Volvo has been on a roll since the launch of their second generation XC90 in 2016, which took the industry off guard. It led the way for Volvo’s new design language winning multiple awards. They’ve re-established themselves with chic contemporary design and broken away from their old image of being extremely safe and boring. The new and highly successful design language has gradually leaked down into Volvo’s line up as they refreshed the XC60, V90 and S90.
Having successfully refreshing their existing line up of SUVs, Volvo decided to enter the compact crossover segment. In 2018, the completely new XC40 (reviewed here) was launched. Today, we get our hands on top of the line 2019 Volvo XC40 T5 Inscription. After a year of refinement, let’s take a deeper look into how the XC40 performs in this highly competitive segment.
The Scandinavian roots of the Volvo XC40 are evident with its contemporary design. The front end still features Volvo’s classis rectangular grill highlighting the traditional Volvo badge. Headlights are beautifully designed with a sleek LED light bar. The lines are very simple with broad shoulders giving the XC40 a very clean and professional look. Paired with a set of diamond cut 19-inch wheels, the lines give the car some athleticism.
Our tester has the exterior styling kit that adds brushed aluminum trim to the front chin, side lower doorsills and rear valence. Volvo has taken a lot of the successful styling cues from the XC90 and implemented them into the XC40; hence it carries the same road presence of smart and handsome luxury. It is a fresh change from all the BMW and Mercedes-Benz models that buyers gravitate towards.
The interior is where the Volvo really sets itself apart. The XC40 implements a very clean and simple design on the verge of being sterile, yet the cockpit still stirs emotions of accomplishment. The interior is trimmed with excellent materials. The dash and door panels are decorated with real textured wood inlays, and the shift knob is made of crystal by glassmaker Orrefors. Even the air vents are beautifully designed and compliment the overall design without breaking up the lines. As you would expect, the leather seating is supple and extremely supportive.
The dash features a tablet-style 12-inch vertical infotainment screen. The Sensus interface also carries the same simplistic theme. The entire system is mostly touchscreen with a single row of buttons below the screen for a few key functions and a volume knob. All the Icons and buttons inside are easy to use with minimal layers of menus to navigate. Despite trying to keep the entire system as simple as possible, there is still a learning curve to become fully comfortable with the system.
The gauge cluster is also fully digital, but there is next to no customization available. Bringing simple information like trip and fuel consumption to the center of the screen is not possible. Mobile connectivity is enhanced with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. There is a bit of quirkiness to the system compared to the usual European alternatives. Then again, the unique and simple design is a very welcomed option in the segment.
The Volvo is propelled by a 2.0L turbocharged inline-four under the hood. The engine outputs 247 horsepower at 5,500RPM with 258 lb-ft. of torque at just 1,800RPM. The engine provides great performance with potent acceleration. Power delivery is smooth with only a slight hint of turbo lag. Overtaking is never an issue with peak torque available at low RPM.
However, the engine is not the most refined with noticeable engine noise and turbo whistle during heavy acceleration. Depending on the audience, the noise can be a good thing. The engine is paired to an eight-speed Geartronic automatic gearbox. The transmission shifts very smoothly and is willing to quickly downshift when needed. This is extremely important since there are no paddles to let you control gear selection. The transmission logic is very good, and it never feels like the car is in the wrong gear.
Driving the XC40, you get the sense that it is designed to be an urban utility vehicle. The suspension tuning is very soft and soaks up rough city streets extremely well. Steering is light and quick making sudden maneuvers in crowded streets an easy task. The AWD system helps the car rotate well. However, the soft suspension tuning resulted in a lot of body motion when driving over bumps and undulations. Hitting manhole covers mid corner really upset the car’s balance during testing.
In Dynamic mode, the suspension feels much more in control, but then you’re burdened with heavy steering and an overly eager transmission. The XC40 drives much larger than its size suggests. Even though it’s not a very sporty drive, the smallest Volvo excels in comfort and daily usability. There is definitely room for improvement in handling, but shoppers in this segment are usually not too concerned that their SUV needs to handle like a hot hatch.
Volvo is known for putting safety first and the XC40 is no exception. The XC40 is equipped with IntelliSafe Surround which helps the driver have better sight of the vehicle’s surroundings. The package includes key features like the Blind Spot Information System and cross traffic alert with auto braking to help avoid collisions when reversing or changing lanes. The system will warn driver of cars in your blind spot as well as incoming cross traffic when reversing out of your parking spot.
Pilot Assist and Adaptive Cruise Control work together to provide gentle steering support and help the driver maintain a safe distance between you and the car ahead. These work in conjunction to provide a semi-autonomous driving experience to improve safety. Volvo continues to live up its image of building the safest vehicles on the road.
The XC40 is very efficient, but fuel consumption ratings are right on par with other vehicles in the class. Natural Resources Canada rates the XC40 T5 AWD at 10.3L/100km city and 7.5L/100km highway, for a combined 9.0L/100km. During my week of testing, I observed a fuel consumption average of 9.7L/100km. The real world average is very impressive considering the size and performance the XC40 provides. This model requires premium 91-octane fuel for optimal performance and efficiency.
Our tester comes loaded with most of the features you would want and all of the safety features you will need. The XC40 starts at $39,750 while our fully loaded example comes to $57,565. Some key competitors are the BMW X1 starting at $41,900 and the Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 (reviewed here) at $38,900. The X1 is a leader with its great balance between handling and utility. The XC40 provides a fresh take on this market giving a great well-rounded package with its larger dimensions providing excellent utility.
Being the first generation model, the 2019 Volvo XC40 T5 Inscription nailed it right off the bat. The interior design is excellent with great ergonomics and materials. The contemporary styling both inside and out results in a beautiful design that is rare in the segment. Despite the ride and handling being a slight shortfall, the rest of the package more than makes up for its flaws. The quality in the Volvo has taken the segment a step above and set high standards for its competitors. This is a luxury compact crossover which sets you apart from the rest.