Subcompact crossover SUVs are the new gateway to the luxury market sector, so therefore if a premium brand doesn’t have one in its lineup, it’s missing out on an important conduit for conquesting…

Top 5 Subcompact Luxury Crossover SUVs: Audi’s Q3 still in the lead… for now

2022 Mercedes-AMG A35 4Matic
Subcompact luxury cars, like this Mercedes-AMG A35 4Matic sedan, are quickly being overshadowed by entry-level crossover SUVs, such as the same brand’s GLA- and GLB-Class.

Subcompact crossover SUVs are the new gateway to the luxury market sector, so therefore if a premium brand doesn’t have one in its lineup, it’s missing out on an important conduit for conquesting new luxury buyers.

Let’s face it, small luxury sedans and hatchbacks aren’t selling as well as they used to. Certainly, Mercedes-Benz has enjoyed recent success with its affordable new A-Class sedan and hatchback thanks to 2,355 buyers in Canada throughout 2020, plus a reasonable take-rate for its updated CLA four-door coupe at 1,085 units over the same 12 months, while BMW’s new four-door 2 Series Gran Coupe (redesigned for 2022) helped that three-model line stay relevant with 1,358 deliveries last year (the 2 Series Cabriolet will be discontinued for 2022), although Audi’s A3 (plus the S3 and RS3), that was doing decently with 1,720 sales in 2020, saw its numbers fall off a cliff over the first six months of this year with just 131 down Canadian roads, but this was more than likely due to an all-new 2022 model arriving in four-ringed dealers as “pen” goes to “paper” (the A3 Cabriolet was just cancelled, but an all-new 400+hp RS 3 Sedan is expected soon).

2022 Audi S3 Sedan
Audi’s A3 and S3 (shown) sport sedans remain popular options in the small luxury car segment, but its Q3 crossover SUV found nearly three-and-a-half times the buyers last year.

That’s a good sign for small sedan lovers, but the return of this now niche model is only possible because Audi does so well in the crossover SUV sector. The same goes for its German counterparts, plus Japan’s lone small sedan contester, Acura, that only sold 774 ILX sedans in Canada last year. They’d better get a move on with their long rumoured CDX subcompact luxury SUV, because as noted a moment ago, they’re missing out on an important gateway for Honda HR-V fans (and there are plenty of them) that want something a bit more upscale (will it happen when the soon-to-be nine-year-old HR-V gets a redesign for 2023?).

2022 BMW M240i xDrive_Coupe
BMW just came out with an all-new 2 Series coupe, with the updated four-door Gran Coupe expected to follow soon, but the X1/X2 pairing sold 2.3 times more examples in 2020.

To put things into perspective, last year’s best-selling subcompact luxury car was Mini’s Cooper with 2,739 units down Canadian roads (thanks to 3-Door, 5-Door, extended Clubman, and Convertible variants), while the subcompact luxury crossover SUV segment’s chart-topping Buick Encore found 6,650 new buyers last year, plus that model’s stretched and modernized Encore GX sibling pulled in another 5,045 for a total of 11,695 units. Granted, some will find it another stretch to consider Buick a premium brand at all, this especially true in the smallest of SUV categories where the Encore is priced tens of thousands lower than most “rivals” at under $25k (plus up to $1,000 in additional incentives and average CarCostCanada member savings of $10,000), but it does go to show how important this burgeoning segment is to luxury carmakers (and entry-level luxury brands).

Audi Q3 tops the subcompact luxury SUV list amongst desirable premium brands

2022 Audi Q3
Audi’s Q3 is once again the subcompact luxury crossover SUV segment sales leader, with 4,224 deliveries as of Q2 2021, compared to the next-best Volvo XC40 with 1,829 new buyers.

No doubt, some of the dwindling Audi A3 buyers mentioned a minute ago have gravitated to the taller, more utile Q3 in recent years, noted by sales that have steadily grown from 1,566 units in 2014, when it first arrived, to 5,949 deliveries throughout 2020, making the Q3 the true best-selling model in the subcompact “luxury” crossover SUV class (sorry Buick). Even better, Audi sold 4,224 Q3s over the first half of 2021, once again showing every competitor how critically important this new category is to securing future growth.

Moving into the 2022 model year, Canadian-spec Q3s are available in three trims including Komfort, Progressiv and Technik, all standard with a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine, eight-speed automatic, and the brand’s renowned Quattro all-wheel drive system. The base “40” engine makes 184 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of torque, resulting in a 9.1-second sprint from standstill to 100km/h, while a more potent version of the same powerplant, dubbed “45”, is good for 228 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, resulting in a much more satisfying 7.4 seconds from zero to 100 km/h.

2022 Audi Q3
Most buying into the entry-level luxury sector believe a small SUV will take care of their needs more than a small car, and the Q3 fulfills this objective ideally.

Fuel economy is a Q3 strongpoint, with a claimed rating of 10.4 L/100km in the city, 7.7 on the highway and 9.2 combined for the more economical 40 engine tuning, or 11.7, 8.4 and 10.2 respectively when moving up to the 45. A fully independent MacPherson strut front and four-link rear suspension setup makes sure handling is nimble too.

The base 2022 Q3 40 TFSI Quattro starts at $38,400 (plus freight and fees), while the top-line Technik 45 TFSI Quattro is available from $47,200, plus nearly $5,000 in options are available. What’s more, Audi is currently offering up to $1,000 in additional incentives for 2022 Q3 buyers, although average CarCostCanada membership savings are currently $2,200, so therefore, make sure you find out how dealer invoice pricing can save you thousands too.

