This is the same car that won the 2018 European Car of the Year and Japan Car of the Year, so it has been adjudged as having that X-factor that makes it deserving of such accolade.
For the Malaysian market, the XC40 is only available in the AWD R-Design trim as Volvo Car Malaysia is confident people here would cotton to this equipment grade for its sporty ensemble. So no XC40 in Inscription trim or a plug-in hybrid will be seen on our roads – at least for now.
Like the XC60 and XC90, the XC40 is locally assembled with price nailed down to a competitive level at RM255,888.
Volvo has big plans for the small premium SUV. In the larger scheme of things, the XC40 is expected to lead the charge with a fully electric version to be produced in 2020, followed by the XC90 the following year.
The Geely-owned Swedish car maker aims to have fully electric cars make up 50% of its global sales by 2025.
Volvo knows how to craft an attractive SUV no matter the size and it shows in the XC40, which is good-looking in its chunkiness, echoing a proud and confident Scandinavian design language.
The striking two-tone paint, interleaved by slim windows, sets it apart from its bigger siblings.
Rear window sills rise up to meet the roof spoiler, resulting in a thick C-pillar. Well-proportioned LED headlights with that signature Thor’s hammer DRLs bookmark an upright grille, with LED front fogs adding more shine. Holding up the rear are boomerang-like tail lamps and integrated dual tailpipes.
While the XC40 is an urbane SUV, it also displays an adventurous side, ready to take on the great outdoors when tyres meet dirt trails.
To inject a light off-roading capability, Volvo has equipped the XC40 with an off-road drive mode, all-wheel-drive and a decent wading depth of 450mm.
Its rugged intent is evident with the base of the body wrapped in black plastic cladding and wheel arch protectors. Its sporty edge is stepped up with 19-inch wheels wrapped in Pirelli P-Zeros.
With key fob in pocket, powered tailgate opens with a kick of the leg on the underside of the car. The sensor doesn’t always pick up the kicking motion so you may have to try a few times.
The R-Design influence outside and inside is typified by lots of blackness – in the grille, roof and wing mirrors. front and rear skid plates, roof rails and window frames, dark-tinted rear windows, dual tailpipes, and alloy wheels with a striking diamond-cut and matt-black finish.
The sporty theme carries on inside with R-Design tread plates, black headlining, sports pedals and a perforated leather wrapping for the steering wheel and gear lever.
The XC40 interior is most revealing and exemplify a vehicle that is small on the outside but big on the inside.
Like its bigger siblings, the XC40 has a minimalist dashboard, which features a fully digital instrumentation, a tablet-size centre touchscreen display where most controls are clustered and vertical slits for air-cond vents.
There’s more hard plastics in the model but they, thankfully, don’t come across as cheap. The inlays on dash and doors remind us of fishnets, which looks pleasant enough.
Interior fit and finish is good.
Note that the bonnet opener is on the front passenger side.
Seats are wrapped in leather-Nubuck combo, which complements an entry-level premium SUV. Front seats are sporty with evident side bolsters to steady torsos in fast corners.
What we liked about them are that they can be extended out to increase comfort. Driver’s seat, in addition, has a hidden underseat tray plus memory settings.
Space and comfort in rear row is passable. They don’t offer as much thigh support as we would like, and the seatback is rather upright. Elbow space would be severely limited if three persons are squeezed into second row as the seats have been shortened to allow for cubbyholes at both ends.
On the flip side, headroom is good and legs can slip easily under the front seats.
While the 9-inch Sensus infotainment screen is intuitive to use, it’s advisable for the driver to fiddle with the settings only at standstill as they can be distracting on the move.
Volvo has carved out smart internal storage spaces in order to help owners “declutter their lives and instead enjoy the ride.”
Front speakers in the front doors are gone to make room for spaces where a laptop computer and a tablet can be securely stored. Volvo instead used a dashboard-integrated amplification system for the 250W 8-speaker stereo setup.
Thoughtful little spaces have been created such as slots for credit cards in the dash. There are also spaces to park loose change and mobile device charging cables, plus a phone holder that can keep your handset still and wirelessly charge it at the same time.
The centre console includes a small removable bin for waste and a space to hold a box of tissues. Even the glove box has an extending hook to secure a takeaway meal or small grocery bag.
