Buyers are spoiled for choice in this hot luxury subcompact crossover segment.
Those of us who work in the corporate world often have to deal with many different personalities when it comes to management. Well, this doesn’t just apply to the white-collar environments, but the stereotypes created by the Office Space film live on in real life. Few really enjoy working for a micromanager: an individual you report to who insists on influencing even the smallest decisions you have to make on a day-to-day basis. When it comes to managerial styles, Volvo Cars is a great example of a “change in the guard”, if you will.
It’s supremely fascinating to see the Swedish automaker be released from the micromanaging hands of the Ford Motor Company to the “hands-off” style of their new Chinese corporate overlords, the Geely Auto group. As such, Volvo has been on a roll with the XC90 and XC60 (reviewed here) crossovers, as well as the S90 sedan and V90 wagon, but the subcompact luxury crossover segment has seen intense growth lately. Volvo Canada sent us over an Amazon Blue (on-white) XC40 Momentum to see how the Volvo formula all works, scaled down a bit.
We’ve come to love the crossovers in the Volvo family, for their unique sense of Swedish style, ergonomics, details, and sometimes simply being a good and different choice. The XC40 aims to continue with those unique attributes, but targeting a younger customer means some major differences. The XC40 maintains ties to its siblings with the trademark Thor’s Hammer LED headlight design, but overall XC40 isn’t just an XC60 at 75% scale. The white roof (a $300 option) over top the Amazon Blue really does a great job creating contrast without introducing additional hard body lines, and the overly-large 21″ wheels stand out if that’s what you’re looking for. I particularly like the “kick” up in the rear doors that meet the white roof divider. The Volvo XC40 is a smart-looking small crossover, and the attention on the street that it got suggests Volvo has done a pretty good job.
Inside, a lot of Volvo’s trademark features of today remain. The nine-inch touchscreen isn’t cut down from the XC60 or XC90, which is nice, and it continues to be one of the better touch-intensive interfaces out there. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration is standard equipment, and Volvo does a good job building it into the Sensus interface, with your smartphone functions living in the bottom half of the screen. I continue to wish for the system to be a bit faster starting up – when the city is experiencing a heatwave or cold snap, it takes just a little bit too long for Sensus to finish loading, until you can access the climate controls. This is also in conjunction with the fact that there aren’t enough physical buttons to get to commonly-accessed features, like the standard heated seats or automatic climate control.
The seats in the XC40, while still excellent for Volvo standards, don’t come with quite as much adjustment as seen on something like the XC90 – and the extendable thigh cushion is a $100 option. Some of the surfaces on the steering wheel are finished in matte plastic, rather than glossy plastic, and the gear selector is of the mono-stable type, first seen on the T8 versions of the XC90 and S90. If you opt for the top-end XC40 inscription, the leather gear selector is swapped out for a piece outfitted with an illuminated Swedish Orrefors crystal. Interior accommodations are surprisingly roomy, though that stylistic “kick up” in the rear doors does limit outward visibility somewhat. Compared to something like a Mercedes-Benz GLA (reviewed here), the Volvo XC40 makes use of its boxier form to good effect (read: there’s more space).
Under the hood, Volvo has kept things simple with only one engine choice for the Canadian market. The “T5” engine is a 2.0L turbocharged and direct-injected inline-four, good for 248 horsepower at 5,500RPM and 258 lb-ft. of torque from 1,800-4,800RPM. There is no supercharger here (as part of the “T6” powertrain), nor is there an option for the “T8” plug-in electric hybrid powertrain. Added power is always nice from an enthusiast’s perspective, but not really needed here. Power is sent to a reactive all-wheel drive system through an Aisin-supplied eight-speed automatic transmission. Volvo quotes the 0-100km/h sprint at 6.1 seconds.
Once you settle into that comfortable driver’s seat, you’ll probably notice the full-digital 12.3″ instrument cluster, a nice touch. In typical Volvo fashion, it can be configured with a variety of different themes: my favourite is the Minimalist look. This particular XC40 tester was equipped with optional 21″ wheels, which look great but reduce the amount of sidewall available to absorb road impacts. Ride quality doesn’t suffer too much, unlike the options over in the BMW camp. Fitted to these huge wheels are 245-section Pirelli PZero summer-only tires which improve roadholding and braking feel. The XC40 isn’t a sports car by any means, but it gives the driver a feeling of confidence. Those looking for a more dynamic feel may want to look at BMW.
Volvo’s old five-cylinder engines were great at delivering smooth power with a lot of character, but they weren’t so great at fuel efficiency. Volvo’s new four-cylinder Drive-E engine family has lost a bit of that character, but they’ve improved consumption. Volvo doesn’t quote full estimates just yet, but they say the XC40 T5 should obtain an average number of 9.0L/100km. At the end of a very hot week with the XC40, I ended up with an indicated average of 9.8L/100km. The fuel tank will hold up to 54L of the required premium 91-octane fuel.
One of the big deals with the Volvo XC40 is its high value factor. The base Momentum package starts at $39,900, plus taxes and fees. You get all-wheel drive standard, as well as the aforementioned all-digital instrument cluster. There’s also the usual Volvo alphabet soup that makes up their active and passive safety suite. Heated front seats, smartphone integration, rain sensing wipers, and that big nine-inch centre touchscreen are part of a long list of standard goodies.
Opting for the contrasting white roof adds $300 (well worth it!), and choosing leather seating surfaces means checking the box for the $2,600 Momentum Plus package. The $1,800 Vision Package adds Volvo’s blind spot information system (BLIS), automated parking, and a 360-degree camera. The $1,600 Convenience Package adds a power-operated rear tailgate, remote power folding rear seats, Volvo’s excellent Pilot Assist semi-autonomous driving feature, and wireless charging. The $1,250 Climate Package adds a heated windshield, heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, and heated wiper blades. A $950 Harman-Kardon audio system and a $1,000 navigation option both are available. All in, this loaded XC40 carries a price tag of $52,490.
Buyers are spoiled for choice in this hot luxury subcompact crossover segment. BMW has their hot new X2 just off the presses, Mercedes-Benz has their GLA, and even MINI can be considered with their Countryman. With each player bringing something unique to the fold, it might just come down to what look you like the most. The Volvo isn’t quite dynamic enough for my tastes, but its generous interior space, and overall ergonomics are definitely appealing attributes. If you’re looking for that distinctive outward Swedish sense of restrained design and style in your subcompact luxury crossover, definitely put the Volvo XC40 on your list.