Volvo Knows Your Se­crets

The new XC40 is an ex­er­cise in eerily in­tu­itive de­sign



their cars like a cross be­tween a garbage bin and a long­for­got­ten stor­age locker. Volvo knows this. In mak­ing their new­est, small­est SUV, a group of Swedish en­gi­neers and de­sign­ers set about study­ing us. They spent years re­search­ing the lives and be­hav­iours of driv­ers around the world, un­der­stand­ing our filthy habits and how we use our cars on a day-to-day ba­sis. They did a full Mar­garet Mead, and the re­sult is the rad­i­cally hu­man-friendly XC40 — the lat­est in Volvo’s range of en­tirely new cars and SUVS.

While some car com­pa­nies still can’t make a de­cent cupholder that won’t slosh cof­fee all over the dash­board, Volvo has man­aged to get that and every other lit­tle in­te­rior de­tail just right. They found, for ex­am­ple, that peo­ple put take­out food or del­i­cate cargo on the front pas­sen­ger seat or on the floor, and that it of­ten spills. Their so­lu­tion was to add a hook that flips out of the glove­box on which you can hang your take­out bags. There are some in the trunk, too, so you’ll never open it to find gro­ceries rolling about. And the de­sign­ers made it all look good, be­cause, well, they’re Swedish.

Other cars may have more pala­tial in­te­ri­ors or more techy giz­mos, but the XC40 has the best in­te­rior ar­chi­tec­ture we’ve seen in quite some time. It’s sim­ple and airy, and there­fore more spa­cious than you’d ex­pect from a sub-com­pact SUV, and looks clean be­cause there’s a place to put ev­ery­thing. It feels as if Ikea went up­mar­ket and made a car. There’s a de­light­ful range of un­ex­pected ma­te­ri­als avail­able, in­clud­ing or­ange car­pets and di­a­mond-cut metal­lic trim.

The lux­ury SUV mar­ket is ex­tremely crowded, but driv­ing the XC40, it quickly be­came ap­par­ent that it de­serves to be ranked at the very top of its class. It’s com­fort­able with­out be­ing dull, thanks to di­rect steer­ing and nicely judged damp­ing. It’s quick with­out be­ing ter­ri­ble on fuel, be­cause of Volvo’s fa­mil­iar 2.0-litre tur­bocharged mo­tor. The sound won’t ex­actly make you swoon, but there’s a split-sec­ond lull and then thwack! The turbo hits its stride and you could be for­given for won­der­ing if there’s a six-cylin­der un­der the hood. If that’s not your cuppa, Volvo has an all-elec­tric pow­er­train in the works, too.

The XC40 is a ve­hi­cle per­fectly fit for its pur­pose. In other words, Volvo did its home­work.

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