This small crossover definitely stands out, but is it quick?
Some luxury automakers are known for making such small design updates on their vehicles that many people won’t even notice a change. Not Volvo. Starting with the XC90, Volvo has transformed itself from the brand of the quirky professor type to a brand recognized for modern technology and daring design. The new XC40 is the automaker’s most boldly designed vehicle, right down to the (polarizing) orange carpet on our recent tester.
The 2019 Volvo XC40 competes in the subcompact crossover segment with the Mercedes-Benz GLA, the BMW X1, and a host of other new vehicles. It retains the brand’s signature grille, Thor’s hammer daytime running lights, and vertical-oriented taillights. But with its boxy proportions and available color-contrasting roof, the XC40 looks much less conventional than the XC60, which is just one size up. The XC40 is 10.4 inches shorter in length and 8.1 inches narrower with a wheelbase that is 6.4 inches smaller, but it’s just as tall, and its 8.3 inches of ground clearance puts it on par with the XC60’s 8.2–8.5 inches (depending on the suspension selected). So yes, go ahead and call it a crossover.
The XC40 is the first Volvo to sit on the Compact Modular Architecture, which will underpin all upcoming 40-series cars. Initially, the only engine available is a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four making 248 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. This unit comes with an eight-speed automatic that sends power to the all-wheel-drive system.
In our performance tests, the XC40 lived up to its competitors. It managed a 0–60 time of 6.7 seconds, sitting in good company with a 2016 BMW X1 xDrive28i AWD and 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 4Matic AWD we’ve tested. These two competitors ran to 60 mph in 6.8 seconds and 6.9 seconds, respectively. The XC40 is quicker than a comparably powered XC60, which hit the mark in 7.3 seconds.
The XC40 went around the figure eight in 27 seconds at an average of 0.65 g, slightly behind its rivals. The X1 hugged the corners in 26.8 seconds at 0.65 g; the GLA 250 did it in 26.6 seconds at 0.67 g.
Testing director Kim Reynolds noted the XC40’s dynamics may be better suited to the urban landscape than handling track tests. “The car is a bit difficult to drive smoothly, as the yaw response gets easily out of whack with steering inputs; steering effort is too light, even in dynamic,” he said. “It’s braking is also kind of hard to judge, and once or twice I probably initiated braking a touch too soon.”
You’ll find the XC40 plenty powerful while making quick moves in the city and merging onto the highway. The XC40 is easy to maneuver around the parking lot or bends in the road, though it’s not as nimble as the GLA 250. Our tester was an R-Design model, which features a standard sport suspension. Unfortunately, road imperfections seep into the cabin and can knock you around a little at moderate speeds. And although the angular side windows look cool from the outside, they impair visibility when you’re checking your blind spots and trying to change lanes.
Our XC40 performed better in our fuel economy tests than those conducted by the EPA, at least in city and combined ratings. We recorded the XC40 at 25.4/28.7/26.8 mpg (9.3/8.2/8.8 L/100km) city/highway/combined, up from the EPA’s estimate of 23/31/26 mpg (10.2/7.6/9 L/100km). For comparison, the X1 mustered 21.2/33.0/25.3 mpg (11.1/7.1/9.3 L/100km) in our Real MPG tests.
Now about that orange elephant in the room. Our model came equipped with “Lava” orange carpeting that extends to the door panels and center console. Personally, I’m not a fan of the color and its coarse texture. But there are other interior themes to choose from, as the orange digs are only available as a $100 USD option on R-Design models. Our tester’s nubuck leather seats were quite comfortable.
We enjoyed the dashboard’s remarkably simple layout centered around a standard 9.0-inch touchscreen. It’s new and responsive to touch, much like an iPad. Below the touchscreen is one clean row of physical buttons with a drive-mode selector and other functions. Inside the cabin are a number of thoughtful features, including a designated phone storage space (with inductive charging) above the cupholders, bag hooks, and large door pockets. R-Design models feature 19-inch matte black wheels, a black-accented grille, a special three-spoke steering wheel, a black headliner, and metal R-Design front tread plates.
Although the interior is mostly functional, we did have another complaint. Operating the short stalk shifter can be tricky at first. You don’t feel the satisfying notches you expect when switching between gears, and as a result, I put myself in the undesired gear at times. Fortunately, there is a separate button you push for park.
Standard safety features on the XC40 include a collision avoidance system that detects vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists, and large animals. It also features lane keeping assist as well as Volvo’s Oncoming Lane Mitigation, which steers you back if you swerve into the lane of an oncoming vehicle. We also tacked on blind-spot information and cross-traffic alert. Neither the government nor IIHS has provided a safety rating for the XC40 at the time of this writing.
Because of their size and lower price tag, luxury subcompacts are likely to be scrutinized for whether they’re worthy of the esteemed brand badge. The XC40 keeps with Volvo tradition, particularly when it comes to interior quality, feature availability, and drive experience. Volvo is expected to release a less expensive T4 base model as well as plug-in hybrid and electric versions in the future.
|2019 Volvo XC40 T5 R-Design AWD|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$45,935|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV|
|ENGINE||2.0L/248-hp/258-lb-ft turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||3,839 lb (58/42%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||174.2 x 75.2 x 65.3 in|
|0-60 MPH||6.7 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||15.1 sec @ 90.9 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||120 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.86 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||27.0 sec @ 0.65 g (avg)|
|REAL MPG, CITY/HWY/COMB||25.4/28.7/26.8 mpg|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||23/31/26 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||147/109 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.75 lb/mile|