2019 Volvo XC40: Still in Seduction Mode

Published on July 23, 2019 in Test Drives by Michel Deslauriers

Volvo’s smallest SUV has been on sale for about a year now. We love it enough to have handed it the Best Buy title in its category for the 2019 model year, and it’s a breath of fresh air in its segment—at least from a design perspective.

We thought it would quickly become the brand’s best-selling vehicle in Canada, but that hasn’t happened yet. After the first half of 2019, dealers have pushed out more units of the Volvo XC60 and XC90. What’s wrong with the XC40?

Maybe consumers find its design a little too funky. Or maybe once we pile on a few extra comfort and convenience items, the little Volvo gets pricey. However, the last argument could easily be said regarding rivals such as the BMW X1, the Cadillac XT4, the Mercedes-Benz GLA and the Lexus UX. Which all sell more than the Volvo.

Yet, there’s a lot to like about the XC40. It’s small on the outside, but the high roofline and square shape provides enough room for four occupants. How about five? Technically yes, but as is the case with all subcompact SUVs, there’s just not enough shoulder and hip room. In pure Volvo fashion, the seats are supportive and comfy, perfect for long drives. As for cargo space, the Volvo ranks about average in its category, but at least the rear seatbacks fold down flat.

Photo: Michel Deslauriers

The 2019 Volvo XC40’s interior design is as unique as its sheetmetal. The brand’s choice of materials, textures and colour matching is contemporary, and build quality is up to par with those of its competitors. The SUV is technologically up to date with a fully digital driver instrument panel, which imitates analog gauges, while the infotainment touchscreen is mounted vertically on the centre stack. It’s modern, for sure, but the screen’s sensitivity could be better, and the system could use a little more processing power. We especially wish there would be physical climate controls because simple actions like setting temperature and fan speed are a multi-step process, which is distracting while driving.

The XC40 is equipped with a turbocharged, 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine—called T5—that’s part of Volvo’s Drive-E powertrain family. It develops 248 horsepower as well as 258 pound-feet of torque that peaks from 1,800 to 4,800 rpm, which makes for spirited driving. The dash from 0 to 100 km/h takes 7.8 seconds, about as quick as what its rivals can muster with their base 2.0-litre engines. In Canada, an eight-speed automatic transmission and an all-wheel drivetrain are standard.

During our summer test, we averaged 8.0 L/100 km, which is quite good, although super unleaded is required. The automatic start/stop system helps achieve that result for city dwellers, but it’s slow to react when we lift our foot from the brake pedal and start-ups are far from smooth.

With good suspension and steering calibration as well as the generous low-end torque, the XC40 is fun to drive. There are a few drive modes to choose from, including the Off Road setting that modifies the powertrain for heading off the beaten path—which obviously doesn’t turn this little SUV into a mountain goat.

Photo: Michel Deslauriers

We especially like the XC40’s sound insulation and refinement, making us feel like we’re riding in a bigger and more expensive vehicle. The narrow turning diameter provides good manoeuvrability around town and in shopping mall parking lots.

Base price for the 2019 Volvo XC40 is set at $40,300 before freight and delivery charges. That’s for a base Momentum which can be optioned up with a panoramic sunroof, leather upholstery, a harman kardon stereo and more. The R-Design boasts a sportier character and the Inscription variant piles on the luxury features. A nicely equipped model can go for about $45,000, but a loaded XC40 will creep into the bigger XC60’s price range.

It’s worth nothing that the 2020 XC40 will soon be on sale, and it will introduce a new base 2.0-litre turbo engine that produces 187 horsepower and 221 pound-feet of torque—named T4. We’re looking forward to trying it out, but the significantly reduced output seems doesn’t seem very interesting—even if it allows for a slightly lower entry price.

Attractive, amusing, solid and unique in its own way, the XC40 is an excellent subcompact SUV. Too bad so few people are checking it out and buying it, because we think it’s one of the best in its category.

Test drive report
Test model 2019 Volvo XC40
Trim level T5 Momentum
Price range $40,300 – $47,050
Price as tested 48 000 $
Warranty (basic) 4 years/80,000 km
Warranty (powertrain) 4 years/80,000 km
Fuel economy (city/highway/observed) 10,3 / 7,5 / 8,0 L/100km
Options N/A
Competitive models Audi Q3, BMW X1, BMW X2, Buick Encore, Cadillac XT4, Infiniti QX30, Jaguar E-PACE, Lexus UX, Mercedes-Benz GLA
Strong points
  • Stubby good looks
  • Nice interior fit and finish
  • Stout engine
Weak points
  • Distracting infotainment system
  • Unrefined start/stop system
  • Price climbs too quickly with options
Editor's rating
Fuel economy 4.0/5 Very efficient, although super unleaded is mandatory.
Comfort 4.0/5 Refined ride and very supportive seats.
Performance 3.5/5 Good low-end torque and decent muscle from the 2.0-litre engine.
Infotainment 3.5/5 Plenty of features and modern appearance, but a little too distracting while driving.
Driving 4.0/5 Sweet handling and easy to manoeuvre around town.
Overall 4.0/5 Simply put, one of the best subcompact SUVs on the market right now.
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