Whether it’s the simple convenience of a handy console-mounted wastebasket or a torquey, turbocharged 2.0L under the hood, Swedish automaker Volvo hits the sweet spot in the small luxury CUV segment with its all-new XC40.
In an increasingly lookalike sea of compact CUVs, the XC40 is angular and distinctive, especially in our tester’s R-Design trim with its blacked-out rear pillar and roof and with the “R-Design” logo stamped into the pillar. The XC40 is the first of a series of Volvos built on the automaker’s Compact Modular Architecture (CMA), starting with the T5 AWD but growing to include a front-drive T4 and electrified versions.
Inside, the XC40 combines unique materials, patterns and bright colors to create a unique environment, all with a Scandinavian sense of artistic form and practical functionality. The aforementioned waste receptacle, fitted into the center console and equipped with a spring-loaded lid, is a perfect example of smart design. It’s not so large that it takes up too much space, but is close at hand when needed and is easily removable for emptying or cleaning.
Other interior niceties include wireless phone charging and a dedicated phone storage space, large door pockets, a hidden, slide-out storage tray under the driver’s seat and integrated bag hooks on the rear seatbacks. The rear seat and cargo area are large – we folded the second-row seatbacks and easily loaded in 175-cm (69-in.) skis and related gear with ease.
The 248-hp, 258-lb.-ft. (350-Nm) 4-cyl. unit in our test car isn’t turbocharged and supercharged like the T6 engine that won 2016 Wards 10 Best Engines accolades in the much larger XC90 SUV (and in 2017 in the V60 Polestar wagon). But the all-aluminum turbocharged powerplant does share many common parts and systems with its brawnier 4-cyl. brothers in the Drive-E engine family: centrally positioned direct injection, a low-friction variable-pressure oil pump, variable valve timing and an electric water pump.
In this application, weighing in at 3,629 lbs. (1,646 kg), the engine is more than capable, with no shortage of power except for that brief pre-boost moment before the engine snaps to attention. After that, power comes on quickly, with plenty of torque across the rev range via the 8-speed automatic transmission. Volvo lists 0-60 mph (97 km/h) at 6.2 seconds.
On our 500-mile (805-km) drive on mostly wide-open interstates, we recorded 23.8 mpg (9.9 L/100 km), a few ticks below the EPA-combined rating of 26 mpg (9.0 L/100 km) and well short of the car’s estimated highway number of 31 mpg (7.6 L/100 km).
Although our R-Design test car checked in at almost $50,000, it did come well-equipped, including Volvo’s full suite of safety systems (Premium, Vision and Advance packages, totaling nearly $3,000) capable of saving you from running over anything from a pedestrian to a bull moose while preventing the car from leaving the roadway or crossing into oncoming traffic.
Most impressive is the XC40’s highly capable and dependable Pilot Assist full-range adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assistance. We’ve experienced this system on long drives in Volvo’s flagship S90 sedan and XC90 SUV where it seems nearly flawless, but having the same sophisticated equipment on the more-affordable XC40 sets a safety benchmark for small luxury CUVs.
The XC40, built at Volvo’s plant in Ghent, Belgium, joins the competitive WardsAuto small luxury CUV segment where it faces stiff competition including the all-new Jaguar E-Pace, Audi Q3, BMW X1/X2, Infiniti QX30 and Mercedes-Benz GLA.
The segment tallied nearly 113,000 sales in 2017, according to Wards Intelligence data, up 50% from the prior year and nearly triple 2012, when the BMW X1 and Mercedes’ then-GLK were the only offerings.
Automakers are bullish on the small luxury CUV segment, but the XC40 would need to post big numbers to overtake its larger siblings, the XC60 and XC90, which in 2017 turned in 22,516 and 30,996 U.S. sales, respectively. Global production and allocation will keep the XC40 below those numbers in the U.S. – at least in its first year, Volvo says.
[email protected] @bobgritzinger
'19 Volvo XC40 R-Design Specifications
|Vehicle type||5-passenger, 5-door CUV|
|Engine||2.0L turbocharged, direct-injected all-aluminum DOHC inline 4-cyl.|
|Power (SAE net)||248 hp @ 5,500 rpm|
|Torque||258 lb.-ft. (350 Nm) @ 1,800-4,800 rpm|
|Bore x stroke (mm)||82.0 x 93.2|
|Wheelbase||106.4 ins. (2,703 mm)|
|Overall length||174.2 ins. (4,425 mm)|
|Overall width||75.2 ins. (1,910 mm)|
|Overall height||65.0 ins. (1,651 mm)|
|Curb weight||3,629 lbs. (1,646 kg)|
|Base price||$37,700 (not including $995 destination charge)|
|Fuel economy||23/31/26 mpg (10.2-7.6-9.0 L/100 km) city/highway/combined|
|Competition||BMW X1/X2, Infiniti QX30, Jaguar E-Pace|
|Zippy turbo 2.0L||Disappointing observed fuel economy|
|Dashing interior design||Some materials uncharacteristically cheap|
|Superb driver assistance suite||Voice navigation needs work|