2022 Audi Q3
The Q3 interior provides a lot of luxury for its reasonable price.

Those buying a new Q3 have the confidence that it’ll hold its value better than some competitors, thanks to its runner-up status in the latest Canadian Black Book 2020 Best Retained Value Awards in the “Sub-Compact Luxury Crossover” category, where the Győr, Hungary-made crossover matched BMW’s X1, and was beaten by Mercedes’ GLA.

The Q3 also tied for runner-up in the “Small Premium SUV” segment of the latest 2021 J.D. Power Initial Quality Study (IQS), matching the Volvo XC40, but both Europeans were edged out by Lexus’ new UX. Additionally, the same third-party analytical firm’s 2021 Vehicle Dependability Study (VDS) has it solely owning the runner-up position in the same category, once again behind the GLA.

Lexus UX second in sales after just two years on the market

2022 Lexus UX 250h F Sport
in less than two years, Lexus new UX (shown here in 250h F Sport trim) has charged into second place in the subcompact luxury SUV class.

Lexus smartly said goodbye to its Prius-based CT 200h hybrid compact hatchback in 2017, and hello to the new UX soon after in 2019, thus helping to pave the way for other automakers to do likewise once realizing the Japanese luxury brand’s ability to earn second place on the sales charts in less than two years of availability.

A total of 2,520 UX models rolled out of Lexus dealerships in 2020, beating a best-ever total of 1,640 CT 200h deliveries in 2012, which is a gain of more than 50 percent, while at the close of Q2 2021 the UX had found 1,525 new buyers, showing that it’s on target for an even stronger third year.

2022 Lexus UX 250h F Sport
For 2022, all UX models sold in Canada will be powered by a fuel-efficient hybrid drivetrain.

For 2022, the UX is only available with one drivetrain in Canada, having dropped its entry-level front-wheel drive UX 200 designation north of the 49th parallel (and we’re guessing Alaska, Hawaii, etcetera, too). This means last year’s base window sticker of $38,450 gets a $2,250 bump up to $40,700 for 2022, but that’s a small price to pay for all-wheel drive, via an electric motor driving the rear wheels, plus a more potent hybrid drivetrain that’s better on fuel. Before segueing into the UX 250h model’s performance and fuel-efficiency advantages, it should be said that Lexus is currently offering factory leasing and financing rates from 2.9 percent, while CarCostCanada members were saving an average of $1,964 at the time of writing.

2022 Lexus UX 250h F Sport
F Sport trim adds a lot of performance-oriented style to Lexus entry-level model.

Where the outgoing UX 200 only put 169 horsepower down to the front wheels, the UX 250h once again makes 181 net horsepower, which gets close to base Q3 performance on paper, and actually matches it on asphalt as well, evidenced by its 9.1-second 0-100 km/h acceleration in a straight line (the discontinued UX 200 managed 9.2 seconds).

The UX 250h also delivers much better fuel economy that’s estimated at 5.7 L/100 city, 6.2 highway and 6.0 combined, a feat that’s no doubt assisted by a standard continuously variable transmission (CVT), albeit expensing some performance. More engaging F Sport trim adds paddle shifters, however, making the most of the equipment on hand, which includes standard Sport mode that, together with the UX’ well balanced front strut and multi-link rear suspension setup, improves fast-paced handling.

2022 Lexus UX 250h
Shown here with the Luxury package, the regular UX 250h provides a comfortable and roomy rear seating for such a small crossover.

As noted earlier, the UX claimed top spot in J.D. Power’s 2021 Initial Quality Study, while it also tied for runner-up with the GLA in the same company’s 2021 U.S. Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study, only beaten by the XC40, while the entire Lexus brand topped J.D. Power’s 2021 Vehicle Dependability Study overall, and is also the most reliable luxury brand according to Consumer Reports.

Additional reasons to consider the new UX include J.D. Power’s 2021 Canada ALG Residual Value Awards that ranked it number one in its Premium Subcompact Utility Vehicle” category, while the UX also achieved a best-in-class score in the “Luxury Compact SUV/Crossover” segment of Vincentric’s Best Value in Canada Awards (be sure to check out our 2021 Lexus UX Road Test).

BMW X1 slipping in popularity yet still a top-three contender

2022 BMW X1 xDrive28i
BMW’s X1 xDrive28i is the the largest and most accommodating entry in the subcompact luxury SUV segment, and one of the most enjoyable to drive.

Talk to anyone considering a step up from a mainstream volume brand into the luxury sector and the names BMW and Mercedes-Benz will inevitably be included in the conversation, and for good reason. With almost and more than a century respectively behind them, the two German brands have earned most consumers’ respect, and the prestige that followed plays an important part in premium brand decision making.

While priced near the bottom of BMW’s lineup, at $42,425 (the aforementioned 2 Series Gran Coupe is $1,000 less), the base 2022 X1 xDrive28i is hardly the least expensive SUV in the subcompact class (although up to $1,000 in additional incentives and average CarCostCanada member savings of $2,000 might help). Still, 2,384 new buyers didn’t mind paying close to that much in calendar year 2020.

2022 BMW X1 xDrive28i
It might look solely like a BMW, but the X1 actually shares underpinnings with Mini’s Countryman.

What’s more, after six months of 2021, the X1 had managed to sneak past Lexus’ UX with 1,616 deliveries to its credit, but these numbers are a far cry from sales in 2017, 2018 and 2019, that saw the X1’s popularity steadily slipping downward from its once grand heights of 6,120, 5,308, and 4,420 units respectively.

This negative trajectory might have something to do with the sportier X2 stealing 1,856 buyers after arriving in 2018, although the sleeker SUV’s sales have been sliding too, with 1,383 delivered in 2019 and just 790 in 2020. As of Q2 2021’s close, a 495-unit midterm tally looks like it might be improving on last year’s total, so we’ll need to see how things shake out after the rest of the year gets added up.

