Volvo Cars, now owned by Zhejiang Geely Holding Group in China, is a brand that has gone through resurgence in recent years.
Vehicles built on Volvo’s Scalable Product Architecture (SPA) platform have been very well received, offering handsome looks, classy interior design, engaging driving dynamics, as well as the rock solid safety ratings that Volvo is known for. The current crop of SPA-based cars has allowed Volvo to legitimately go up against the likes of BMW, Audi, and Mercedes-Benz.
Building on this great momentum, Geely and Volvo co-developed a new Compact Modular Architecture (CMA) platform, as the seed for future compact sedans and SUVs made by Geely, Volvo Cars, and another start-up car company from China called Lynk & Co. The world caught the first glimpse of the CMA platform when the Volvo XC40 was released as a 2018 model. It was showered with praise by auto critics just like its larger siblings, even surpassing them when it was named the 2018 European Car of Year ahead of the Geneva Motor Show; becoming the first Volvo to win this prestigious award.
To get a better understanding of Volvo’s latest pride and joy, we borrowed a 2019 Volvo XC40 T5 R-Design for a road test. It arrived at our office painted in a beautiful Crystal White Pearl Metallic, and the white colour contrasts nicely against the black roof, mirrors. The side cladding creates a look that fits perfectly with the latest monochrome fashion trend. My two favourite elements of the car were Volvo’s signature Thor’s Hammer LED daytime running lights, and the optional set of 20” wheels. Volvo has done a great job in creating a unique look that is modern and suits young professionals shopping for an urban luxury crossover.
All XC40s are powered by a 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder engine, which produces 248 horsepower at 5,500RPM and 258 lb-ft. of torque at 1,800RPM. Power is delivered to all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission. Driving in the city, the XC40 feels peppy and is eager to get places. The power delivery and tuning of the gearbox provide power at any time and the XC40 feels like it is most at home in the urban jungle.
The XC40 has five different drive modes; Eco, Comfort, Off-Road, Dynamic, and Individual. We did not have a chance to drive off the beaten path, but we made use of the other modes during our road test. I enjoyed the adjustability of the Individual mode, with the ability to create a custom profile by selecting different drive display, steering force, powertrain and brake characteristics, suspension control, ECO climate, and engine Start/Stop function.
Just like the powertrain, the driving dynamics of the XC40 are a perfect fit for its urban trekker personality. Steering feel is on the light side, but not without some real road feel. Adjusting the steering force to the “Dynamic” setting will firm things up and was my preferred mode of steering. The XC40 feels nimble overall; it never once felt out of place on even the tightest city streets. For those who have a fear of parking in narrow or parallel parking spots, this XC40 is available with an optional Vision Package, which includes a 360-degree surround view camera, and Park Assist Pilot with active park assist to even automate the task.
The official fuel economy ratings of the XC40 T5 AWD are 10.3L/100km city, 7.5L/100km highway, and 9.0L/100km combined. Throughout our week of driving, made up of a combined highway and city journeys, I achieved a slightly higher than expected 10.6L/100km. I attribute the additional fuel used to the frequent stop and go during my city commute, which is a common result with small turbocharged four-cylinder engines. The XC40 will accept 54L of premium grade gasoline.
It has been said before, and I will say it again; Volvo makes the best seats in the industry. The baby Volvo did not let its larger siblings down, and the special R-Design seats are wrapped in charcoal leather and Nubuck textile. I was able to quickly adjust them to get the perfect driving position and they remain comfortable and supportive for long journeys.
The interior layout is excellent, with an intuitive design that is simplistic, with useful storage spaces, and a clever garbage bin that is integrated to the centre console. Special R-Design interior features include aluminum decor inlays, a heated steering wheel with perforated leather, and a perforated leather gear selector. Overall, the design is consistent with the exterior language and looks youthful, trendy, and upscale.
The star attraction of the interior is the Tesla-esque nine-inch centre touchscreen that contains the Sensus infotainment system. It is one of my favourite infotainment systems, incorporating a simple multi-stack design and large on-screen ‘buttons’. The XC40 supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, which is one of the most important features to consider for Volvo’s targeted young shoppers. My tester came with an upgraded Harman-Kardon 14-speaker sound system with a 600W digital amplifier, offering crisp sound and deep bass for those Spotify playlists.
It would not be a complete review of any Volvo product without mentioning its safety systems. The XC40 R-Design was equipped with front collision warning, land keeping aid, blind spot information system and cross traffic alert. Many cars in this segment have similar safety features, but few automakers execute it as flawlessly as Volvo does, with seamless integration and nearly imperceptible levels of intervention.
The 2019 XC40 R-Design starts at $44,550, and Volvo Canada equipped it with a expansive list of options. On board are optional 20” wheels ($975), Vision package ($1,800), Convenience package ($1,600), Harman-Kardon sound system ($950), and navigation system ($1,000), bringing the as-tested price to $51,775. Comparing with its main rivals, such as the BMW X1, Audi Q3, and Mercedes-Benz GLA, the Volvo XC40 offers a modern look, beautiful interior layout, and industry leading safety features. It may not be the best driver of the bunch, but that is not necessarily a deal-breaker.
With the 2019 Volvo XC40 T5 R-Design AWD, the Swedes now have a complete lineup that will allow them to build on their winning streak. Volvo has recorded five consecutive years of record retail sales worldwide, mainly winning with cars built on the SPA platform. Early indications with this new CMA platform suggest that Volvo is well positioned to continue their worldwide surge in popularity.