Honey I shrunk the COTY win­ner!

In­wood down­sizes, but should he tem­per his ex­pec­ta­tions?

Wheels (Australia) - - Showroom - ALEX IN­WOOD

I CAN guess what you’re think­ing: In­wood has been bang­ing on about this white Volvo for months now. Yawn. But look closer; all is not what it seems. Yep, like many other Aussies, I’ve em­braced this whole ‘down­siz­ing’ thing and swapped out the (bril­liant) XC60 T8 I’ve run since its COTY win in Jan­uary for its smaller brother – the box-fresh, and highly sought-af­ter XC40.

My time in this new ad­di­tion will be fleet­ing. It’s ear­marked for Wheels on­line ed­i­tor Ryan Lewis who’ll slip be­hind the wheel next month once his 3008 long-ter­mer heads back to Peu­geot HQ.

For now, though, I thought it’d be use­ful to share my ini­tial thoughts on how the XC40 mea­sures up. Af­ter all, ex­pec­ta­tions are high: con­cen­trat­ing the good­ness of the XC60 into a smaller, funkier and more af­ford­able pack­age has to be a recipe for suc­cess, surely?

Just get­ting an XC40 is a mi­nor mir­a­cle in it­self. A com­bi­na­tion of sup­ply con­straints and a mas­sive un­der­es­ti­ma­tion of de­mand by Volvo Oz means that for now, there’s a six-month wait on or­ders. Just one pow­er­train is avail­able; a 2.0L turbo four in two states of tune. Ours is the sportier T5, in R-de­sign trim level, which adds a smat­ter­ing of up­grades in­side and out (see side­bar above), with a few op­tions that build on the $55,990 list price. They in­clude the $2500 Life­style Pack (heated seats, panoramic sun­roof), Adap­tive Cruise Con­trol with Pi­lot As­sist for $2500, and an ex­cel­lent 360 cam­era for $900.

All up, the sticker jumps to $62,710, which is a size­able $43K sav­ing com­pared with the larger XC60. And there’s plenty of core good­ness to en­joy. The first thing you no­tice is the size. Foursquare and tall, with a chunky stance and a gen­er­ous 2702mm wheel­base, the XC40 feels per­fectly pro­por­tioned for a young fam­ily. The cabin is airy, the rear seat spa­cious, and the num­ber of clev­erly de­signed and thought­ful touches verges on Skoda-es­que. There’s a small, re­mov­able rub­bish bin in the cen­tre con­sole, a take-away food hook that ex­tends from the (chilled) glove­box, and the 460-litre boot has a three­piece floor that lifts and folds to stop bags slid­ing around.

There’s per­for­mance to burn too. T5s de­ploy the same 2.0-litre petrol/eight-speed auto combo as some XC60 vari­ants and with 185kw/350nm on tap, per­for­mance is hothatch rapid.

Un­like the XC60, how­ever, the smaller XC40 de­buts Volvo’s all-new CMA (Com­pact Mod­u­lar Ar­chi­tec­ture) plat­form, though there’s plenty of com­mon DNA. The pair share the same smart­phone-like in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem, the steer­ing has that unique com­bi­na­tion of be­ing ac­cu­rate and quick-wit­ted while feel­ing light and a lit­tle dis­tant, and both roll on huge wheels. In R-de­sign trim the XC40 boasts 20-inch hoops and it’s here that we run into the first chink in its ar­mour. Sus­pen­sion com­prises struts up front with multi-links out back, and while the pas­sive set-up is nicely poised through turns, we are keen to see what ride im­prove­ment comes with cars fit­ted with op­tional ($850) adap­tive dampers.

Mean­while, the back seat cush­ion is a bit firm and flat, and rear three-quar­ter vi­sion is heav­ily im­peded by that chunky C-pil­lar. And an­noy­ingly, the stop-start func­tion switches it­self on with ev­ery new jour­ney. Turn­ing it off re­quires you to dive into the in­fo­tain­ment screen, swipe right and lo­cate the ap­pro­pri­ate tab.

Where the XC40 claws back ground is with its per­son­al­ity. Un­like the beau­ti­fully en­gi­neered and ma­ture XC60, the XC40 ma­jors on char­ac­ter and spunk. There’s plenty of vis­ual flair and I es­pe­cially like the scal­loped bon­net and sec­tion on the lower door. The only bum­mer is this par­tic­u­lar XC40 doesn’t have the lairy Lava Or­ange car­pet op­tion, which makes me think of the Peu­geot 205 GTI.

So is the XC40 as con­vinc­ing as our reign­ing COTY? First im­pres­sions are that it shares much of the fun­da­men­tal virtues. Let’s see what Lewis makes of it over the next five months.

NORDIC NOIR More dressed to the nines than Scando min­i­mal­ist, with a sprin­kling of sur­prise and de­light in here

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