2022 BMW X1 xDrive28i
The X1’s cabin is very upscale for the class, and easily worthy of the good BMW name.

The X1’s performance wouldn’t be the issue holding buyers back from signing on the dotted line, however, as its sole 2.0-litre turbo-four puts out 228 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, resulting in a blistering (compared to most competitors) 6.2-second sprint from zero to 100 km/h, thanks in part to a quick-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission, and standard all-wheel drive, while the latter aids the front MacPherson strut and rear multi-link suspension make BMW’s usual magic through the corners (although take note, the first-generation X1 was a sharper handler, with this one increasing the comfort quotient).

The X1 also performs well when it comes to utility, offering the most dedicated cargo volume available in the entire class at 767 litres (27.1 cu ft). Additionally, folding its conveniently-divided 40/20/40-split rear seatbacks forward results in a grand total of 1,775 litres (58.7 cu ft) of gear-toting space, also the most in the segment.

2022 BMW X1 xDrive28i
The X1’s spacious rear seating area can be made to feel even roomier with a panoramic glass sunroof.

The next best is Mercedes’ new GLB-Class, incidentally, with 700 and 1,680 litres (24.0 and 62.0 cu ft) respectively, while the worst when it comes to dedicated cargo room is the same automaker’s GLA-Class with a token 435 litres (15.0 cu ft) to its name, which it mostly makes up for when dropping its rear seats down, resulting 1,430 litres (50.5 cu ft) of load-hauling capacity. In case you were wondering, Infiniti’s decommissioned QX30, which was developed alongside the GLA-Class, offered more space behind the rear seats at 543 litres (19.2 cu ft), but it suffered from the least amount ever offered in this class when laid flat, at 963 litres (34.0 cu ft). This may have been one of the key reasons for its slow sales, as the great-looking QX30 was a wonderful little SUV other than that.

Volvo XC40 earns a well-deserved fourth place on the sales charts

2022 Volvo XC40 Recharge
Volvo XC40 Recharge is fully electric, giving the Swedish brand a serious edge in this burgeoning entry-level luxury segment.

Speaking of cargo shortcomings, Volvo’s XC40 can’t attribute its top-five success to luggage carrying prowess, being that it only manages a scant 586 litres (20.7 cu ft) of volume behind the rear seats, and 1,336 litres (47.2 cu ft) when folded, making it the third smallest in the segment (not including the Encore) with respect to the former, and second smallest (including the Encore) for the latter, but it does most everything else so well that its consumer take-rate truly deserves to be above average.

Like the majority in this subcompact luxury SUV class, the XC40 is the most affordable way to own a new Volvo, not to mention that it’s one of just five contenders in this 10-model segment priced below $40k. Specifically, the base XC40 Momentum T4 AWD starts at $39,950 for 2022 (plus Volvo is offering up to $1,000 in additional incentives, while CarCostCanada members are saving an average of $2,250), and packs a lot of style, quality, performance and versatility for its small package.

2022 Volvo XC40
Volvo’s XC40, shown here with its conventional powertrain, rides on a long wheelbase for such a diminutive SUV, providing a comfortable ride and handling prowess that matches its strong straight-line performance.

At 4,425 mm (174.2 in), it’s actually the shortest from nose to tail amongst the top five, yet its 2,702-mm (106.4-in) wheelbase is longer than all of the above (although not the Mercedes-Benz GLB-Class below), which gives it an athletic visual stance while making as much of the available interior space as possible.

Another bonus is the XC40’s multiplicity of powertrains, starting with the T4 designated engine only available in base Mlomentum trim. With 187 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of torque from a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder, it’s nowhere near the least potent in the category, and at just over 8 seconds from a standing start to 100 km/h, it’s hardly the slowest base model either. Much of its energetic takeoff can be attributed to its precise-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission and just-noted standard AWD, while the fuel economy tradeoff is reasonable at 10.2 L/100km in the city, 7.5 on the highway and 9.0 combined.

2022 Volvo XC40
The XC40 provides a lot of interior room for its small dimensions, plus a lot of innovative features.

Moving up to the T5, a stronger version of the same engine doesn’t impact efficiency much either, with a claimed rating of 10.7 city, 7.7 highway and 9.4 combined, especially considering output increases to 248 horsepower, torque to 258 lb-ft, and its zero to 100 km/h time comes down to just 7.2 seconds.

So far so good, but speed demons will want to move up yet another notch on the ladder to the XC40 Recharge Pure Electric, an EV version of the little SUV that’ll blast from standstill to 100 km/h in a mere 4.9 seconds, making it one of the fastest subcompact luxury SUVs currently available. The Recharge incorporates a 75-kWh battery and two electric motors for a resultant 402-horsepower, plus the grip of AWD. What’s more, it can travel up to 335 km (208 miles) on a single charge.

2022 Volvo XC40
The XC40’s headroom is very generous.

The XC40 Recharge is already gaining respect in the industry too, with highest marks in the “Luxury Electric/Plug-In Hybrid SUV/Crossover” category of Vincentric’s Best Value in Canada Awards for consumers. The regular XC40 has also done well, with a top-tier result in the “Compact Luxury Crossover SUV” class of AutoPacific’s most recent 2020 Ideal Vehicle Awards, plus as noted earlier, it tied with the Q3 in the “Small Premium SUV” category of J.D. Power’s 2021 Initial Quality Study, while also receiving best-possible honours in the same firm’s 2021 U.S. Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study. That’s quite the trophy case!

As for sales numbers, both conventional and electric versions accounted for 2,254 Canadian deliveries in 2020, its best year yet (out of two full years), while it already achieved sales of 1,829 units by this year’s halfway mark, putting it on target for second in the class if momentum (sorry for the pun) continues. Again, the XC40 deserves its success.

