2018 Volvo XC40 First Drive Review

Why I would buy it –

For its long list of equipment and safety features, Striking looks 

Why I would avoid it – 

Narrow cabin makes it a strict four-seater, Only one top-spec trim to be offered 

The 2018 Volvo XC40 has finally arrived. So what? It’s basically a scaled down XC60, right? In a smaller, more urban friendly package? Wrong. All set to contend in the entry-level luxury SUV segment, the XC40 represents a whole new ballgame for Volvo India, in a segment that has become a reflection of the changing taste and ambition of young buyers who are not hesitant to splurge on compact luxury cars.

Needless to say, there’s a more significant element to this Volvo offering than there has been for quite a while. Time to see if the XC40 can deliver big in the small luxury SUV space.

First things first, the XC40 is the first model to use Volvo’s CMA (Compact Modular Architecture) which will underpin the brand’s upcoming cars in the 40 Series family including fully electric vehicles. That said, it borrows plenty of cues from the SPA platform SUVs including the XC60 and the XC90. These include running gear, interior bits and even some of the design elements. Speaking of which, the XC40 has among the more SUV-like designs out there, with no pretension of coupe-like appearance or sleekness. Its 210mm ground clearance makes it higher than the competition and the upright stance and sharp creases are on point for this segment.

Getting into the details, the XC40 has been conceived using the same design language as the XC60 and the XC90. Naturally, it has the same basic styling cues – clean, simple lines and striking details. That said, this car has a few distinctive bits, too. The headlights with the now familiar T-shaped daytime running lights look more robust. The doors also have a heavily sculpted lower section, while the steeply sloping window line goes well with the overall stout look. The rear is unmistakably Volvo with the vertically stacked taillights that are superbly detailed and look beautiful when lit. All in all, the XC40 expresses a lot through its design and is easily among the better looking cars in its segment.

How is it on the inside?

Getting inside the XC40 is a refreshing change, especially if you have spent time in cars from this segment. Unlike the Germans who use plenty of beige and horizontally-biased surfacing for the dashboard, this Volvo primarily uses black to set the ambience and features vertically-stacked elements. You get a lot of stuff from the XC60 and the XC90, namely the digital instrument panel, the lovely three-spoke wheel and the vertical touchscreen display and the air vents.

As for the quality, the cabin includes plenty of nice looking brushed metal inserts around the centre console and the door pads. Volvo has also used high grade leather and chrome bits for the clean and rather cool looking dashboard and the lack of buttons and a clean layout makes the whole thing clutter-free. What’s unique to the XC40 is the Lava orange felt lining that covers the entire foot well and chunks of the door pads. Volvo says they have introduced this contrasting look in keeping with the trendy appeal of this car, however, we suspect some buyers would find it a little too loud.

The 9-inch touchscreen display is a familiar thing and because its UI is quite similar to that of an electronic tablet, using it on the go quickly becomes second nature – the diverse range of functions and information is presented in a clear manner, with the screen responding well to touch inputs. The whole infotainment system, in fact, is just as feature-rich as Volvo’s bigger SUVs except for the sound system – you miss out on the ultra-premium Bowers and Wilkins system for a 13-speaker Harman Kardon unit which sounds great nonetheless.

The XC40 has among the most supportive front seats in this segment – they are large and adequately wide with just the right amount of contour and perfect cushioning. Also, it’s easy to find a suitable driving position thanks to a plethora of steering and seat adjustment. The leather/alcantara seats even include manually extendable seat base for more under thigh support. Sadly, things don’t look as promising as you move onto the back – while the rear bench is well contoured for good lateral support and there’s decent legroom and headroom, the cabin is woefully narrow, making this car a strict four seater. The ingress, too, is narrow which means getting in and out of the rear is bit of a task. Lastly, even though there’s a large sunroof overhead, there is no escaping the helmed in feeling that one may get from the small rear windows and the all-black upholstery.

Volvo’s newer generation cars, as we know, are packed with features and safety equipment and the XC40 is no different. Despite catering to what is essentially an entry-level market, the XC40 is equipped to the brim. Initially, Volvo will be selling this car in R-Design trim only which comes standard with high-end features such as the digital instrument cluster, LED headlamps, panoramic sunroof, front and rear parking sensors and automatic parking. Now it may be an entry-level Volvo, but the XC40 still gets a full suite of driving aids including lane-keep assist, lane departure warning and adaptive cruise control. We tried out the lane-keep assist on the fast and windy Outer Ring Road in Hyderabad and found the system to be fairly effective as long as the roads were properly marked.

How does it drive?

