So, you need to get rid of your old car and want something that looks good, rides high enough to see out of easily, is fun to drive yet provides good ride quality, is easy on fuel, nice and refined inside, comfortable and roomy from front to back, well stocked with convenient features, and maybe a bit different than every other cookie-cutter appliance roaming the suburbs. I understand your dilemma. How about a Volvo XC40?
You’ve got to admit, this little guy is cute, in a sophisticated, upmarket kind of way. Full disclosure: I actually drove this particular example last year, and its stylish Amazon Blue hue is no longer available, but other than exterior colour choices there were no changes for 2020, while updates to the new 2021 model are minimal as well.
I’ll get to those in a moment, but first let’s consider why I think you’ll love the XC40. Styling is objective. You’re either going to like it or not. I happen to like it, but can also appreciate that some folks might want something a little more rugged and tough looking. The XC40 better represents the cute ute category, although it still wears its modernized Volvo heritage proudly, with the brand’s bold new rectangular, crested grille up front and centre, its Thor’s hammer LED headlamps to each side, a sporty front fascia below, and a classic pair of tall “L” shaped LED taillights in back.
Dark grey lower body cladding adds a little muscle to the front corners, down each rocker panel, and along the rear bumper, while Volvo adds some classy satin-silver accenting in key areas. My tester’s optional white roof offsets the lower light blue colour nicely (a black roof comes standard in sportier R-Design trim, if you’d rather go dark), while helping reduce sun-induced interior heat.
This is the base trim, by the way, dubbed Momentum in Volvo speak. It comes well equipped despite now only being offered in standard Black Stone or Ice White and three optional metallics, including Glacier Silver (replacing Bright Silver), Fusion Red, and Onyx Black. Along with Amazon Blue, Osmium Grey was discontinued for 2020. Identical base colours continue forward into 2021, but alas the white roof won’t be available at all. If colour options are important to you, there’s a plethora available in the XC40’s most luxurious Inscription trim.
A sizeable set of 18-inch five-spoke alloy wheels on 235/55 all-season tires come standard with the Momentum, and don’t appear to be changing for 2021, but my tester wore sharp looking 19s on grippier 235/50 Michelin all-seasons, also carried forward into next year. They’re attached to a fully independent suspension with aluminium double wishbones in front and a unique integral-link setup featuring a lightweight composite transverse leaf spring in back, which delivered a thoroughly comfortable ride, even with the larger tires. It really feels like a bigger and more substantive vehicle than it is, and not just because its compliant suspension is endowed with ample travel to absorb bumps and dips well, especially in Momentum trim, but its doors and hatch close with a solidity unlike most rivals, plus it’s quite quiet and feels impressively rigid when coursing down the road.
Speaking of the road ahead, the 2020 XC40 Momentum is available with two versions of a single 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine. To be clear, the base T4 powertrain can only be had in this entry-level trim, meaning my tester’s T5 upgrade comes standard with the R-Design and Inscription. The T4 makes 187 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of torque, which should be ample for most subcompact luxury SUV buyers, but the sportier T5’s 248 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque is best for those wanting considerably more get-up-and-go off the line and when passing.
Both engines come mated to an efficient eight-speed automatic transmission as standard, complete with fuel-saving auto start/stop technology that helps the T4 achieve 10.2 L/100km in the city, 7.5 on the highway and 9.0 combined, and the T5 get a 10.7 city, 7.7 highway and 9.4 combined rating, while standard all-wheel drive makes sure you’ll be ready when the white stuff starts falling.
Comfort or Eco driving modes are best used when things get slippery, the Momentum being the only model without an Off-road setting, but take heart that Volvo didn’t forget to include a Dynamic sport mode and a special Individual setting for those who want to extract the most performance possible from the XC40’s drivetrain.
Dynamic mode engaged, both T5’s I tested went like pocket rockets, jumping off the line and blasting forward with more energy than most in the class. The only performance differentiators from Momentum to R-Design, other than their wheel/tire packages and suspension tuning mentioned earlier, is the lack of paddle shifters for the lesser model, the Momentum not quite as engaging when pushed hard.
I must say it still handles very well, always feeling nicely poised and easily controllable, yet remaining glued to the road amid fast-paced cloverleafs and even quicker runs through tight, twisty S-turns, plus it was plenty of fun during point-and-shoot manoeuvres around town. It also brakes strongly, no matter the situation, and generally feels like a Volvo should, nice and agile, plenty solid, and solidly built.
Visibility is excellent thanks to the taller ride height noted before and no shortage of glass in every direction, plus in Volvo tradition the seats are amply adjustable, wonderfully comfortable, and wholly supportive, including good side bolstering as well as extendable lower cushions that cup nicely under the knees.
Now that we’re inside, this base Momentum provides almost the same level of luxury as the R-Design. The front roof pillars are fabric-wrapped, the dash-top and door skins are finished in soft-touch synthetic, the insides of the door pockets are carpeted and large enough to accept a 15-inch laptop as well as a big drink bottle, and the armrests are padded and covered in stitched leather. There’s no pamperingly soft surfacing below the waistline, whether discussing the doors, dash or centre console, the latter merely getting a soft-painted plastic above some carpeting that wraps around its lower portion, but the woven roof liner is high in quality and surrounds a massive optional panoramic glass sunroof with a slick powered translucent fabric sunshade, that’s powered via an overhead console otherwise filled with LED lights resting above a slick looking frameless mirror.
