The 2019 Volvo XC40 is the brand’s newest SUV and its smallest. More than 10 inches shorter than the XC60, the new XC40 is designed to be just as useful in an urban landscape as it is in the great outdoors. It joins the rapidly expanding compact premium SUV segment, which Volvo says will swell to 170,000 sales this year and where competitors include the Acura RDX, Audi Q3, BMW X1, Mercedes-Benz GLA, Infiniti QX30, and Land Rover Evoque, with more on the way.
Volvo expects the XC40’s smaller size to appeal to pre-family first- or second-car buyers, as well as older buyers looking to downsize. It’s the first Volvo built on the company’s new compact modular architecture and is engineered with hybrid and electric-propulsion applications in mind. At launch this spring, the XC40 will be available in T5 AWD Momentum ($35,200) and T5 AWD R-Design ($37,700) trims. This summer the base T4 FWD Momentum ($33,200) and T4 FWD R-Design ($35,700) will go on sale. Later in the year, the range-topping T4 FWD and T5 AWD Inscription models will debut. All carry a $995 destination charge.
1) It’s small where it counts, but big where it matters.
Don’t call the XC40 “Short Stuff.” Just because the mid-size XC60 is nearly a foot longer, the compact XC40 has plenty of people space inside. Thanks to a tall roof, some downright upright seating, and some ingenious packaging, the XC40 actually offers more front- and rear-seat headroom than the XC60 or even the flagship XC90. The XC40’s front legroom is also on par with the XC90’s and rear legroom within an inch of Volvo’s range-topping SUV. You’d expect nothing less from a car from the land of the Vikings, but four 6-footers can sit comfortably with plenty of room to spare.
With its short 174.2-inch overall length, the XC40 can also wiggle into holes in traffic and fit into parking spots larger SUVs can’t handle. Its tight, car-like 37.4-foot turning circle aids maneuverability.
2) It’s got a roomy cargo bay.
There’s 20.7 cubic feet of space behind the rear seat — more than you’d find in a full-size sedan’s trunk — accessible via the standard power-operated rear liftgate. Drop the rear seatbacks either manually or electrically with the available power folding rear seats and headrests, and cargo space expands to a generous 47.2 cubic feet. A pass-through door in the middle section of the rear seat allows for longer items like skis to fit inside the car with the rear seatbacks up.
3) Nifty cargo storage solutions abound.
Extra stash space — room enough for several laptop bags, briefcases, camera bags or purses — is available under the cargo floor. With the optional Premium package, the floor folds up accordion-style to create a compartment for groceries and other things you don’t want rolling around back there. Also, when empty, this underfloor space can be used to store the cargo area security cover. A hands-free feature that’s part of the Premium package enables the driver (with the keyfob in their pocket) to open the liftgate with a foot wave under the rear bumper.
4) The XC40 comes well equipped.
Even though the XC40 is Volvo’s least expensive SUV, it doesn’t feel that way in the cabin. Materials are top notch and the little SUV bristles with interesting design details. Seating is darn-near orthopedic on the comfort scale — as you’d expect from Volvo. The XC40 comes well equipped with standard leather seats, a power driver’s seat with four-way power lumbar adjustment, automatic climate control, a leather-wrapped tilt/telescopic steering wheel, push-button start, and real aluminum trim. A heated steering wheel and front seats as well as a nearly full-length panoramic sunroof are optional. Moving up to the top-of-the-line Inscription model brings niceties such as dual-zone climate control, driftwood inlays, and an Orrefors crystal shift lever.
5) It’s a small SUV with big technology.
Volvo may have shrunken the SUV but didn’t dilute its technology. The XC40 keeps the 9-inch vertical touchscreen and Sensus four-tile infotainment system from the brand’s larger models. Also standard are Bluetooth, onboard 4G LTE WiFi, SiriusXM satellite radio, a 250-watt eight-speaker stereo with HD Radio, and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone compatibility. The Premium package brings a wireless charging pad to the console that’s big enough to handle an iPhone 10. A standard 12.3-inch configurable driver information screen behind the steering wheel offers road sign information, a digital speedometer, safety alerts, and an available redundant navigation display between the tachometer and speedometer displays.
6) …and even bigger sound.
Under this grate lives the first factory-installed air woofer located under the windshield. It’s part of an available 600-watt, 13-speaker Harman-Kardon premium audio system, which is part of an optional Multimedia package in the Momentum and R-Design trims and standard on the Inscription. Not only does it provide big sound but also crystal clear fidelity, a pleasant surprise in this size class.
7) The XC40 may be the IKEA of SUVs.
Don’t be distracted by the outrageously cool Lava orange carpets and door trim option in this XC40 R-Design model — a steal at $100. Instead, look at the crazy amount of storage in the deeply recessed door pockets, made possible by moving the big in-door speakers elsewhere. Volvo designed the XC40 to be a city car with ingenious storage. For life’s detritus, there’s a removable litter bin, an under-seat stowage drawer, an in-dash ticket holder, a glovebox purse hook, and a covered console sufficiently commodious to stash a Kleenex box. You could call the XC40 the IKEA of SUVs.
8) It’s got an all-turbocharged engine lineup.
The 2019 XC40 launches with a premium-fuel 248-hp T5 Drive-E 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo with on-demand all-wheel drive. A regular-fuel 187-hp T4 version with front-wheel drive will debut this summer. Both use an eight-speed automatic transmission. The T5’s performance is brisk with 0-60 mph times near 6 seconds, not surprising given that bigger, heavier Volvos use the same engine. The driver can select comfort, dynamic, or Eco mode, which adjust the throttle response, transmission shifts, steering effort, and brake response.
The XC40’s all-wheel-drive system delivers most drive torque to the front wheels under dry conditions but can reallocate up to 50 percent of that to the rears as needed to maintain traction. When the XC40 stops, AWD engages to maximize grip during acceleration. Fuel economy estimates aren’t yet available.
9) The XC40 is fun to drive, and its safety systems give peace of mind.
With a suspension modeled after the larger XC60, the XC40 delivers a pleasing balance of body control and ride comfort. 18-inch wheels are standard and 20-inchers are optional, but even with the 19-inch setup available on the Momentum and standard on R-Design, impact harshness over potholed and patched roads is quite acceptable. Steering effort is adjustable, but in the default Comfort mode, weighting feels organically pleasing, and the semi-quick ratio invites twisty-road sojourns. Brake response is crisp and confidence-inspiring. A Four Corner suspension with adaptive damping will become available this summer. The XC40’s cabin is pleasantly devoid of intrusive engine, wind, or road noise.
Volvo plans for the XC40 to lead its segment in standard and available safety systems, both passive and active. Leading the charge is standard automatic emergency braking with pedestrian/large animal/cyclist detection, road-departure mitigation, and lane-keeping systems. Available in a Vision package is blind-spot and rear cross-traffic monitoring, plus front and rear park assist. A backup camera is standard.
10) You can subscribe to it.
Volvo is introducing a third option to buying or leasing. With Care by Volvo, you can now “subscribe” to an XC40. These 24-month, all-inclusive deals include everything but gas — insurance through Liberty Mutual, maintenance and repairs, and a new Volvo once a year. Two XC40s are available for subscription: A T5 AWD Momentum is $600/month, and a T5 AWD R-Design is $700/month.
Volvo says that 91 percent of its “subscribers” are new to the brand — and that’s music to an automaker’s ears because they see the customer more frequently. The typical purchase cycle is five to seven years, and leasing is two to three years. The shorter-term subscription period synchs with younger buyers who may habitually buy a new phone, tablet, or laptop every year or two.