Some entry-level luxury cars can seem like cheap knockoffs. That is absolutely not the case with the 2020 Volvo XC40. It’s available with most of the same feature content as its pricier XC60 and XC90 series siblings, and its interior quality is pretty darn close, too. Sure it’s smaller and its base engine is less powerful, but then it’s consequently blessed by sportier handling and better fuel economy.
Plus, as we explained in Volvo XC40 vs XC60: What’s the Difference?, Volvo’s smallest SUV isn’t just a shrunken mini-me version of its siblings. Its styling, interior design and driving experience are considerably different, as are its mechanical underpinnings. It’s actually the first vehicle on Volvo’s new small car platform.
Beyond comparisons to other Volvos, though, the XC40 is one of the most competitive and appealing choices in a growing subcompact luxury SUV segment. Its space, feature content, fuel economy, and safety are impressive, while its value stands out in a segment that often seems overpriced. We’re big fans of this new Volvo SUV and if you’re looking for a reasonably priced luxury vehicle, it’s definitely worth a look.
What’s New for 2020?
The XC40 no longer offers leather seats as standard equipment and power-folding back seats are no longer available. See the 2020 Volvo XC40 models for sale near you
What We Like
Exceptional safety credentials
Clever use of interior space
Generous standard feature content
What We Don’t
Touchscreen has a bit of a learning curve
All-wheel drive not available with the base engine
$34,345 – $42,450
The XC40 is available with two engines, designated T4 and T5. Both are 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engines paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission, but they differ in power, fuel economy and drivetrain.
The T4 produces 187 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of torque. It returns 23 miles per gallon in the city, 33 mpg on the highway and 27 mpg in combined driving, which is excellent for this segment. Unfortunately, it can only be paired with front-wheel drive.
The T5 is only available with AWD and produces 248 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. It returns 23 mpg city/31 mpg hwy/26 mpg combined.
Standard Features & Options
Both the XC40 T4 and T5 are available in Momentum, R-Design and Inscription trim levels.
Standard equipment on the Momentum (T4 $34,345, T5 $36,345) includes 18-in wheels, a power lift gate, automatic wipers, roof rails, forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, driver inattention warning, LED headlights, automatic high beams, automatic climate control, a power driver seat with lumbar adjustment and memory settings, a 60/40 split-folding back seat, textile upholstery, a rearview camera, Volvo OnCall emergency communications, a 12.3-in all-digital instrument display, the Sensus 9-in vertically oriented touchscreen interface, in-car Wi-Fi, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, three USB ports and an 8-speaker sound system with HD and satellite radios.
The R-Design (T4 $39,950, T5 $41,950) adds 19-in wheels, a lowered sport-tuned suspension, special styling including a black-painted roof and unique color choices, R-Design leather/nubuck upholstery, and a sport steering wheel. It also includes features available on the Momentum as options, including a hands-free power lift gate, proximity entry and keyless ignition, dual-zone automatic climate control, a power front passenger seat, front seat cushion extenders, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and a navigation system.
The Inscription (T4 $40,450, T5 $42,450) reverts to the Momentum’s chassis tuning and steering wheel and adds its own, slightly more premium design touches like real wood trim, leather upholstery, and a crystal gear shift knob. It also includes all the R-Design’s extra creature comforts plus a surround-view parking camera.
There are several packages available on all trim levels. The Premium package includes adaptive cruise control with steering assist (dubbed Pilot Assist), power child locks, and wireless smartphone charging. The Heated Front Seats & Heated Steering Wheel package adds exactly what you think it does. The Vision package adds front and rear parking sensors, an automated parking system, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic assist, as well as power-folding auto-dimming mirrors. The Advanced package adds a surround-view parking camera, active headlights, LED fog lights and heated headlight washers.
Stand-alone options on every XC40 trim level include a panoramic sunroof and an adaptive suspension. The R-Design and Inscription can be equipped with a 13-speaker Harman Kardon sound system.
