Through the vagaries of time – and our bookings calendar – I hadn’t driven the Volvo XC40, any Volvo XC40, prior to this one. That’s around two years of having not driven it since its global launch in 2017.
Of course, I was well aware of the small SUV’s reputation after it picked up a slew of awards around the world, not to mention the generally glowing reviews on our very own CarAdvice.
But, the time has come, and a recent week spent in the 2019 Volvo XC40 T4 Momentum has given me an understanding of what all the hype is – and has been – about. And I’ll start at the end. The Volvo XC40 is a bloody great thing. Here’s why.
Let’s look at this particular XC40 T4 Momentum, which rolls out of the showroom for $46,990 plus on-road costs. It’s the entry-level model in a mercifully compact three-XC40 range, where $51,990 will get you into a mid-spec T4 Inscription, while the top-of-the-tree T5 R-Design asks for $56,990.
The T4 Momentum is powered by Volvo’s 2.0-litre inline four-cylinder turbo petrol engine with 140kW of power (at 4700rpm) and a decent enough 300Nm of torque (from 1400–4000rpm). Those outputs are sent to the front wheels exclusively via an eight-speed auto transmission, helping to propel the circa-1600kg compact SUV from standstill to triple figures in a respectable, if not record-breaking, 8.4 seconds.
If you want an AWD XC40, you’ll need to step up into the T4 Inscription that features the same 2.0-litre turbo four with the same outputs but, thanks to its portlier heft (by 74kg) courtesy of its AWD underpinnings, is 0.1s slower to 100km/h. For hot-hatch-like performance from your XC40, the all-wheel-drive T5 R-Design is your go-to, its 2.0-litre turbo four making 185kW and a healthy 350Nm for a 0–100km/h run of just 6.4 seconds.
Straight off the bat, though, this T4 Momentum does not feel like an entry-level model, with plenty of features and crystalline design elements doing a convincing job of underscoring Volvo’s premium aspirations.
If you’re a fan of Scandi minimalist design, you’ll be enamoured with the XC40’s interior that combines simplicity, visually interesting lines, shapes and textures to offer a light and airy ambience. And while it might be the entry-level model in the range, the Momentum certainly doesn’t lack for premium materials and features.
The Urban Grid aluminium trims add a tactile dimension, while the Blond headlining screams Swedish design studio. The seats finished in faux leather or, as Volvo calls it, vinyl are comfortable without being outstanding. The driver’s seat is electrically adjustable with memory function and lumbar support.
The addition of the optional Momentum Comfort Pack ($1000) ensures the passenger seat scores electric adjustment while adding heated front seats, a heated steering wheel and adjustable under-thigh cushion extenders.
That’s not the only option on this base-model XC40, which also benefits from the Lifestyle Pack that brings a lovely panoramic roof, rear privacy glass and a premium Harman Kardon sound system for an extra $3000. Then there’s the $2000 Technology Pack that brings a 360-degree camera, power-folding rear headrests, LED headlights with active bending, park assist and ambient interior lighting. Finally, metallic paint adds a further $1150 to the bottom line for an as-tested price of $54,140 plus on-road costs.
Standard inclusions are rife, both inside and out. Externally, the XC40 benefits from integrated roof rails, a gloss piano-black grille, colour-matched door handles with illumination, windscreen wipers with integrated wash function, and LED headlights with high-pressure cleaning function. There’s also keyless entry and start.
Inside, Volvo’s portrait-oriented 9.0-inch touchscreen adds to the design-led vibe. But, more than just visual bling, its functionality and intuitive user experience should be taught in design school. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, as is DAB radio, Bluetooth streaming, and satellite navigation. There’s wireless charging, too, or you can use one of two USB connections to keep your devices topped up.
The configurable 12.0-inch digital driver display offers a host of information, with two instrument dials flanking a central information screen that adjusts in size depending on what’s on display. For instance, if you opt for navigation in that central screen, the display will increase in size for easier legibility. Additionally, the whole display adjusts its brightness automatically depending on ambient light. Clever.
There are both practical and thoughtful storage options in the cabin, too, with deep door pockets, a large bin in the centre console, a pair of cupholders, a slot to hold cards such as credit or fuel cards, and a coin slot.
There’s a reasonable 460L of boot space with the back row in use, expanding to 900L with the seats folded in 60:40 fashion, with a ski-port as well. The cargo floor folds upwards from the centre, acting as a divider, if you wish, while the boot features an array of hooks and straps to help secure your stuff.
Safety has always been a Volvo selling point, and the XC40 maintains that tradition with a host of standard inclusions: there’s blind-spot monitoring, lane-keep assist, low- and high-speed autonomous emergency braking with animal, pedestrian, vehicle and cyclist detection, front and rear collision mitigation, oncoming lane mitigation (which tries to prevent you veering into oncoming traffic), rear cross-traffic alert, park assist, as well as a full complement of airbags and a five-star ANCAP rating awarded in 2018.
But, as design-centric as the Volvo XC40 is, inside and out, its standout feature is on the road. That 2.0-litre turbo four with modest outputs might not inspire on paper, but the reality is it’s more than enough for most buyers. There’s a simple willingness from the drivetrain, not to mention refinement. The eight-speed auto does an excellent job of selecting the right gear for any given situation, with intuitive and barely noticeable shifts.
While a 0–100km/h sprint time of 8.4 seconds might not be anything to crow about, the reality is the XC40 Momentum offers plenty of perkiness when moving from standstill, while also having enough on tap for overtakes or merging into traffic. No doubt, the very usable torque band starting at just 1400rpm plays a part in this.
Its road manners, too, are excellent. With MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link rear suspension set-up, the XC40 tackles even the grimiest of roads with composure. It’s a soft tune, the suspension, but that doesn’t mean the Volvo is a boat on the road. Instead, it remains upright in its stance, even through corners where body roll is minimal.
Road and wind noise, too, are well suppressed inside the cabin, offering a more premium experience than might otherwise be expected at this end of the European market.
Volvo claims the XC40 sips 7.2L/100km of 95RON on the combined cycle. After a week in the XC40, combining the urban grind with longer highway runs, we saw an indicated 10.1L/100km. A touch on the thirsty side, then.
One of the biggest criticisms levelled at the Swedish brand in recent years has been its cost-prohibitive servicing fees. Thankfully, Volvo has addressed those concerns this year, introducing a new regime of pre-paid plans that have slashed ownership costs. To that end, the XC40 has come into line with its premium rivals, its three-year/45,000km plan now asking for $1595 against the $2165 it commanded previously. That’s a big tick for Volvo, which should be commended for listening – and responding – to customers’ concerns.
Not so tick-worthy is Volvo’s three-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty that, while matching its Euro rivals, is below par when compared with mainstream manufacturers where five years’ surety is increasingly the minimum.
It’s a small brickbat, though, in a series of bouquets that make up the Volvo XC40, even in this entry-level Momentum specification. With its thoughtfully designed and executed interior, married to a willing powertrain and excellent ride comfort, the Volvo XC40 provides a premium SUV experience. It’s a great thing, and now with much more affordable servicing options, it's worthy of your consideration.