Mercedes GLB newcomer edges ahead of GLA for top-5 honours

2022 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 4Matic
The smart looking new GLB, shown here in potent AMG 35 4Matic trim, is the second roomiest vehicle in the subcompact luxury SUV class.

Mercedes believes so much in the entry-level luxury SUV sector that it introduced a second entry for 2020, and despite being the new GLB’s first full year on the scene it still managed to edge out the smaller GLA with 1,775 units to 1,759. Any question about which model will dominate moving forward is being answered this year, with the first six months of 2021 resulting in 1,474 deliveries for the GLB and 1,291 for the GLA.

To be totally fair to Mercedes, like BMW and its X1/X2 combo, the GLA/GLB duo actually compete with each other as much as they battle against rival brands, so therefore when combining the sales of both SUVs into one, the three-pointed star brand ended up second in the class with 3,534 units rolling out of its Canadian dealerships last year, while even better, it found 2,765 new subcompact crossover SUV buyers over the first two quarters of 2021.

2022 Mercedes-Benz GLB 250 4Matic
The GLB provides a more traditional, upright design, which aids cargo space.

While the two models offer very different takes on styling, size and utility, the fact you can get into the larger GLB for only slightly more than the diminutive GLA might have more to do with its success than its more traditional, upright, SUV-like design. Size in mind, the new GLB-Class is 224 mm (8,8 in) longer than the GLA-Class, at 4,634 mm (182.4 in) from front to back, while its wheelbase spans 100 mm (3.9 in) more. That makes it just 22 mm (0.9 in) shorter than the compact luxury GLC-Class, although true to its subcompact classification, the GLB’s 1,834-mm (72.2-in) width is 56 mm (2.2 in) narrower than the GLC, while identical to the GLA’s width. Its height, however, is 20 mm (0.8 in) taller than the larger GLC, and 47 mm (1.8 in) higher than the GLA, making it the clear winner for headroom.

2022 Mercedes-Benz GLB 250 4Matic
The GLB, and its GLA sibling, arguably provide the most luxurious experience inside, thanks in part to the most advanced electronics in the industry.

The GLB’s second-best-in-class cargo capacity was already noted (in the X1 overview), but differences between the GLB and GLA weren’t covered, those being 265 litres (9.3 cu ft) of extra space behind the larger SUV’s rear seats, and 250 litres (8.8 cu ft) more when both second-row backrests are laid flat.

Pricing for the GLA starts at $42,400 (plus up to $1,000 in additional incentives and average CarCostCanada member savings of $1,750), whereas the most affordable GLB begins at $46,500 (plus up to $1,000 in additional incentives and average CarCostCanada member savings of $2,450), while AMG 35 variants of both models are priced at $52,900 and $57,500 respectively.

2022 Mercedes-Benz GLB 250 4Matic
The GLB can even be had with three rows, the only vehicle in the category to do so.

AMG? That’s right. Mercedes hasn’t forgotten to include performance variants, even in this more affordable market segment. Both M-B models offer a fuel economy-focused variant and at least one that makes daily commutes and weekend getaways a lot more fun, with the GLA and GLB 250 4Matic duo utilizing a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder that’s good for 221 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, plus the AMG GLA and GLB 35 4Matic models make a sizeable 302 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque.

2022 Mercedes-AMG GLA 45 S 4MATIC+
The tiny little GLA can be had in 382 hp AMG 45 S 4MATIC+ trim, which makes it the fastest SUV in the class by far.

Straight-line acceleration equals 6.7 seconds to 100 km/h for the base GLA and 6.9 for the GLB, while the AMG versions scoot away to the same speed from a stoplight at 4.9 and 5.2 seconds apiece. Shifts are lightning quick too, thanks to an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission, while economy is decent considering their go-fast capability, with the GLB rated at 10.3 L/100km in the city, 7.8 on the highway and 9.2 combined in its most efficient form, or a respective 11.1, 8.9 and 10.1 with its formidable AMG badging. Similarly, the GLA is good for a claimed 9.8 city, 7.2 highway and 8.7 combined rating in base form, or 10.4, 8.1 and 9.4 with its mid-range AMG-lite upgrade.

AMG-lite? Yes, there’s more. Mercedes’ GLA can also be had in brilliantly fun AMG GLA 45 4Matic trim, which means for $60,500 its 2.0-litre turbo four puts out a whopping 382 horsepower and 354 lb-ft of torque, resulting in the segment’s fastest acceleration at just 4.4 seconds to 100 km/h.

How the rest of the subcompact luxury crossover SUV field stacks up

2022 Mini Cooper Countryman ALL4
Mini’s Cooper Countryman easily qualifies for premium status, plus is one of the sportiest in the class in top-tier trim.

Enough has already been said about the sixth-place GLA-Class throughout this top-5 review, particularly when it comes to its many awards, which left the Mini Countryman (available from $32,990, less up to $3,000 in additional incentives) in the luxury crossover SUV segment’s seventh sales spot last year with 1,637 deliveries, although 2021 might lower its ranking significantly, as the BMW-owned British brand had only sold 310 examples as of Q2 2021’s end (a chip shortage issue?).

2022 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque
Land Rover’s Range Rover Evoque is one classy little contender.

The Countryman’s lacklustre 2021 sales performance is just a bit more than half as much of the ninth-place Land Rover Range Rover Evoque’s January-through-June year-to-date tally of 609 deliveries ($49,950 for the P250 AWD, plus factory leasing and financing rates from zero percent and average CarCostCanada member savings of $1,000), after selling 1,410 units last year, while BMW’s X2 ($44,950, plus up to $1,000 in additional incentives and average CarCostCanada member savings of $3,000) once again found 790 customers in 2020 and 495 over the first six months of this year.

