Volvo’s second-generation XC90 is the future of sport/utility vehicles, especially among the big, three-row models. That was my conclusion when the latest Volvo XC90 made its debut for the 2016 model year.
Now comes along the 2019 Volvo XC40, the Swedish brand’s entry into the hottest segment in the auto industry: premium compact SUVs. Does it deserve such praise?
No. But that’s not an issue. What makes the XC90, built on Volvo’s large-car SPA platform, such a breakout is that it moves along nicely with a 2.0-liter turbo-four, sometimes combined with a supercharger or plug-in hybrid assistance, and that it doesn’t try to pass itself off as a tall sport sedan, but rather as a subtly luxurious, comfortable and thoroughly competent road wagon.
The new Volvo XC40, on the smaller CMA platform to be shared with Geely-brand models from the Chinese parent company, and the upcoming Lynk & Co. models, is less remarkable with the same, basic 2.0-liter gas direct-injection turbo four. In fact, the 2.0-liter turbo’s initial lag and peakiness actually feels less forgivable in an SUV of its size.
Or rather, CUV. I was surprised when parking the XC40 in my driveway right behind my new Subaru Crosstrek. The Volvo is 1.6-inch shorter and 1.4-inch taller than the Crosstrek, making its space the New York City way, by movin’ on up instead of out. It’s the XC40’s boxy design that makes it look more like a fancy Forester than a classier Crosstrek.
And the upscale works. The interior is a delight—it’s a rolling Manhattan apartment full of sleek, modern Swedish furniture, although a couple of bits, notably the small, odd cubby apparently meant for your smartphone at the driver’s right elbow, as well as the black plastic lower door pockets (though not the richly flocked and color-coordinated inner door panels) are more Bronx-flat furnished from Ikea. The overall effect is Serenity Now, though, especially when navigating Metro Detroit’s crumbling streets and its cratered-out freeways.
The Volvo XC40’s chassis is soft, but well controlled and mannered when negotiating curves and on-/offramps. It will not encourage you to find canyon or mountain esses, nor will it discourage you from passing lesser traffic when you do. It’s a smooth, comfortable crossover/sport-utility that drives and parks easily in the urbs and suburbs, and will carry a lot of your stuff when you venture out to a national park. It’s likely to do anything a German or premium American competitor will do, though with a slightly quirky, yet elegant Swedish design that sets it apart from any of the others.
When Volvo unveiled a prototype only to auto journalists a few years ago, design chief Thomas Ingenlath described the Compact Modular Architecture (small) models, including the XC40, as aiming for a much younger—say, thirty-something—audience rather than traditional customers of the brand, who are old enough to have watched the television show “Thirtysomething” when it was on broadcast TV (!) in the 1980s (hand raised). To my eyes, the XC40 has none of the elegant proportions of the Scalable Product Architecture models like the XC90, though especially the V90.
It looks good in Amazon blue, though glancing at volvocars.com’s configurator, I think this paint color looks better without the Ice White panoramic top, Ice White sideview mirrors and especially, the five white spokes on the 18-inch wheels. I like two-tone paint just fine, but I’m just not a seersucker suit sort of guy.
This comes down to personal taste, though, and who knows? Today, collectors prefer the tallish, boxy Volvo Amazon to its longer, lower, better-proportioned though still boxy successor, the 142. Post-Ford Volvo has another hit on its hands, as its sublime design, comfort and Swedishness is bound to entice plenty of well-heeled buyers with good post graduate-degree jobs.
2019 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD Momentum Specifications
|PRICE||$36,195/$44,315 (base/as tested)|
|ENGINE||2.0L turbocharged DOHC 16-valve I-4/248 hp @ 5,500 rpm, 258 lb-ft @ 1,800-4,800 rpm|
|LAYOUT||4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, AWD SUV|
|EPA MILEAGE||23/31 mpg (city/hwy)|
|L x W x H||174.2 x 73.3 x 65.0 in|
|0-60 MPH||6.2 sec|
|TOP SPEED||140 mph|