Every 2020 Volvo XC40 comes standard with an impressive array of safety features that go beyond the usual allotment of six airbags (front, front-side, side-curtain). The forward-collision warning and automatic braking system can uniquely detect pedestrians, cyclists and large animals day or night. Also standard are lane-keeping assist, a driver-inattention warning system, a rear collision-mitigation system (secures the brakes if it detects an incoming rear-end collision) and Volvo OnCall emergency communications. Blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic assist systems are available, as are power child door locks.
The 2020 XC40 has yet to be crash-tested by a third party, but the almost identical 2019 model received the Top Safety Pick+ award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which is the highest award that the organization gives out.
Behind the Wheel
The XC40’s tall, narrow profile and sporty skewing mechanical underpinnings provide it with a distinct driving experience. Not just in comparison to its XC60 and XC90 series Volvo siblings, but to other compact SUV competitors like the BMW X2. There’s a bit more body roll than usual, and you sit quite high, resulting in a slightly more truck like feel, but then it’s also pleasingly light on its feet, impressively composed and boasts pleasingly responsive steering. It’s unusual, but enjoyable. We also thought the ride was pretty well sorted, but would encourage you to drive versions with different wheel sizes and ones with and without the optional adaptive suspension.
In terms of engine, the base T4 engine should be plenty powerful for a vehicle of its size with an ample amount of low-end turbocharged power. The T5 is definitely not a necessity and should really be considered a performance upgrade for those who appreciate snappy acceleration. If anything, the T5’s throttle is tuned to be almost a little too snappy in regular driving.
Inside, the XC40 is special. Though the quality of plastics is lower than that of pricier Volvos, it’s not obvious, and you get virtually the same switchgear, literally the same tech interface and many of the same upgraded features and surfaces. The look is a bit of a departure from its siblings, and while it’s perhaps a tad less elegant, it’s also considerably more functional with a center console filled with clever cubbies and bins. There’s even one with a flap door specifically intended to be a small garbage can.
Technology is a strong suit for the XC40 simply because of how much you get as standard. We also generally like the giant vertically oriented touchscreen that controls it, but be warned that it takes a long time to learn how it works and then set up to your liking. It’s not really a car you can jump in and go. Pay plenty of attention during a test drive, and if you buy one, the delivery lesson.
Space is quite good inside despite the XC40’s small exterior dimensions. Its tall profile and, therefore, tall-mounted seats result in comparatively generous leg- and headroom for the segment. The cargo area is typically on the small side, but its boxy shape may make it more versatile than those of its competitors.
Other Cars to Consider
2019 BMW X1 — The XC40’s closest competitor in terms of size and price. You’ll likely find the BMW the sharper car to drive, but the Volvo is a better value.
2019 BMW X2 — Curious about the X1, but would prefer something a little more distinctive and perhaps stylish? Well, that’s pretty much the mechanically related X2 in a nutshell. Read Volvo XC40 vs BMW X2: Which is Better?
2019 Mini Countryman — If you’re prioritizing style, the Countryman certainly delivers plenty of that, in terms of both its distinctive styling and abundant customization choices. It too is mechanically based on the BMW X1.
2020 Cadillac XT4 — And now for something not related to the X1. The small Cadillac XT4 has one of the roomiest back seats in this segment and is competitively priced, sharply styled, and has a strong turbocharged base engine.
Used Volvo XC90 — The fantastic current-generation XC90 is now available as a used car, and given that Volvo has an excellent certified pre-owned program, it could be a good choice. It’s quite obviously much larger than the XC40, but feature content should be similar.
Unless you really need the all-weather traction of AWD, we would stick with the T4 engine. And unless you really want leather seats, you also really don’t need anything more than the well-equipped Momentum, which is even available with most of the same features as the upper trim levels. Those mostly just change the design and upgrade some interior surfaces. Find a Volvo XC40 for sale