Last, but nowhere near least when it comes to premium-level accoutrements, features and performance, is Jaguar’s somewhat pricier E-Pace ($51,500, plus factory leasing and financing rates from zero percent and average CarCostCanada member savings of $1,250) that earned just 265 sales last year and a nominal 80 as of June 30, 2021. The E-Pace, which initially hit our market in 2017, was stylishly refreshed from the outside in for 2021, and truly deserves more love than it gets.

2022 BMW X2 M35i
BMW’s X2, shown here in M35i trim, is one of the sportiest designs in the category.

That covers everything in the subcompact luxury crossover SUV segment, so far at least, but stay tuned for Alfa Romeo’s new Tonale, which should provide a lot of performance in a small package, and who knows, maybe Acura’s CDX, or whatever they’ll eventually call it, will arrive alongside the upcoming HR-V. We should also expect an entry-level Genesis crossover in this class, because the South Korean premium upstart is working feverishly to fill holes in its new lineup, evidenced by their new 2022 GV70 compact luxury SUV, and the just-announced all-electric GV60. Being that we all now know how important this smallest of SUV categories is, could a Cadillac XT3 be in the works? Lincoln needs to attract new entry-level buyers too, so due to their naval naming scheme theme we think a new Patrol is in order (although Nissan may own the global name for its Armada in our market too, so maybe the tiny ship’s “Cyclone” class designation would be more fitting. We don’t think a new Infiniti QX30 is in the works, however, being how terribly Nissan’s luxury brand is struggling to survive right now.

2022 Jaguar E-Pace
It’s hard not to like Jaguar’s impressive E-Pace, but it’s base price is the highest in the class.

Likelier, expect larger, more profitable luxury brands such as Audi and Lexus to double down on their efforts by supplementing their existing models with roomier alternatives, just like Mercedes has done with the GLB, or sportier variants like BMW’s X2.

Be sure to check out the gallery (above) for photos of each and every subcompact luxury SUV mentioned in this Top 5 overview (even the Buicks), plus use the linked model names throughout the article to find out more about each SUV.

Story credits: Trevor Hofmann

Photo credits: Manufacturer supplied photos

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,…

2020 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD Momentum Road Test

2020 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD Momentum
This fabulous Amazon Blue hue is not available for 2020 and the white roof upgrade has been dropped for 2021, but the great looking XC40 remains more or less unchanged.

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.

2020 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD Momentum
Chunky styling sets the XC40 apart.

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.

2020 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD Momentum
Plenty of key Volvo design cues make sure the XC40 pulls off a premium look despite its small dimensions.

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.

2020 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD Momentum
The LED headlamps and classy aluminum-look accents come standard, but the 19-inch alloys are optional.

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.

2020 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD Momentum
The white roof and panoramic sunroof are optional for 2020, while the silver roof rails are standard.

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.

2020 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD Momentum
Classic “L” shaped LED taillights are nicely detailed.

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.

2020 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD Momentum
The XC40 Momentum might be the base trim of Volvo’s entry-level model, but it’s still beautifully finished inside.

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.

2020 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD Momentum
The XC40’s cockpit is one of the most appealing in its class.

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.

2020 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD Momentum
A fully digital gauge cluster provides a large multi-info display at centre, that can grow even bigger when in use.

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).

2020 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD Momentum
The infotainment touchscreen is as easy to use as a tablet, and filled with great graphics and loads of features.

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.

2020 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD Momentum
Remember, this is a base model, and the switchgear is this impressive.

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.

2020 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD Momentum
Available wireless charging makes topping up your smartphone as easy as putting your phone down.

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.

2020 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD Momentum
The XC40’s advanced 8-speed automatic gearbox gets shifted via this electronic lever, but no paddles in the base model.

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.

2020 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD Momentum
This handy little hook flips out of the glove box for hanging what-have-you, just one of many thoughtful conveniences you’re going to love.

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.

2020 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD Momentum
Available leather will only set you back $1,100, but really makes the XC40 feel rich.

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.

2020 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD Momentum
The rear seating area is especially roomy and comfortable, even for tall passengers.

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.

2020 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD Momentum
The cargo area can be had with this handy divider that includes three grocery bag hooks on top.

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.

2020 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD Momentum
The rear seats fold 60/40, but include a centre pass-through for longer cargo.

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

Back in early 2017, Volvo asked us to “rediscover [our] passion in life” in a then new V90 Cross Country, yet while the Swedish automaker’s overall sales grew impressively thanks to plenty of freshly…

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD Road Test

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
Volvo’s V90 Cross Country is a handsome crossover wagon that might just be ideal for those not wanting to move up to a taller SUV.

Back in early 2017, Volvo asked us to “rediscover [our] passion in life” in a then new V90 Cross Country, yet while the Swedish automaker’s overall sales grew impressively thanks to plenty of freshly redesigned models and some entirely new entries as well, Canadian buyers flocked to its full lineup of SUVs instead of this tall mid-size luxury crossover wagon.

The result is the V90 Cross Country’s cancellation in our market as of 2020, this 2019 model year being its last after just three years. Along with the V90 Cross Country’s demise is the end of the regular V90 wagon too, while the beautiful and highly competent mid-size S90 luxury sedan remains in the lineup for at least another year and hopefully longer.

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
The V90 Cross Country has unmistakable Volvo design cues, plus beefier black bumpers, wheel arches and side sills than the regular V90 wagon.

The choice to forgo a crossover wagon for a big flagship luxury sedan flies in the face of convention, with some brands, particularly Volvo’s previous parent Ford (and it’s Lincoln luxury division), eliminating cars almost entirely, but the continuation of the S90 is probably more about maintaining a premium image than adding to the bottom line, because with only 835 combined S90, V90 and V90 Cross Country sales in its peak calendar year of 2018, and merely 295 after a 65-percent plunge in 2019, none of these cars would’ve made much of a difference to Volvo Canada’s profitability.

