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2019 Volvo XC40: First Drive Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Rob Nestora January 2018

Without a doubt, winter is SUV season, so it only makes sense to test the newest crossover out of Sweden when the mercury begins to dip. So as colder temperatures began to encroach on the Northern Hemisphere, I made my way to the rugged landscape of Spain to drive Volvo's stylish and practical new crossover, the 2019 Volvo XC40.

What Is It?

The XC40 is a compact SUV designed to compete with other tiny crossovers such as the Audi Q3 and BMW X1. But don't call it a little brother to its larger relatives, the XC60 and XC90 -- rather, the XC40 is more like a little "cousin" to the other Volvo SUVs. In fact, the XC40 is the first vehicle on Volvo's new CMA (Compact Modular Architecture) platform, whereas the XC90 and XC60, as well as the S90 and V90, are built using the SPA (Scalable Product Architecture) platform. Given the new platform, Volvo built off of three concepts to develop the XC40: expressive design, ingenious storage and smart technology.

Expressive Design

A quick glance at the XC40 immediately tells observers this crossover is most certainly a Volvo. There are a few subtle differences in design compared to its "cousins" however, such as the concave grille, which is similar to the XC90's but turned inside out. The rear taillights are unique, as well, further delineating the differences between the XC40 and its more husky relatives. The styling theme is meant to evoke the imagery of a "tough little robot", which the XC40 most certainly is. There's a clam shell hood that makes the XC40 look as if it's almost one solid piece, as well as a wider rear that gives it a more aggressive stance. White or black roofs are available, as well, in keeping with modern design trends, and can add a bit of flair depending on your color selection.

Inside the XC40, occupants are treated to a stylish interior that was designed holistically with the exterior. Components, buttons and displays along the console were designed as if they were islands with horizontal bridges, according to Volvo, resulting in an intelligent and clean presentation. The ambient lighting adds to the experience, and the available Lava Orange carpeting is an eye-catcher that is sure to make you rethink your wardrobe choices.

Ingenious Storage

Being a compact crossover, resourceful use of storage space is an essential piece of what makes the XC40 so good. Volvo removed speakers from the door and placed them in the dash in order to create a large storage area in the door that can even fit a large laptop. There's more storage in the console, as well as a removable garbage bin for all the stuff you don't want just floating around in the car. In addition, Volvo incorporated the use of clips for bags, both on the glove box and in the rear storage area, to hold your bags of takeout or groceries and keep them from sliding about. But that's not all. There's even a retractable storage tray under the drivers seat and an available rear lower-load compartment that will likely be a favorite for the more organizationally inclined.

Smart Tech

Volvo has garnered a reputation for being on the forefront of automotive safety and technology, and the XC40 continues that tradition. The Sensus 9-inch touchscreen is the centerpiece of the infotainment system with an available Harmon-Kardon 13-speaker system ready to provide drivers with incredible-sounding musical accompaniment. The Intellisafe safety systems are extensive, including the latest generation of Volvo's City Safety, run-off road mitigation, lane-keeping aid, oncoming-lane mitigation, driver-alert control and road-sign information just to name a few. Rear-collision warning with braking at stand still, cross-traffic alert, blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control and Pilot Assist are available, as well, among others. A complimentary subscription to Volvo On Call is included, which also features digital key sharing, allowing owners to give permission to other drivers via the On Call app.

The Drive

While in Spain, we were furnished with T5 R-Design XC40s -- the top-of-the-line model coming in at $37,700 plus a $995 destination charge. Providing power to the XC40 on my drive in Barcelona was a turbocharged 4-cylinder engine with 247 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. The included all-wheel drive on the T5 R-Design mated to an automatic gearbox provided acceleration from zero to 60 in 6.2 seconds, according to Volvo, or about as fast as a Mazda Miata. While feeling nothing like a sports car, the XC40 has more than enough pep, and merging into faster traffic was fairly stress-free, despite driving in a foreign country with unfamiliar road signs.

The drive route through Barcelona and the surrounding villages contained plenty of twists, turns and roundabouts, so it made for a great test of the handling on the XC40. The tiny Volvo felt easy to drive and thread through congested streets and busy highways, while not feeling quite as tight or dialed in as some of its competitors. All in all, the XC40 wasn't that exciting behind the wheel per se, but rather buttoned down and composed, which is probably a virtue for a compact SUV from Volvo.

In addition to its highly respectable driving demeanor, I found the XC40's ride to be quite comfortable and definitely something I could envision transporting people/kids/pets in. The driver seats provides adequate support, and even the rear seats have enough legroom to justify riding in the back for a short road trip. Whether as a passenger or a driver, the XC40 feels exactly the way you would expect a Volvo to feel: safe. While not terribly exciting, it is certainly a selling point that is echoed throughout the vehicle. And just as expected, the few active-safety features I experienced worked admirably well, notifying me of a driver in my blind spot just before I tried to enter his lane, thereby averting a potential accident and ensuing career change.

One issue I did have was with the navigation system. Being in a foreign country with absolutely no idea where anything was, I was relying completely on the included navigation system within the XC40 to tell me where to go. Most of the time, the system would inform me of where to go with more than enough time to make the appropriate maneuvers. A few times it did not, rattling off directions just a bit too late, which lead to detours, while the system attempted to correct the course deviations of an American on his first trip to Spain.

Ownership

The Volvo XC40 will be available to own through three different models of ownership: purchase, lease and subscription. While most might be familiar with purchase and lease, subscription is an all-new way to get behind the wheel of a Volvo through the manufacturer's new program: Care by Volvo. Starting at $600 per month for the T5 AWD Momentum trim (T5 AWD R-Design is $700), qualified drivers can sign up for a 2-year subscription on an XC40 that includes car payment, insurance, maintenance, wear-and-tear protection, roadside assistance and more. Mileage allowance is 15,000 per year for two years, with an additional $0.25 per mile for every mile over 15,000.

Expect the 2019 Volvo XC40 to hit dealerships around March, no matter which model of ownership you choose.

To gain access to this information, Autotrader attended an event sponsored by the vehicle's manufacturer.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2019 Volvo XC40: First Drive Review - Autotrader