Driving a Volvo was never a cool thing to do. But boy have times changed. Arguably offering the safest cars on the road, Volvo is now a desirable brand with a long line of customers waiting to see what the brand will do with each new model.
The all-new 2018 Volvo XC40 is no exception, stepping up the brand's design and feature offering. Blasting into an all-new segment for the brand, it is a compact SUV designed to offer style and versatility, plus that trademark Volvo safety structure.
Kicking off from $47,990 (plus on-road costs), the all-wheel-drive petrol T5 Momentum offers excellent value for money and a stack of standard kit. The range also includes a diesel offering, which is priced from $50,990 (plus on-road costs) in all-wheel-drive D4 Momentum trim.
The T5 R-Design Launch Edition we tested sits close to the top of the range, with an asking price of $56,740 (plus on-road costs).
Standard Momentum kit includes 18-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning, keyless start, front and rear parking sensors, rear-view camera and LED 'Thor's Hammer' headlights with automatic high-beam.
There are also auto-dimming mirrors all round, a 12.3-inch digital driver's information display, an eight-speaker audio system, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, wireless phone charging, cloth/vinyl seat upholstery, along with an electronically adjustable driver's seat with four-way lumbar support.
R-Design goes one step further, with sportier R-Design exterior styling (high-gloss grille, double integrated black tailpipes), 20-inch diamond-cut black alloys, a black contrasting roof, R-Design Nubuck textile/fine Nappa perforated leather upholstery with black headliner, sports chassis, R-Design perforated leather steering wheel with paddle-shifters, and an R-Design perforated gearshift.
Additionally, there's electronic adjustment for the passenger's seat, adaptive headlights with cornering function, keyless entry, an electric tailgate with gesture opening function, and an upgraded interior lights package.
You can see the full breakdown of specifications in our Volvo XC40 pricing and specifications article.
I wasn't sure what to expect with the XC40. I wasn't totally sold on the design and proportions in pictures, but it's a different kettle of fish in person.
The design is quite muscular and it features styling cues from its bigger XC60 and XC90 siblings. There's even an awesome rubber Swedish flag built into the bonnet that's clearly visible on the driver's side. Sure, it'll get ripped off the car when it's parked in its first shopping centre, but it's a great Easter egg nevertheless.
Depending on which model you choose, you can finish the XC40 in a number of cool colour combinations, from a split-colour design through to an interior with orange carpet.
You certainly won't miss this Volvo out on the open road. The Thor's hammer headlights feature prominently across all models, with giant LED tail-lights to ensure it's never missed at night time.
Step inside the cabin and Volvo has really taken the game up a notch on interior design. If you're bored with bland Mercedes-Benz, BMW or Audi interiors, you'll be struck with the charming characteristics built into this cabin.
Each model has a big 12.3-inch LCD display that sits ahead of the driver, while a central 9.0-inch Sensus infotainment system sits proudly at the centre of the cabin. It's easy to use and features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, along with a number of built-in applications. You'll also find a wireless charging pad beneath the screen.
Storage around this cabin is next level. The centre armrest in the first row hides a big centre console with a removable bin and tissue box. The glovebox features a retractable bag hook, while the speakers have been moved out of the bottom of each door to the top to create extra door storage.
If you thought felt was reserved just for carpets, think again. Volvo uses soft-touch felt material along the door and carpet lining. It's made up of 97 per cent recycled drink bottles, which is seriously cool.
You can even option the carpet to other colours, including bright orange – not quite to my liking, given how quickly it'll get dirty.
Leg and head room in the first row are excellent. The steering wheel sits perfectly in the hand, while all the major controls are within easy reach. There's also an intuitive voice-control system available to process a variety of commands.
The second row comfortably accommodates tall adults, with storage in the doors, two ISOFIX points on the outboard seats, storage alongside the seats and a centre armrest with two cupholders.
Tech fans will love the USB-C port built into the back of the centre console. This future-proofs this car for the new standard of USB technology making its way into devices (there are also two USB ports up front).
Head room is also good in the second row, despite the big sunroof carving into roof space. The only thing I didn't like about the second row was how firm the seats were.