At 460 litres, the XC40 boot is bigger than Audi Q3’s but smaller than Mercedes GLA’s and BMW X1’s. It is expandable to 1,336 litres with rear seats folded flat to the floor.
In addition, the boot has dividing panels with hooks and a hidden locked storage compartment under the boot floor for storing valuables.
With a full 5-star Euro NCAP rating, the XC40 can’t get any safer than this.
Volvo has stuffed it with a long list of advanced safety features as encapsulated in the Intellisafe concept. Intellisafe basically offers features that support the driver while driving, to features that help prevent accidents and protect occupants in the event that one occurs.
Break it down and it includes the usual suspects like airbags, Emergency Brake Assist and Isofix points.
It also covers Lane Keeping Assist, blind spot detection, Cross Traffic Alert with Auto Brake, Pedestrian, Cyclist & Large Animal Detection, Collision Avoidance & Mitigation, Run-Off Road Protection, Post-Collision Auto Braking & Unlocking, Whiplash Protection System for Front Seats and Energy Absorbing Seat Cushions.
Ride & handling
With 252hp and 350Nm from a lowly 1,800rpm, the 2.0-litre turbocharged XC40 doesn’t lack power. The SUV is eager to move and feels lively.
As a city car, it has a good turning circle and makes parking easy in tight surroundings. Five adjustable-drive mode settings allows the car’s steering and throttle response to be changed. Steering feel is light by default but gets heavier in sportier settings.
The suspension smooths out bumps well and the cabin is quiet at cruising speed. Corners are tackled with minimal wallow.
The auto-start stop mechanism could have been more subtle; it’s a jolting reminder when it kicks the engine back to life. Thick C-pillars are blind spots but a rear view camera and cross traffic alert ease safety concerns.
We tried the Offroad mode on an open tract that had been cleared for construction and caked with soft earth after a night of rainfall. The XC40 was bogged down at one point. It took a good 10s as the XC40’s rear wheels dug deeper into the ground. The SUV slipped and swayed slightly as it frantically tried to find traction.
For a fleeting moment, we thought it was truly stuck but it finally freed itself. We reckoned offroad tyres would have made the extraction easier.
Worthy of mention is Pilot Assist, a convenience feature that allows for semi-autonomous driving with auto steering.
Pilot Assist, for now, is still a novelty, and we enjoyed using it on the PLUS highway. The tech is such it can read the lane markers on either side of the car and stay within. Coupled with adaptive cruise control, it makes for a more relaxing journey especially on a long trip.
However, rainy nights seem to stymie it as it struggled to read the road lines.
Another hiccup was with the navigation during a drive in Petaling Jaya. The sat-nav was working fine all along but suddenly displayed a map of Singapore as we waited at a traffic junction; we put that down to a glitch that a software update should cure.
Official combined fuel consumption is 7.7 litres per 100 km. Over a weekend of highway cruising, trunk road runs, and urban crawls, we averaged 11.6km/100km.
With a smallish 54l fuel tank, this means more frequent refuelling stops.
The XC40 comes with a 5-year warranty or 120,000km (whichever comes first). As this is an all-new model, it has yet to run up a reliability history.
Volvo has crafted a premium small SUV that has an appealing design, competent performance and high utility. Being Volvo, it gets tops marks for safety.
Although there are inconsistencies in a few features, they are not a dealbreaker.
Overall, the XC40 looks set to be a high-flyer on the local scene.
Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R-Design
Engine: 1,969cc, turbocharged, direct injection, in-line 4-cylinder
Maximum power: 252hp at 5,500rpm
Maximum torque: 350Nm from 1,800-4,800rpm
Transmission: 8-speed Auto with Geartronic
Features: 7 airbags, gear shift paddles, Hill Start Assist, Hill Descent Control, Electronic Stability Control, Voice Control, navigation, keyless entry & drive, Clean Zone system, rain sensor with tunnel detection, front and rear Park Assist, LED headlights with active high beam & cornering lights, front LED fog lights with cornering function, Apple Carplay & Android Auto, 2 USB port & 1 USB Type-C port, 19-inch wheels
Acceleration (0-100kph): 6.4s
Top speed: 230kph
Fuel consumption (combined): 7.7l/100km
Price: (OTR without insurance): RM255,888