Under the muscular hood of the XC40 rests Volvo’s 2-litre, four-cylinder diesel engine paired to an 8-speed automatic and a Haldex AWD system. Unlike the XC60 and the XC90 which come with the D5 spec (235bhp/480Nm) of this motor, the XC40 uses the less potent D4 spec. With 190bhp and 400Nm, it’s no rubber smoking powerhouse, but then the XC40 doesn’t really need it to be. This Volvo is all about smooth, usable performance and thanks to the class leading output, it feels fairly brisk as a daily driver. Even on part throttle, the XC40 (especially in Dynamic driving mode) is quick to react thanks to the flat torque spread and a quick 8-speed automatic.

If anything, this engine behaves its best on part throttle wherein it can ride the wave of torque and allow the gearbox to upshift early. The midrange pull is particularly strong and even at the top-end, this motor maintains a certain degree of zing. The overall refinement levels, on the other hand, are quite high with little in terms of engine and road noise entering the cabin.

Moving onto the driving modes, the XC40 has five of them – Eco, Comfort, Dynamic, Off-Road and Individual. Naturally, it feels the calmest in Eco, with the throttle response feeling mushy and the gearbox upshifting early. Switch to Dynamic and you get a steering that’s noticeably heavier and a gearbox that hangs onto lower gears and upshifts over 4,000rpm. That being said, we found the baby Volvo to be the most intuitive in Individual as it allows the driver to alter the steering, gearbox, brakes and the suspension separately to suit their mood.

The XC40 rides on conventional, nonadjustable dampers and steel springs whereas the XC60 and the XC90 get air suspension all around. Nonetheless, the former exhibits a great deal of composure at low speeds. Over a few bad sections that we managed to find around the Outer Ring Road, the XC40 felt comfortable skipping over corrugations and rutty surfaces. Sure, you do hear the suspension working but there is hardly any lateral movement or unsettling jolts. At higher speeds, even though straight line stability is superb and it feels rock solid at speed, we noticed some amount of up and down movement throughout the ORR. As for the steering, at low speeds its light and easy to twirl and at highway speeds it’s got more heft to it – it weighs up nicely as you up the pace, especially in Dynamic. Based on our brief first stint, the XC40 makes for a great urban SUV, with compact proportions, a good commanding driving position, light controls and lots of driving aids.

Should I buy one?

If you are after rear seat comfort then any of the XC40’s rivals will do the job better. But, if you want a small SUV that not only looks and drives sweet but is also incredibly safe and feature packed, then the new XC40 makes a lot of sense. The long list of equipment and the introduction of the sporty R-Design trim from day one suggests Volvo knows the Indian market well. Speaking of which, the brand has made it quite clear that it will position the XC40 at the premium end of the entry-level luxury segment, perhaps to justify the additional equipment. By that reckoning, we expect the XC40 to come in at a base price of around Rs 40 lakhs ex-showroom. On the whole, this new model offers the luxury and style we have come to expect from newer Volvos as well as safety features and tech that elevate it to the top of its class.

Where does it fit in?

The fully loaded Volvo XC40 R-Design will compete with the likes of BMW X1 20d M Sport (priced at Rs 44.50 lakhs) and the Audi Q3 35 TDI Technology Pack which costs Rs 43.59 lakhs. Both ex-showroom Mumbai.

Pictures by Kapil Angane 
Click here for our review of the Volvo XC60
Click here for our review of the Volvo S90


Volvo XC40 ExteriorVolvo XC40 ExteriorVolvo XC40 ExteriorVolvo XC40 ExteriorVolvo XC40 ExteriorVolvo XC40 ExteriorVolvo XC40 ExteriorVolvo XC40 ExteriorVolvo XC40 ExteriorVolvo XC40 ExteriorVolvo XC40 Left Front Three QuarterVolvo XC40 Right SideVolvo XC40 ExteriorVolvo XC40 Rear viewVolvo XC40 ExteriorVolvo XC40 Tail lampsVolvo XC40 ExteriorVolvo XC40 ExteriorVolvo XC40 HeadlampsVolvo XC40 ExteriorVolvo XC40 Wheels-TyresVolvo XC40 AC VentsVolvo XC40 Music SystemVolvo XC40 Music SystemVolvo XC40 Music SystemVolvo XC40 Music SystemVolvo XC40 Instrument PanelVolvo XC40 Gear-LeverVolvo XC40 Engine BayVolvo XC40 Boot SpaceVolvo XC40 ExteriorVolvo XC40 ExteriorVolvo XC40 ExteriorVolvo XC40 DoorVolvo XC40 AC VentsVolvo XC40 InteriorVolvo XC40 InteriorVolvo XC40 Exterior