Un­box­ing Volvo’s new XC40 T5 baby SUV

Kaikoura Star - - FRONT PAGE -

XC40 is com­pact in re­la­tion to an XC60 (263mm shorter), but it’s still 260mm longer than the likes of a Hyundai Kona.

In re­la­tion to its ob­vi­ous ri­vals, XC40 is a lit­tle shorter than an X2 and just a pinch longer than the E-Pace. But tall of course: about the same height as big-brother XC60.

The Forty is based on Volvo’s Com­pact Mod­u­lar Ar­chi­tec­ture (CMA), which is dif­fer­ent to SPA but is still com­pat­i­ble with all the same tech­nol­ogy.

So we’ll say no more about that.

The model you’re look­ing at is the flag­ship $72,900 T5 R-De­sign AWD, which is lead­ing the charge of the ‘‘tough lit­tle ro­bot’’ (that’s what lead de­signer Ian Ket­tle calls the XC40). But from June there will be a much wider range, start­ing at $59,900 and in­clud­ing two other trim lev­els – the base ver­sion with FWD. All have ver­sions of Volvo’s 2.0-litre turbo-petrol en­gine.

A plug-in hy­brid XC40, with a three-cylin­der petrol en­gine and lithium-ion bat­tery pack, has just been re­vealed at the Bei­jing Auto Show. Al­though that’s ob­vi­ously a lit­tle way off for us.

Ac­tu­ally, the car you’re look­ing at here is the T5 R-De­sign Launch Edi­tion, which adds $6000 to the price but brings the Driver Sup­port Pack (Volvo’s bril­liant must-have adap­tive cruise with Pi­lot As­sist, 360-de­gree cam­era and au­to­mated park­ing), Life­style Pack (tinted win­dows, power fold­ing rear seats, panoramic sun­roof and Har­man Kar­don sound sys­tem), heated front seats and alarm.

As you can tell from the ju­di­cious use of the word ‘‘Pack’’, you can spec­ify any T5 to the same level, al­though it would cost a to­tal of $81,285.

On the out­side, the XC40 is clearly a Volvo but very much its own thing in terms of de­tail and pro­por­tion. The same is true of the in­te­rior, which has fa­mil­iar switchgear and the nowsig­na­ture Sen­sus nine-inch por­trait-shape touch screen. But it also has a look and feel of its own – the ma­te­ri­als are cheaper than an XC90 for sure, but the tex­tures and tiny details are a lot more in­ter­est­ing.

The XC40 ab­so­lutely reeks of clever Volvo stuff. It’s a spa­cious cabin (thank you, box-shape), but you’re also surrounded by sur­prise-and-de­light fea­tures.

Like the or­ange car­pet in our test ve­hi­cle?

It’s made from re­cy­cled PET soft-drink bot­tles and colour is called Lava. The XC40 is full of con­ver­sa­tion-starters like this.

The door bins are mas­sive be­cause there are no speak­ers in them (they’ve been re­placed by some­thing called an ‘‘air woofer"), there are stor­age bins ev­ery­where, the cen­tre con­sole can hold a box of tis­sues and the phone charg­ing pad is ac­tu­ally large enough for mod­ern large­screen mo­biles (this rarely hap­pens).

The boot has a few tricks of its own.

It’s a pretty de­cent size as it is, but the floor con­certi­nas up to form a par­ti­tion that also in­cludes hooks to hang your shop­ping bags on. If you’re look­ing for max­i­mum cargo space by fold­ing the rear seats down, the lug­gage cover can be stored in a nook un­der the floor.

Seems nat­u­ral to get to the driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence last. While many sporty mod­els are de­signed from the ground up, you get the feel­ing many Volvos are de­signed from the in­side out.

Stands to rea­son, then, that the XC40 is not the most en­gag­ing drive in its class. In T5 form it’s cer­tainly fast (0-100kmh in 6.5sec) and the pow­er­train feels fizzy in­deed.

But the steer­ing is de­void of feel and there’s a di­chotomy be­tween the T5’s ag­gres­sive ri­mand-tyre setup and the XC40’s com­fort-ori­ented chas­sis. It can cer­tainly get around a corner quickly and safely, but it doesn’t al­ways feel that con­fi­dent do­ing so: there’s quite a bit of ad­just­ment re­quired from the driver to keep the mo­men­tum up.

Speak­ing of safety: you can’t avoid the topic with a Volvo.

The XC40’s CMAbase picks up ev­ery­thing from the larger SPA mod­els and then some: blind-spot warn­ing, col­li­sion warn­ing, lane-keep, ‘‘mit­i­ga­tion’’ aids for ev­ery­thing from on­com­ing traf­fic to run­ning off the road, whiplash pro­tec­tion and tyre pres­sure mon­i­tor­ing. The XC40 also gets a new it­er­a­tion of Rear Cross Traf­fic Alert, which can not only recog­nise ap­proach­ing traf­fic/ cy­clists/pedes­tri­ans, but also brake the car au­to­mat­i­cally.

Are you a lux­ury car­maker? Then you need a quirky baby-SUV for 2018. This is Volvo’s: the XC40.

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