From urbanite to small-holding dweller the XC40 is tugging at heartstrings. Volvo was perceived as an ‘old’ fuddy-duddy brand and has transformed into the pinnacle of hipster cool with the XC40.
Volvo has gathered good momentum of late with a strong SUV-centric product line-up, and this, the brand’s entry-level offering is one of the most desirable. Don’t get dismissive of the tag entry-level, while the XC40 may be the entry point to the brand in terms of cheapest product it’s by no means an entry-level offering.
It’s been while since its initial launch and it remains a stylish, practical and comfortable premium compact SUV. The exterior of the XC 40 is sleek and especially sporty in this R-Design guise favouring a dual-tone paint job and optional 20-inch alloy wheels. The design language on the XC40 is fresh, appealing to smaller families who don’t want the full-fledged SUV. It’s much larger than the competition on the inside, particularly for rear passengers. It has a deceptively long wheel-base, park next to a previous generation XC60 you’ll notice that they’re practically the same size. The boot is nearly a perfect square shape and the load lip is non-existent. These may be boring facts but it shows that it was engineered by a team of people who knew what they were doing.
With a ride height of 211 mm the XC40 does qualify as a compact SUV instead of a crossover, meaning it’s perfect for gravel travel, curb hopping and yet it doesn’t roll about in corners waywardly either. This top-of-the-range T5 model benefits from AWD; the weather played ball and offered up the opportunity to put the XC40 in muddy conditions to see how it faired. I’m not overly keen on electrical steering systems, the test unit steering felt syrupy and vague, and the seats were a little on the hard side, but the ride is well-judged even with the firmer R-Design suspension – it’s supple and relaxing while remaining taught and controlled. Specially developed Volvo-marked Pirelli P Zero tyres are quiet on the road, adding to the generally refined driving experience. Low-speed bumps are a little exaggerated, however, nowhere near as harsh as the X2 M35i. We reckon that if you leave the R-Design package unselected you’d have the best that the XC 40 has to offer in terms of ride quality and comfort. The package adds a luxuriously soft Nappa leather steering wheel and gear lever though.
This T5 R-Dynamic is powered by Volvo’s 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine delivering a healthy 185 kW and 350 Nm. It is a sprightly motor, listen carefully and you’ll hear the turbo whooshing away in the background. The 0-100 km/h sprint is dispatched in an undramatic yet brisk 6.4 sec. It’s no sports car but has ample pace when needed. During our test, it returned around 9.8 l/100 km which is a little on the high side but then again this Volvo is no lightweight. What the XC 40 is, is an honest, tall-riding premium compact SUV with no pretences about what it sets out to do. It’s luxurious, roomy, safe in that Swedish Volvo way and refined barring the turbo noise. There is no denying that in this segment it’s one tough opponent to beat.
FROM THE MOUTH OF WOMEN
I am the demographic for the XC40, let’s not beat around the bush here, I’ll say it so it’s not labelled as sexist, the target market is predominantly female. It appeals to my sense of what a compact SUV should look like. It’s well proportioned, it’s not as if the bonnet or the boot ends too far away from the wheels arches, there’s a sense of symmetry to the design. It looks like a compact SUV instead of something that’s been Frankensteined together from various cars of the brand resulting in odd proportions and belt lines. I gathered together a diverse selection of women and presented them with the competition and the XC40 and asked what they’d buy on looks alone? Every one of them voted for the Volvo XC40 with reasons including, “it’s the best looking, love the two-tone colour, it’s visually well balanced – one colour is not dominating the other (Creative Director), big tyres make it look capable – like I can drive anywhere.”
The XC40 is a great compact SUV, although the price and fuel consumption is a larger pill to swallow but manageable if safety, comfort and a solid product outweigh financing concerns. In this playground clique, the pricing is much the same, so it comes down to comparing apples to apples. The XC40 surpasses the Audi Q2 with an extra 75 kW and 100 Nm so it falls away as a competitor. BMW’s X2 has an M35i with an extra 40 kW and 100 Nm over the XC40, it’s R180 000 more and then you’d have to live with an X2 in the driveway which cancels it out of competition too. If you’re thinking Mini Countryman, please see yourself out, it’s a competitor in price and that’s it. Jaguar e-Pace? The equivalent petrol variant produces 1 kW less and 15 Nm more, it’s R200 000 up on the XC40 and the base spec, so that’s it out of contention. Which leaves one option really in terms of value for money, and that’s the Volvo XC40.
In a nutshell –
Volvo XC40 T5 R-Design
Dashing looks, sophisticated ride, uncluttered interior
Engine a bit gruff and thirsty, costly options
Engine: 1 969 cc, 4-cylinder, turbo
Power: 185 kW @ 5 500, 350 Nm @1 800-4 800
0-100 km/h 6.4 sec (claimed)
Top speed: 250 km/h
Tyres: 245/45 R20
Economy: 10.0 l/100 km (claimed)
Transmission: 8-speed auto
CO2 emissions: 164 g/km
Base price: R675 950