2019 Volvo XC40
Holds its own against the Germans
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- 16 Nov 2018
By James Park
Volvo, the sole-surviving Swedish car manufacturer, has always been an upscale brand, but probably not in the same league as the German trio of Audi, BMW and Mercedes. The company, however, appears to be trying harder to get there with their latest products.
At the brink of financial meltdown, Volvo was resuscitated by its new overlord, Geeley, a Chinese automaker. At least on the surface, Volvo seems to enjoy relative autonomy to pursue its own goals, but with lot more cash to work with.
The first fruit of this new order of things – the XC90 – garnered accolades and was crowned as the 2016 ‘North American Truck of the Year’ at Detroit. Not too shabby for first attempt, indeed.
Other products, incorporating the new design language and corporate strategy established by the XC90, soon followed. This brings us (finally!) to XC40, the smallest crossover in the Volvo lineup.
This compact utility vehicle lays down the challenger’s gauntlet at such posh rivals as Mercedes GLA, BMW X1 and Audi Q3. The XC40 sure costs as much as these and does not really fall behind in any other measurable qualities.
According to Volvo Canada website, the base Momentum model claims 39,900 loonies as its starting MSRP. Tack on a couple of options and the fragile 40K mark will be easily breached. The mid-level R-Design is $44,100 and the top-of-the-line Inscription will set you back at least $47,050.
As with other newer models, the XC40’s exterior is typically boxy but sleeker than the Volvo vehicles of yore. Compared to the large XC90 and the mid-size XC60, the XC40 appears perhaps less well-proportioned and heavier than it needs to be. The vehicle is not bad-looking by any means and many might even find it cute and engaging.
The vehicle is also very engaging to drive, thanks to better than average handling and more than sufficient power supplied by the direct-injected and turbo-charged 2.0 litre four-cylinder gasoline engine. This motor is good for maximum 248 horses and 258 lb-ft of torque from way down low.
It also gets decent fuel mileage of 10.3 litres per 100 km in city and 7.5 litres on highway, but has the taste for more expensive juice.
The eight-speed automatic transmission shifts crisply and seamlessly. But like many other manufacturers, Volvo couldn’t resist the temptation to introduce a ‘trick’ shifter to replace the perfectly good PRNDL setup. The new stubby shifter has to go into Neutral first, making the driver push or pull it twice to engage R or D.
Maybe due to the direct-injection, the engine has bit of diesel clatter to it. Soul-stirring sound it is not, but the XC40 takes off with gusto. The R-Design test-vehicle’s brakes are equally powerful.
The driver gets to play with four drive modes: Eco, Comfort, Off-Road and Dynamic. Even in Comfort, the XC40 exhibits plenty of get up and go. In Dynamic, the car displays more aggression with higher engine rpm and tauter suspension. Off-Road is for gravel surface and the like. The AWD system sends power to the front wheels in normal situation.
Thanks to the boxy design, visibility is excellent all around and the driver enjoys a commanding view of the road. She or he also benefits from first class cabin with high-quality materials, all-day comfortable and supportive seats and fantastic sound from Harman Kardon audio.
The R-Design test-vehicle gets tablet-like 12.3 inch touch screen with pinch and swipe functions. For a middle-aged person like this writer, it needs little bit of getting used to, but becomes fairly intuitive after awhile.
The tester also comes with 19 inch alloys, panoramic sunroof, satellite radio, two-zone auto climate, heated seats and steering wheel, etc. Safety equipments include blind-side monitoring, lane-keep assist, forward collision mitigation, 360 degree camera and so on to uphold Volvo’s long-held reputation as maker of very safe vehicles.
So, the XC40 is small but luxurious crossover that is fun-to-drive, practical, gets decent mileage, has enough power to satisfy and hold its own against the German rivals. Those looking for something different should definitely give this vehicle a serious look. (James Park is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada.)
2019 Volvo XC40 R-Design
As tested: $49,650
Engine: 2.0 litre turbo four
Power: 248 hp/258 lb-ft
Transmission: 8 spd auto
Fuel: 10.3 litres per 100km (city), 7.5 litres (highway)
Best: power, upscale cabin
Worst: pricey, infotainment needs getting used to
Competition: BMW X1, Audi Q3, Mercedes GLA 250, Infiniti QX30, Lexus NX
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