Those comforting seats noted a moment ago are upholstered in optional soft leather front to back, and I have to say the rear quarters are generously sized for such a small SUV, even capable of fitting large six-foot-plus passengers with room to spare. Volvo provides a centre folding centre armrest that doubles as a pass-through for stowing longer items like skis down the middle, while the rear seats otherwise fold in the usual 60/40 configuration, expanding cargo capacity from 586 litres (20.7 cubic feet) to 917 litres (32.4 cubic feet).
Just like in the R-Design, my Momentum tester included a portion of the cargo floor that flips up to divide whatever you’re hauling. The divider itself is topped off by three handy grocery bag hooks that I tested after shopping, and I’m glad to report they worked perfectly.
Speaking of handy, all XC40s include a super useful fold-out hook from the glove box up front, ideal for hanging a waste bag, while the two narrow slots left of the driver’s knee are ideal for gas cards. Yes, this little SUV is as convenient as vehicles come, and really should win some sort of award for thoughtfulness.
Either way, its fully digital gauge cluster and vertical tablet-style infotainment touchscreen will likely earn even bigger smiles, as these are some of the best in the class. The former measures 12.3 inches and includes digital versions of an analogue speedometer and tachometer as well as a large centre display showing available navigation directions including detailed mapping and actual road signs, plus phone info and more, all of which expand the centre area while shrinking the primary driving controls for greater visibility when in use. This is top-tier kit normally found in higher trims, so Volvo deserves kudos for making such an excellent driver’s display standard.
The 9.0-inch centre touchscreen is Volvo’s Sensus system that’s found in every other model, from this entry-level five-occupant compact SUV right up to the fanciest mid-size, three-row XC90. If you know how to use an Apple iPad or Android-based tablet (or for that matter a smartphone) you’ll feel right at home, and even more so if you take the time to hook up Apple CarPlay or Android Auto smartphone integration, which also comes standard.
The aforementioned navigation system is programmable from here, as is one of the most intelligently organized dual-zone climate control systems I’ve ever used (the base model gets a single-zone system), the interface complete with a brilliant pop-up menu for each zone’s temperature setting and an easily figured out pictograph design for directing ventilation. The audio system sounds good too, and features Bluetooth streaming and satellite radio, while the backup camera is clear and bright, plus incorporates active guidelines for pinpointing a chosen parking space.
A narrow row of nicely crafted switches can be found just below the touchscreen, featuring a hazard lights button and some quick-access HVAC and audio controls, the latter including a beautifully detailed metal volume knob, while to the very right is the previously noted drive mode selector.
Just below is a big compartment capable of stowing a large smartphone with sets of sunglasses to each side, plus a dedicated USB-A charging port as well as one for connecting to the infotainment system just above (that are joined by two more on the backside of the front console), these sidled up beside a classic 12-volt charger.
Standard features not yet mentioned include remote engine start from a smartphone app, rain-sensing wipers, cruise control, rear parking sensors with a visual indicator on the centre display, Volvo On Call, front and rear collision mitigation, lane keeping assist, all the expected airbags including two for the front occupants knees, and much more, all in a compact luxury SUV that starts at just $39,750 plus freight and fees.
For 2020, the White Contrast Package increases the price by $1,250, the 4-C suspension upgrade adds $1,000, 19-inch alloys adds $975, panoramic sunroof adds $1,000, navigation adds $1,000, harman/kardon premium sound adds $950, the leather upholstery upgrade adds $1,100, and a charcoal headliner adds $250.
Additionally, 2020 models can be upgraded with a $2,750 Momentum Plus Package that includes front LED fog lamps with bending/cornering lights, power-folding side mirrors with puddle lights, auto-dimming centre and side mirrors, passive keyless access, high-level interior illumination, the dual-zone automatic climate control upgrade mentioned earlier, a Clean Zone air quality system, a HomeLink universal garage door opener and compass, an always appreciated wireless smartphone charger, a heatable steering wheel rim, four-way powered lumbar support, a power-adjustable front passenger’s seat, a nifty storage box under the driver’s seat cushion, heated rear outboard seats, a powered liftgate, the handy divider/grocery bag holder mentioned before, and blind spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert, which becomes standard for 2021.
Speaking of 2021, the XC40’s options and packages have been modified with a $1,000 Climate Package now available for Momentum trim adding heated wiper blades, the just-noted heated steering wheel and rear seat warmers, all highly recommended for obvious reasons, while a new $1,950 Premium Package includes passive entry with rear liftgate gesture control that only requires a quick kick under the back bumper to operate, plus front parking sensors and the dual-zone auto HVAC system, powered passenger seat, HomeLink universal remote, navigation with road sign information, power-folding rear headrests, grocery bag holder, and under-seat storage mentioned earlier.
Lastly, a $2,200 Advanced Package adds headlamp washers plus the brighter interior lighting and wireless phone charging noted a moment ago, as well as an excellent 360-degree surround parking camera, adaptive cruise control with semi-autonomous Pilot Assist driver assistance, and a 12-volt power outlet in cargo area.
Check out CarCostCanada for 2021 and 2020 XC40 pricing information, which includes all of the details above as well as important manufacturer leasing and financing info, rebate updates when available, and even dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands. Right now, Volvo Canada is offering up to $1,000 in additional incentives for the 2021 XC40 and up to $2,000 in additional incentives for 2020 models. Learn how the CarCostCanada program works now, and remember to download their free app so you can access all this critical info whenever and wherever you need it.
I hope you can gather by the detail I’ve provided throughout this review, the XC40 isn’t your average entry-level SUV. Its thoughtful touches, artful design and overall liveability set it apart from all competitors, and when combined with an easy-going demeanour on the road, that can get mighty fiery when called upon, it’s easily one of the best offerings in its class all around. I highly recommend it.
Story and photos by Trevor Hofmann