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Review: 2019 Volvo XC40 T5 R-Design

by: Mike Ginsca,

Following the success of the XC90 and the XC60, Volvo has now introduced it’s smallest SUV to the market; the XC40. Based on a new platform, the XC40 shares the same features and technology as its bigger brothers but in a smaller package.

Performance

Engine – The Volvo XC40 is only available with one engine choice for the time being. A 2.0L turbocharged 4 cylinder does the job of moving the XC40 and it does it pretty well. In this particular class of vehicles, the little 2.0L engine produces a bit more power than the competition at 248hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. The car doesn’t feel sluggish when driving enthusiastically but there is a hint of turbo lag at lower rpms. Overall the engine feels refined and smooth but the auto start/stop feature is very intrusive when the engine fires up. Thankfully the system can be turned off. No official fuel figures have been announced at the time of writing this review but during my time with the car, I managed a combined fuel economy figure of 10.5L/100km on a city heavy combined fuel average.

Transmission – An 8-speed automatic is the only transmission that Volvo offers with any of their vehicles. In the XC40 the transmission is smooth and quick to shift between the gears. The transmission gear selector does take some getting use to. From Park, it will always go into Neutral and then pull or push on it to get into Drive or Reverse. At first it may be a bit awkward to use but after a few uses, it becomes muscle memory.

Braking – The XC40 has a solid braking feel whether you’re applying the brakes or if the car is doing it for you. The brake pedal is easy to modulate but it does feel a bit sensitive when the brakes are cold. This being a Volvo, it also comes with standard emergency automatic braking which uses a camera in the windscreen to scan the road ahead and detect other vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists and large animals and it will perform an emergency braking maneuver if you don’t take any action.

Handling – This being a small SUV, it does feel more nimble than it’s bigger XC90 brother. The steering is sharp and precise but a bit light on feedback. The whole car feels planted when going around corners thanks to the AWD system. During most driving conditions, it’s a FWD to save on fuel. When setting off from a stop or going around corners, the system sends the engine’s power to the back wheels to improve traction. When driving enthusiastically, the system also uses torque vectoring to send the engine’s power to the outside rear wheel to further improve corner turn in.

Comfort

Ride Comfort – The suspension on the Volvo XC40 is tuned for more comfort rather than sporty driving like some other brands. However because of the car’s light weight and short wheelbase, the ride can be a bit rough over uneven and heavily potholed city streets. It’s not back breaking or worse than other sporty brands, but it’s not quite as comfortable as one would expect from a small luxury crossover. One way to make the ride a bit more comfortable is to opt for the standard 19” wheels that come with the R-Design instead of these optional 20” wheels and lower profile tires. The front seats are very comfortable and provide excellent support for drivers and passengers of any height or body shape. The rear seats are on the tight side for taller adults but on short trips it should not be a problem.

Noise, Vibration, & Harshness – This being an entry level luxury crossover, it doesn’t have quite the same amount of noise dampening materials in its construction like its bigger brothers. Road and wind noise is a bit more evident on a highway but it’s not an overwhelming noise. The rest of the cabin feels like it’s well put together as there are now squeaks or rattles even when going over bumps.

Interior Design – Volvo’s new interior styling direction is all about simplicity and elegance. The 9” touchscreen controls pretty much every aspect of the vehicle. Climate, navigation, stereo, apps, vehicle functions, and so on, are all controlled from the screen. Underneath it are a few physical buttons for the stereo, front and rear defroster, hazard signals, and the Drive Mode selector. The large panoramic roof adds a lot of light into the cabin and it is necessary as the entire cabin is black which makes it feel smaller than it actually is. But with the large sunroof, it adds a bit of spaciousness to the feel of the interior of the XC40.

Odds and Ends

Gadgets – A fully loaded XC40 comes with the same features and gadgets that the XC90 is also available with. Safety features like emergency automatic braking and lane keeping aid are standard but strangely blind spot monitor is an option. I find that very weird coming from the brand that is labeled as the safest in the world and also the ones that invented the Blind spot system in the first place. If you want it, you have to get the Vision package for $1,800 CAD which does add other things like a 360 camera system and a self parking feature (which has a very tough time detecting parking spots). Other features like the Pilot Assist semi-autonomous feature work very well. It’s basically an advanced version of adaptive cruise control that also steers the car a bit around gentle corners on a highway. But all of these features are usually part of packages and the numbers can add up very quickly. A base XC40 R-Design starts at $43,700 CAD but one that’s fully loaded is closer to the $53,000 mark.

Exterior Design – The exterior design of the Volvo XC40 was meant to look more like an urban activity vehicle. I think it pulls off that look. The edges are not as rounded as the XC90 but a bit more boxy like Volvos of old. It’s an eye catching design that probably won’t look too dated in 5 years time.

Overall the 2019 Volvo XC40 R-Design is a good all-rounder crossover. It’s not the most sporty of the crossovers on the market but it is the safest and one of the more comfortable ones out there.

Thank you to Volvo Canada for providing the vehicle. www.VolvoCars.com

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