2019 Volvo XC40 Drivers’ Notes Review | Style on a smaller scale
The 2019 Volvo XC40 is the entry-level crossover for the Swedish automaker. It takes the same basic formula that’s worked well for the XC90 and XC60 and distills it into a smaller, cuter and less expensive package. Like the competition from BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Audi and more, the XC40 sells as much on style as it does on practicality or drivability.
Our tester was the R-Design model, one of two trims available at the car’s launch. The R-Design package adds $ 2,500 to the XC40’s base price and includes 19-inch wheels, LED fog lights, a black contrasting roof, gloss-black roof rails, power front seats with leather and nubuck, paddle shifters and a few more sporty touches. Other options on this model include the $ 900 premium package (wireless charging pad, pilot assist, hidden storage compartments and more), a $ 995 advanced package (360-degree camera), a $ 1,200 panoramic moonroof, $ 800 20-inch wheels, and a few other individual features.
And in case you missed it, the XC40’s EPA mileage ratings came out this week.
Associate Editor Joel Stocksdale: You know, I was a little let down by this crossover. I’m a huge fan of the 90 series Volvos (XC90, S90, V90) because of they provide serene driving experiences without being overly cushy and floaty. The XC40 doesn’t deliver on that. Instead, it seems Volvo tried to make it a little sportier, and as a result it feels compromised. The ride is a bit stiff and bumpy. The body moves around more than it should over pavement imperfections. Handling is secure but uninspiring, especially in “Comfort” mode in which there’s a fair amount of body roll. “Dynamic” helps solve the body roll issue and gives the steering good weight, but it makes the ride worse and the steering is always completely numb.
The engine is another point that feels a bit compromised. It’s on the loud side, and it’s not particularly nice sounding, though the audible turbo hisses and whistles are fun. I’m also more forgiving of it because it’s a fun engine to play with. There’s a bit of lag, but not enough to be annoying, and it pulls so hard in the low- to mid-range. It would be great in a lower-to-the-ground, sportier model, such as the inevitable S40 and V40.
What’s not compromised on the XC40 is the style. This thing is the coolest-looking compact crossover on the market, inside and out, period. It’s not just the bull-nosed, chunky, funky body that makes it a style champion, the little details do, too. I’m in love with the little silicone rubber Swedish flag tag tucked in the gap between the fender and hood. The aluminum trim with black highlights on the interior is unlike anything I’ve seen on another crossover, and it both looks and feels cool and unique.
It’s also a comfortable place to be with the highly adjustable seats in our test car, which provided just the right amount of lateral and lumbar support. Volvo’s touchscreen infotainment also is quite stylish, though it’s not as easy to use as I’d like. And really, the car is just so beautifully designed, that I could just about overlook its dynamic shortfalls. Almost.
Associate Editor Reese Counts: I almost hate to say it, but I disagree quite heavily with Joel. I was supremely impressed by the XC40. I was worried Volvo’s package would lose something in the distillation process, but all of the high points — design, build quality, ergonomics and practicality — have all carried over mostly unchanged. Sure, some of the materials on the interior are cheaper than what you get in larger siblings, but it’s also a crossover that starts at just over $ 35,000. It also looks and feels better than any of the German competition.
I think it drives well too. Sure, the steering is a bit lifeless, but it’s direct and weighted well. I’m not going to be carving canyons or doing hot laps at Seca. I just want something that has a little life around town. I also think the ride quality is pretty good. Better in some aspects than the XC60 and XC90. Both of those can be harsh and uncompromising, especially with larger-diameter wheels. The XC40, despite having optional 20s, is firm but not backbreaking. It also feels pretty composed on rough pavement.
This engine is a real peach. The exhaust note is a little rough, but it’s really responsive, especially off the line. That’s true even in comfort mode. The eight-speed is fine, though it seemed to be working a little harder than I would like.
Something fun without being too cute or compromising. #volvo#XC40 #?? @therealautoblogpic.twitter.com/RhL871Obqn
— Reese Counts (@rmcounts) March 14, 2018
The design is great. It’s cute and stylish without compromising visibility or space. So many competitors have tiny hatches or small greenhouses. This just feels like a small, handsome crossover. I love it.
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