Did you know that “Volvo” means “I roll” in Latin? Never has a name been more apt, as the company is on a roll of note at the moment – it’s coming out with some amazing tech, releasing some awesome products and services, and as a result turning some impressive profits while growing market share. (Read my review of the Volvo XC60 to find out exactly what I mean.)
Which brings us on to this Volvo XC40. While the company has done station wagons (for which it’s rather famous…), raised and kitted station wagons, and full on SUVs before, this is the first time it’s ventured into the premium compact-SUV market. And, like the larger XC60 and XC90, the new XC40 is already off to a rolling start – having scooped the 2018 European Car of the Year title.
Naturally, the XC40 is aimed squarely at the more youthful end of the SUV market. I mean, just look at it… Squared-off, purposeful, bold and funky like no Volvo has ever been before – not even the long-gone C30 hatch – the XC40 is a true eye catcher. Especially so in the R-Design spec you see here; with its 19-inch rims and gloss-black grille, mirrors and roof.
And from contrasting black on the exterior to vibrant orange on the interior carpeting and door panelling (called “Lava” by Volvo and made from 100-percent recycled materials), the youthful appearance carries through to the cockpit. The interior space itself is a mildly pared-down version of Volvo’s generic design, offering a low centre console with a handy amount of storage space.
Volvo’s famed nine-inch Sensus Connect infotainment system does duty once more, and is as brilliant to use as ever… Naturally, the XC40 R-Design comes very well equipped besides, with the likes of LED headlamps, navigation and smartphone integration in addition to the sporty R-Design details that include sports seats in suede/Nubuck leather upholstery, gearshift paddles and the like.
The R-design also has a sports chassis, which means it really feels much lighter on its feet than its larger siblings and, indeed, some of its class rivals. Some might find the ride (and the seats, for that matter) a touch too firm – especially if you’re used to typically more subtle Volvos – but the XC40 does strike a good balance between ride comfort, refinement and just enough sportiness in the way it handles.
The model here is the range-topping diesel variant, the 140 kW, 400 Nm D4. In this little package and driving through the eight-speed Geartronic transmission with all-wheel drive, it’s enough to power the XC40 to 100 km/h in 7,9 seconds – all while consuming a claimed 5,1 l/100 km. The unit may be slightly loud at idle – as are all of Volvo’s Drive-E engines – but it smooths out nicely as the revs enthusiastically build.
A complaint I have about the XC40’s drive is the large rear three-quarter blindspot caused by the thick C-pillar and the steep kink coming off the rear doors, which also reduces the size of the rear side windows. And, if, I’m really nit-picking, it’s easy to punch the seat-memory buttons when opening the front doors, causing the seats to unwantedly change positions…
However, those seem to be the only ergonomic flaws as otherwise, typically of Volvo, the interface between man and machine is as logical as you could expect. There’s a dedicated smartphone storage area with wireless (inductive) charging, a removable rubbish bin, a multi-adaptable boot floor (which adds an additional 73 l), to name a few conveniences.
Naturally, being a Volvo, all XC40s come equipped with the brand’s IntelliSafe suite of electronic safety systems. This includes features such as City Safety (pedestrian, cyclist and large animal detection and front-collision warning with full auto brake), Driver Alert Control with Lane Keeping Aid, Road Sign Information and Front Collision Mitigation Support.
So, priced at R644 200 and with Volvo’s standard five-year/100 000 km warranty and maintenance plan and five-year/unlimited mileage roadside assistance, the XC40 is a stunning foray into the compact SUV market for Volvo. It has more personality than you’d expect from a Volvo and is easy and enjoyable to live with.
It’s priced well to take on the BMW X1, Audi Q3, Mercedes-Benz GLA, Jaguar E-Pace and Volkswagen Tiguan , and I fully expect it to keep up Volvo’s roll as more and more buyers rediscover the rejuvenated Swedish brand.
CyberStoep rating: 8/10