Standard styling elements include satin-silver bumper garnishes and Volvo’s trademark Thor’s Hammer LED headlamps.

For a bit of background, the V90 Cross Country replaced two generations of XC70 from 2000 through 2016 (it was dubbed V70 XC for the first three years), and by doing so once again brought Volvo’s renowned style, respected quality, sensible pragmatism and turbocharged, supercharged four-cylinder performance to the crossover wagon segment, while upping its luxury quotient to an entirely new level of opulence.

Anyone who’s spent time in a modern-day Volvo knows exactly what I mean, especially when equipped in one of its top R-Design or Inscription trims. The V90 Cross Country doesn’t use the usual trim nomenclatures for the Canadian market, but my tester was nicely outfitted with its Premium package and therefore, together with its generous list of standard features, is quite possibly (or should I say, was quite possibly) the most luxurious crossover wagon available today.

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
The 2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country comes standard with this attractive 19-inch alloys.

Then again, Audi may have something to say about that. The German brand now offers Canadian urban adventurers their all-new 2020 A6 Allroad in the same rather uncompetitive class, and while the four-ringed contender from Ingolstadt is impressive, Gothenburg’s outgoing alternative looks and feels richer inside despite costing $12,700 less.

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
Sharply angled LED taillights are standard too.

The 2019 V90 Cross Country starts at a very reasonable $62,500 compared to the A6 Allroad’s lofty $75,200 price tag, and while Audi’s brand image is certainly more upscale than Volvo’s, and its turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 makes an additional 19 horsepower and 74 more lb-ft of torque than Volvo’s turbocharged and supercharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder that puts out 316 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, the Swede is slightly more pragmatic from a fuel economy perspective, with a claimed Transport Canada rating of 11.6 L/100km in the city, 8.1 on the highway and 10.0 combined compared to 11.8 city, 9.1 highway and 10.6 combined.

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
Nice silver detailing and “CROSS COUNTRY” inscribed into the black bumper are just some of this model’s unique details.

The 250 horsepower V90 Cross Country T5 AWD was discontinued at the end of model year 2018, by the way, this previously the base model at $59,500, while the $84,900 Ocean Race T6 AWD also said goodbye to the market for 2019.  Now for 2019 there’s just one T6 AWD trim level, but the noted $3,900 Premium package does a good job of making it Inscription-like, thanks to features such as heated windshield washer nozzles, auto-dimming and power-folding side mirrors, LED interior lighting, aluminum treadplates, a heated steering wheel rim, front and rear parking sensors with graphical warnings, Park Assist Pilot semi-autonomous self-parking, a 360-degree Surround View camera system, a HomeLink universal garage door opener, four-zone automatic climate control, a cooled glove box, heatable rear outboard seats, power-folding rear seatbacks and outer head restraints, a really innovative semi-automatic cargo cover, an integrated soft safety net to separate cargo from passengers, blind spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert, and more.

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
The base V90 Cross Country’s interior is truly upscale, even for a premium luxury car.

The aforementioned $62,500 base price for the 2019 V90 Cross Country T6 AWD doesn’t include $900 for metallic paint, which is included with the Audi incidentally, but the A6 Allroad only provides black and beige leather options inside, and it’s not plush Nappa leather like Volvo’s, which can be had in four no-cost optional hues including Charcoal (black), Amber (dark beige), Maroon Brown (dark reddish brown) and Blond (light grey).

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
The dash and controls layout is superb, with everything falling ideally to hand.

It should be noted that despite appearing richly appointed my tester was far from fully loaded, as it was missing the $3,600 Luxury package with its gorgeous tailored instrument panel, sensational upgraded front seats with power-adjustable side bolsters, power-extendable lower cushions, multi-technique massage function, and cooling ventilation, plus manually retractable side window curtains in back. My test model didn’t have the $2,350 optional rear air suspension and Four-C Active Chassis upgrade either, and only had 19-inch alloys instead of $1,000 enhanced 20-inch rims, or for that matter body-colour bumpers, wheel arches and sills, $425 Metal Mesh decor inlays (although the hardwood was lovely), $250 black headliner, $1,500 graphical head-up display, $3,750 Bowers & Wilkins premium audio system (with fabulous aluminum speaker grilles), and $600 dual two-stage child booster seats integrated within the rear outboard positions, with all of the above potentially increasing the 2019 V90 Cross Country’s price by $18,375 to $80,875.

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
The V90 Cross Country’s standard digital instrument cluster is very impressive.

While that might sound like a lot for a mid-size luxury crossover wagon, consider for a moment that the 2020 Audi A6 Allroad Technik starts at $83,100 without a massage, and while it includes that brand’s fabulous “Virtual Cockpit” digital gauge package (the V90 gets a digital instrument cluster too, just not quite as configurable as the A6 Allroad’s), getting said massage, along with upgraded Valcona leather will set you back another $4,050, while adding on all of the V90’s advanced driver assistive systems will cost another $2,400. You can also add the $2,500 Dynamic package with Dynamic Steering and Dynamic All-Wheel Steering, $2,500 for Night Vision Assistant, $500 for quieter dual-pane glass, $350 for Audi Phonebox with wireless charging, another $350 for rear side airbags (some impressive stuff), and $1,000 for full body paint (already priced in to the top-tier Volvo), bringing the German model’s total to $102,650, less an expected $1,000 in additional incentives if you choose to sign up for a CarCostCanada account in order to learn everything you can before speaking to an Audi dealer (see CarCostCanada’s 2020 Audi A6 allroad Canada Prices page).

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
The tablet-style Sensus infotainment touchscreen is easy to use and full of features.