Cargo capacity comes in at 460 litres and expands to 1336L when the second row is folded flat. That's a pretty big space, and comes with some clever storage in the form of a moveable divider, luggage hooks, and hooks for shopping bags built into the boot floor.
Under the bonnet of the T5 is a pretty impressive 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine that produces 185kW of power and 350Nm of torque. It's mated to an eight-speed automatic gearbox and an all-wheel-drive system.
It consumes 7.7 litres of fuel per 100km and shoots from 0–100km/h in an impressive 6.4 seconds. On test we achieved 7.9L/100km with a mix of highway and driving through the Adelaide hills.
The diesel option in the D4 is a 2.0-litre twin-turbocharged four-cylinder diesel engine that produces 140kW of power and 400Nm of torque. It too uses an eight-speed automatic gearbox and all-wheel drive, using just 5.3L/100km. It's no slouch either, moving from 0–100km/h in 7.9 seconds.
The only car we were able to drive on the launch program was a T5 R-Design Launch Edition. That meant it rode on 20-inch alloy wheels with Pirelli tyres. Given the lack of air suspension across the XC40 range, I wasn't sure what to expect.
Lacking dynamic damper control and air suspension, the T5 R-Design comes standard with Volvo Sport Chassis and sport suspension, so it can be firm at times. In and around the city, it's on the softer side of sporty.
It rounds sharp edges off bumps, but can get a bit unsettled over corrugations and continuous bumps. As speed increases it becomes better, but is still sportier than one would expect in a car like this. By the same token, it's not dissimilar to the BMW X1 or BMW X3 without active damper control, which may be to the liking of some people.
Most of this is easily fixed by opting for the Momentum or choosing the no-cost-option 19-inch alloy wheels.
What really surprised me was the engine. It has some absolute hustle about it. Despite a circa 1700kg kerb weight, the XC40 hammers once it comes on boost.
It's backed up by next to no body roll and very direct steering that makes this a fun car to drive. Find yourself a set of corners like we did and the XC40 becomes smile-inducing stuff – all this from an SUV. The brakes also feel good and inspire confidence when you want to have a serious crack.
Visibility out the front, rear and sides is very good, despite a vision hole about the C-pillar. The built-in 360-degree camera is fantastic and probably one of the best we've sampled.
Being a Volvo, this car is fitted with every safety acronym you can think of. AEB (low and high speed) with pedestrian detection, front and rear collision mitigation, road departure mitigation, and even a feature that will prevent the car from veering into oncoming traffic.
It's backed up by Pilot Assist, which is a semi-autonomous driving feature that allows the car to effectively drive itself on open roads with little driver intervention.
Before you go running out to place your order, it's worth taking the servicing costs into consideration. Volvo offers two levels of pre-paid servicing – SmartCare and SmartCare Plus.
SmartCare includes brake fluid changes every 24 months, oil, sump plug washer, and oil and air filters, as well as spark plugs for petrol cars.
SmartCare Plus adds wiper blades (up to two sets in the three-year plan or four sets for the five-year plan), pollen filter, brake pads (one set for the three-year plan, two for the five-year), brake discs (one set for the five-year plan), and wheel alignment (once for the three-year plan or twice for the five-year option).
The price to service the XC40 over five years (that's one service every 12 months or 15,000km, whichever occurs first) is an incredible $4030 for SmartCare and a mind-boggling $6345 for SmartCare Plus.
That's over $1000 per service for five years for the SmartCare Plus plan. Compare that to BMW with the X1 and you'll be paying $1395 over five years for BSI Basic, which covers the items in Volvo's SmartCare package.
It's worth taking this into account if you're planning on holding on to your new car for the next five years.
The all-new Volvo XC40 has absolutely taken me by surprise. It's a compact SUV with a big heart and awesome driving dynamics. The T5 R-Design rides a bit firmly for my liking, but there's a lot to love about the entire package.
However, it's ultimately let down by ridiculously expensive servicing costs. If you're happy shelling out that kind of money, it's a car you may just fall in love with. But if you're concerned about running costs, we'd be giving this one a miss.