2018 Volvo XC40 Review

Volvo XC40 Review side view

2018 Volvo XC40 T5
4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)
As Tested Price: $45,935

The 2018 Volvo XC40 is the Swedish company’s most important model, bar none. This is the bread and butter of the company and will spawn a raft of variants, including plenty of electrified models. So how does it stack up in the most competitive crossover field we’ve ever seen?

The advert says it all. There’s a chic young lady driving to her favourite meditative spot, her smartphone is charging wirelessly, the large format infotainment screen keeping her updated and with a thoroughly modern take on “My Favourite Things” being played in the background. Rodgers and Hammerstein would probably roll over in their grave.

Volvo is aiming squarely at young drivers, with the new XC40 being equipped with everything they could ever want and need. Apple Car Play and Android Auto? Sure thing. Inductive charging? You got it. A safety suite that means they don’t have to worry.

But it needs a bit more than that to cut through the noise of the segment offering these features on plenty of makes and models. So what does the XC40 have that other compact SUVs don’t? It’s a simple intangible quality – class.

From the outside, with its large wheels and contrasting black roof and twin tailpipes, it looks the part. There’s also a blacked out gloss grille and the “Hammer of Thor” DRL signature, which makes it instantly recognizable as a Volvo, but the XC40 cuts its own profile instead of looking like a shrunken XC60. There’s also a little nod to its Swedish heritage with a little rubber flag tag at the edge of the hood.

Open the doors and inside you’re greeted with alcantara seat inserts, leather bolstering, a leather steering wheel (which also gets paddle-shifters) and stubby leather gear lever. Our tester was an R-Design model which gets electric passenger seat adjustment in addition to the standard electric driver’s seat, keyless entry and start, an gesture-activated electric tailgate and ambient lighting.

Volvo XC40 Review cabin

Though our test car was quite plain in its presentation you can option the XC40 in various colour combinations, with split colours or even an interior with orange carpet for the bold. Cleaning that would be fun.

Every XC40 comes with a 12.3-inch hi-res display – no analogue instruments here, thank you very much – plus a central 9.0-inch Sensus infotainment system that has its screen in portrait format. Anyone familiar with an iPad will be at home with the system.

There’s also a tonne of storage. Under the front seat’s centre armrest is a huge console with a removable bin and tissue box. The glovebox features a flip-out bag hook (which is cleverly hidden when not in use), and the speakers have been shifted to the door tops to create extra door bin storage. And if you’re wondering what that funny material is that lines the door pockets and sides, it’s a man-made felt made up of 97 per cent recycled drink bottles. Remember folks, recycling matters.

But where the XC40 stands out is in how it’s packaged. The shape and styling of the vehicle belies its interior space. It may look small but the XC40 has a substantial footprint; at 4425mm long (2702mm wheelbase), 1863mm wide and 1652mm tall, it’s not a small car at all.

Thanks to its size, there’s plenty of leg and head room for the first row, as you’d expect. But it’s the second row is what takes you by surprise. The legroom and footroom is excellent, and headroom is plentiful even with the optional sunroof. There’s also a USB-C port built into the back of the centre console with two standard USB ports up front.

Volvo XC40 Review back seats

Sure, it’s not the widest machine out there, so carrying five adults around may be pushing it, but with four on board, everyone will be very comfortable indeed. There’s more storage in the door pockets, there are two ISOFIX points on the outboard seats, there’s a small storage on the outer edges of the seats and a you get a drop-down centre armrest with two cupholders.

Luggage capacity is 460 liters but it can expand to 1336 liters when the second row is folded flat. Making it even more usable is a movable divider, luggage hooks for stopping things flying around, and shopping bag built in to the trunk floor.

Volvo XC40 Review luggage space with toolbox

But what about how it drives? Does it hold up to competitors like the BMW X1 and Audi Q3?

Well, the driving position is very good. The steering wheel can be adjusted perfectly to your preference and all the major driving controls are within easy reach. Want to use voice commands? You can do that, too.

We haven’t got to test the base model three-cylinder version (front-wheel drive only) but we’ll report on that later next year. What we had was the T5, which gets a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder unit producing a healthy 248hp (185kW) at 5500rpm and 350Nm of torque from 1800-4800rpm. Volvo says it will hit 62mph from rest in just 6.5 seconds. Yes, folks, this is a quick little thing.

Volvo XC40 Review instrumentation

The engine is teamed with an eight-speed automatic transmission funneling power to all four wheels. Thing is, because it weighs 1710kg, the engine needs to be kept on the boil, so the auto is quite busy shuffling ratios to get things moving. Thankfully, the gearbox is smooth and decisive when choosing gears, and the engine – while a little buzzy at high revs – is usually kept in peak torque so it’s not always revving its head off.

The steering is light, but not very feelsome, however the market the XC40 is aiming for isn’t wanting a race car. What it does offer is a lively drive when called for, but a relaxed nature when humming around the city.

The T5 is said to offer 23mpg fuel economy but on test, we saw 20mpg thanks to a spate of enthusiastic driving on freeways and around town.

The suspension with these 20-inch wheels offers a slightly firm ride – very European in feel – but not so stiff that it’s bone-rattling. The 19-inch versions offer a better ride, but they don’t look as good. Pick your poison.

Some folks will want to know whether you you tow with the XC40, and we’ve got good news. You can, and with 2100kg for a braked trailer and 750kg un-braked it will cover most needs. Just be sure to get a dealer fitted tow bar to make sure it’s rated properly.

Of course, being a Volvo, there’s a distinct emphasis on safety. Seven airbags (dual front, front side, full-length curtain and driver’s knee cover), a reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors and Auto emergency braking (AEB) is standard. There’s an optional 360-degree camera as well as ‘Park Assist Pilot’ semi-autonomous parking system on the options list.

Volvo XC40 Review front three quarter view

Also included is rear collision warning and braking, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning, lane keeping assistance, and an interesting system called “run-off road protection and mitigation” helping you avoid driving off the road. We’d venture that if you’re a good driver you’ll probably never need that. You can also see the crash test in this video.

As a compact crossover, the Volvo XC40 has everything you’ll ever need. Space, quality, decent driving dynamics, a punchy engine and plenty of active and passive safety gear. It’s a little on the expensive side, but that’s to be expected from a new Volvo. But it certainly leads the segment, and with electric versions and cheaper options on the way, it’s sure to be a hit.

2018 Volvo XC40 T5 Specifications

Engine: 1969cc Turbocharged petrol four-cylinder
Power: 185kW @ 5500rpm
Peak torque: 350Nm @ 1800-4800rpm
0-100km/h 6.4 seconds
Top speed 230 km/h
Fuel consumption 7.7 L/100km
CO2 emissions 176 g/km
Fuel tank 54 litres
Weight 1710 kg

Volvo XC40 Review back view

2018 Volvo XC40 T5 Options

The R-Design package will add $2,500 to the XC40’s base price. It includes 19-inch wheels as standard, LED fog lights, black contrasting roof, black roof rails, power front seats with leather and alcantara, paddle-shifters and small detail elements. There’s also a $900 premium package (which gives you wireless charging pad, pilot assist, hidden storage compartments and more), a $995 advanced package (360-degree camera), a $1,200 panoramic moonroof, and 20-inch wheels can be had for $800.

About Karl Peskett 435 Articles
A passionate writer, editor and driver, Karl is the go-to man when it comes to four wheels. With stints in television, radio, print and online, Karl has been writing about cars for more than a decade. He drives around 100 vehicles every year and has tested everything from Bugattis to Suzukis. Sometimes on track, sometimes off-road, his focus is on producing objective journalism without fear or favour.

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