That’s $1,000 less than a Volvo dealer is prepared to slice off of the V90 Cross Country, or so says CarCostCanada on their 2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country Canada Prices page, but considerable savings aside the Volvo should really impress anyone considering either of these two fine vehicles. They’re both unquestionably handsome from the outside, and come equipped standard with all expected LED lighting tech and brushed metal accents to dazzle owners and onlookers alike. The minimalist Audi cabin is sublime, as is Volvo’s ritzier interior, their materials and build quality never in question, the only differences being a desire to appeal to varying tastes.

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
The optional overhead parking monitor is excellent.

Even before sliding into the V90 Cross Country’s enveloping driver’s seat, its high-quality gleaming metal- and leather-wrapped key fob sets the tone. This said its proximity-sensing access means it will most likely remain in your purse or pocket and not be touched at all—such a shame. Once inside, Volvo covers most surfaces with premium soft-touch synthetic or optional contrasting French-stitched leather, plus gorgeous dark oak inlays across the entire instrument panel and all doors. The fancier version gets the previously noted metal inlays instead, but truly there’s enough satin-finish aluminum trim elsewhere that more metal is hardly necessary.   

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
Those who want to row their own gears will need to do so via the V90 Cross Country’s shift lever.

Key areas below the waist are soft to the touch, not so with many premium brands such as Lexus (although they sell nothing in this class), while all pillars are nicely wrapped in the same high-quality woven material as the roof liner. The ritzy details spoken of earlier include much of the switchgear that’s downright jewellery-like. Seriously, the exquisite diamond-patterned edging around the main audio knob, plus the twisting ignition controller and scrolling drive mode selector, not to mention the beautifully formed vent knobs, are gorgeous bits of metalwork, while the digital displays are some of the best in the industry.

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
The V90 Cross Country’s interior detailing is exquisite.

Before I continue, I must say that most everything I’m talking about is standard in Canada. Volvo even includes an impressive vertical tablet-style touchscreen on the centre stack, which in my opinion is one of the best in the business. Not only is it brilliantly clear and high-definition, with nice deep and rich colours, plus as easy use of a regular smartphone or tablet, with familiar tap, swipe and pinch functions, but it’s filled with loads of capability, making it one of the most versatile infotainment systems around. I also like that it mostly doesn’t change from one Volvo model to the next, so when you’re stepping up from an XC40 to this V90 or an XC90, you’ll enjoy the same impressive infotainment experience.

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
These sport seats really hold the torso and behind in place during hard cornering.

The fully configurable digital gauge cluster is standard too, and provides a nice clear display with a slight matte finish so there’s not much glare. While configurable, I wouldn’t go so far to say it’s as versatile as Audi’s aforementioned Virtual Cockpit, being that you can’t maximize infotainment system features to turn the entire cluster into a map, for instance. Audi’s cluster reduces the primary gauges into tiny dials at each corner, whereas Volvo’s dials remain mostly full-size all the time. Still, the V90’s gauge cluster offers excellent usability in other ways, the gauges shrinking slightly when using some features in the centre-mounted multi-info display, and that area quite large and appealing with plenty of attractive graphics and most features from the infotainment system, including a detailed, colourful navigation map.

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
This massive panoramic sunroof comes standard.

As impressive as its interior is, one of the V90 Cross Country’s best attributes is the superb drivetrain noted earlier. Its 315 horsepower and 279 pound-feet of torque provide spirited V6-like performance off the line and quick response for passing manoeuvres. It’s mated to a quick-shifting eight-speed automatic with manual mode, but unfortunately no paddles to keep the fingers busy in the more comfort-oriented V90 Cross Country. Rather, those wanting to row through the gears must do so via the shift lever, which is no problem yet not as easy as leaving both hands on the wheel for maximum control. Then again, I almost never bothered to shift the autobox anyway, as it went about its duty with effortlessly quick gear changes needing no prompting.

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
The rear seating area is spacious and wholly comfortable, plus refinement is above par.

The Cross Country doesn’t provide the same level of handling sharpness as the regular V90 T6 AWD R-Design tested last year, but it certainly comes within a hair’s width of matching it. It’s 58 millimetres (2.3 inches) taller, causing its centre of gravity to raise upwards somewhat, so naturally it can’t provide the same lateral grip as the more hunkered down sport wagon, but you likely won’t notice much difference unless pushing it extremely hard, and that’s not really what the Cross Country is all about. It’s better at getting you out from within a snow-filled ski resort parking lot, or allowing for greater ease and confidence inspiring control while trekking through a muddy cottage country back road.

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
The removable cargo cover automatically lifts out of the way when opening the tailgate.

The V90 Cross Country is equipped with standard all-wheel drive, but no off-road mode, yet it manages slippery conditions well. I’d even be willing to venture into some light off-roading situations, such as overcoming small stumps and rocks on a logging road, for example, or wading through a shallow river bed, because that’s exactly what Volvo has promised is possible with this all-weather, all-season, multi-activity vehicle.

With standard roof rails on top, plus available cross-members, bike racks, overhead storage containers and more, the V90 Cross Country becomes an ideal companion for outdoor activities such as cycling, kayaking, camping, and more. Volvo provides plenty of other accessories too, such a $1,345 trailer hitch package with electronic monitoring and Trailer Stability Assist (TSA), allowing owners to take full advantage of this crossover’s capabilities.

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
A cargo divider lifts out from the floor, complete with hooks for grocery bags.

While trekking through the wilderness, or merely overcoming the unkempt lanes in most of Canada’s inner cities, you’ll enjoy a wonderful ride, the V90 Cross Country providing even more comfort than the already impressive V90 wagon. This is a car I could drive all day long and never tire of. Together with its fabulous front seats, which are superbly comfortable and provide excellent support, there’s no real reason to spend more for the fancier massaging buckets unless money is no object.

