the new­est kid on the block.

De­scribed as bran­dish­ing ‘Prada train­ers’ play­ful­ness against big­ger brother XC60’S ‘suede ca­su­als’ and the full-sized XC90’S ‘black dress-shoes’ for­mal­ity, the suave, dis­tinc­tive Swede de­buts Volvo’s box-fresh Com­pact Mod­u­lar Ar­chi­tec­ture (CMA) co-de­vel­oped with the brand’s Chi­nese owner Geely, and des­tined for a bunch of fu­ture ‘40’ series mod­els.

Four vari­ants are avail­able, each with all-wheel drive, start­ing with the $47,990 XC40 T5 Mo­men­tum petrol and – for $3K ex­tra – a D4 Mo­men­tum diesel. Ours is a $54,990 T5 R-de­sign (the racier one that in­cludes 20-inch al­loys and a black roof, as well as a pow­ered tail­gate, leather, and cor­ner­ing LEDS) in since sold-out Launch Edi­tion sem­blance, adding $6670 worth of kit in­clud­ing heated seats, radar cruise, sun­roof, park as­sist and high-end au­dio, for what is a com­pelling $56,740. Gothen­burg is se­ri­ous about rul­ing this nascent niche.

But so is Jaguar with its new E-pace baby SUV, whic make mocker of olvo’s ine-up im­plicit by bom­bard­ing buy­ers with al­most 10 times as much choice, con­sist­ing of two petrols and three diesels span­ning 38 vari­ants in to­tal. All AWD for now, the hum­ble D180 costs $ 47 , 750 – a record low for the mar­que.

That said, the Brit’s ap­peal is highly spec de­pen­dent. What is men­ac­ing in the $85K HSE P300 R-dy­namic looks less wild­cat and more Care Bear cutesy in the S P250 at $57,600. Our Bo­rasco Grey E-pace tester leapt to $70,880, yet still trailed the XC40’S spec, since DAB+ dig­i­tal ra­dio and adap­tive cruise weren’t in­cluded.

Just be­hind in terms of ar­rival and pric­ing is the BMW X2 from $49,900 for the sdrive18i, or $55,900 for the sdrive2.0i M Sport X Pack­age. Our test X2 cost $66,860 due to a $4000 Launch Pack (en­hanced nav, sun­roof, head-up dis­play), $2700 Com­fort Pack (key­less en­try plus bet­ter seats with elec­tric lum­bar and heat­ing up front) and 40 adap­tive am­pers. By he way, ‘M port X’ trans­lates to sub­tle Out­back-es­que body cladding.

Note, how­ever, that ‘sdrive’ de­notes front-wheel drive. For on-de­mand AWD par­ity with the oth­ers, please con­sult the $59,900 xdrive2.0d diesel (be­fore op­tions). An all-paw X2 petrol vari­ant is not for Oz, for now.

So why not go for an X1 in­stead? Be­cause, as the cliche goes, it’s the dif­fer­ences that make the X2 bet­ter. Sure, both sit on the same wheel­base and tracks, but the X2 is shorter, lower and wider, with slightly more front over­hang yet sub­stan­tially less at the rear to give it a sleeker, spunkier and aero­dy­nam­i­cally su­pe­rior sil­hou­ette. The body and plat­form have been beefed up, with more so­phis­ti­cated dampers, bet­ter bushes and thicker anti-roll bars fit­ted, and the X2 gets 15:1 fixe­dra­tio steer­ing (in­stead of a 16:1 vari­able-ra­tio set-up).

How­ever, BMW’S con­tro­ver­sial col­li­sion-mit­i­ga­tion tech (sim­i­lar to AEB) still won’t per­form a com­plete stop.

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