Even more importantly for me, the driver’s position is ultra-adjustable and therefore should be perfect for the majority of body types. I’m a bit shorter than average at five-feet-eight, but my legs are longer than my torso, which can cause a problem if the steering column doesn’t provide enough reach. No such issues with the V90 Cross Country, however, that provides an ideal setup for both comfort and control.

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
A webbed divider protects passengers from loose cargo that could become dangerous in an accident.

There as an incredible amount of room in back, too, with almost 10 inches in front of my knees when the driver’s seat was set up for my long-legged frame, plus five inches remained from my shoulder to the door panel, another four or so next to my hips, and about three and a half above my head. Stretching out my legs was easy, with my shoes placed underneath the driver’s seat, while comfort was increased yet more via my tester’s four-zone auto climate control that provided a useful panel for controlling each rear outboard passenger’s temperature. The heated rear seats would no doubt be appreciated for winter ski trips with the family, as would the massive standard panoramic sunroof overhead, this completely eliminating any feelings of claustrophobia that can happen for some when seated in back, but then again it seems bizarre to imagine someone feeling closed in while seated anywhere in the spacious V90 Cross Country. Aiding the V90’s open, airy experience are HVAC vents on the backside of that centre console, and more at the midpoint of each B-pillar, while LED reading lamps hover overhead. A complex centre armrest flips down between outboard passengers, complete with pop-out dual cupholders, a shallow tray, plus a lidded and lined stowage container.

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
Thin items, such as floor mats, can be stowed below the cargo floor.

The V90 Cross Country’s powered liftgate lets you into the spacious cargo area, while the aforementioned retractable cargo cover automatically lifts up and out of the way. The cargo compartment, which measures 560 litres (19.8 cubic feet) behind the rear seatbacks and about 1,530 litres (54 cu ft) when the rear row is lowered, is luxuriously finished with plush carpets all the way up the sidewalls and rear seatbacks, plus of course the floor, while below an accessorized rubber all-weather cargo mat (part of a $355 Protection package that includes floor trays for four seating positions, a centre tunnel cover, and the just-noted cargo tray), my tester’s floor included a flip-up cargo divider featuring integrated grocery bag hooks. The floor can be lifted further, exposing a shallow carpeted compartment for storing very thin items, such as the carpeted floor mats while the all-season ones are in place.

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
The centre pass-through is small, but certainly better than nothing.

Aiding versatility, the V90’s 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks include a small, narrow centre pass-through that’s ideal for a couple of pairs of skis, or alternatively each portion of the seatback can be dropped down flat via powered release buttons attached to the cargo sidewall. These automatically flip the headrests forward too, which incidentally can be lowered from the front to aid rear visibility as well.

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
With the rear seats lower there’s plenty of cargo space available.

If you’re currently driving a four-door sedan or wagon and not quite sure if a tall, SUV-like crossover such as Volvo’s XC90 is the right way to go, this V90 Cross Country is a good alternative. All said, I’m not going to recommend it over Audi’s new A6 Allroad mentioned throughout this review, but I will go so far as say that it measures up in all ways other than high-speed performance, and possibly prestige. Then again, Volvo has been reviving its respectability as of late, and has long enjoyed its own diehard following that would consider nothing less. Comfort is arguably better in the Volvo too, and as noted earlier this V90 Cross Country is a bit stingier on fuel. In the end it will come down to personal taste, and the ability of your local Volvo dealer to find a new one still available. If your interest is piqued, I recommend calling now before it’s too late.

Story and photo credits: Trevor Hofmann

Photo Editing: Karen Tuggay

Despite being well into its fourth model year, you’ll have a hard time finding a more beautifully finished, or more luxuriously appointed mid-size luxury SUV. The Volvo XC90 is exquisitely detailed,…

2019 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD Inscription Road Test

2019 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD Inscription
This second-generation 2016-2019 XC90 has been very good to Volvo. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Despite being well into its fourth model year, you’ll have a hard time finding a more beautifully finished, or more luxuriously appointed mid-size luxury SUV. The Volvo XC90 is exquisitely detailed, particularly when outfitted in its most opulent Inscription trim, which is exactly how I most recently drove it.

The 2019 XC90 on this page is fourth on my list of second-generation testers, and the second to wear Inscription badging, the other two outfitted in sportier R-Design trim, while two have utilized the 316 horsepower mid-range engine with the other duo bridled to the much more potent 400 horsepower plug-in hybrid drivetrain. This in mind, the last non-electrified XC90 I drove was way back in 2016 when this wholly reimagined luxury utility ushered in an entirely new look and much higher level of luxury for the Swedish brand, and by so doing turned Volvo’s fortunes completely around.

2019 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD Inscription
The XC90 looks fabulous from all angles, especially in top-line Inscription trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Volvo more than doubled its Canadian sales toward the end of calendar year 2015 when the 2016 XC90 was introduced, from 10,964 units in Q4 of 2014 to 22,507 in the final three months of 2015, while the XC90’s sales volume grew from 427 units throughout all of 2014 to 957 in 2015 and a stellar 2,951 in calendar year 2016. This said the growth hasn’t stopped, verified by the XC90 hitting a new record of 3,059 deliveries last year, making it the most popular model in Volvo’s lineup.

Yes, the XC90 sells even better than the completely redesigned XC60, the smaller two-row compact luxury model having consistently outsold this three-row mid-size contender prior to both models’ redesign. This is the complete opposite of most others in the class, incidentally, which are consistently outsold by their smaller, more affordable compact luxury SUV siblings.

2019 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD Inscription
The XC90 introduced Volvo’s signature “Thor’s Hammer” LED headlights to the Swedish brand’s lineup, now standard on all models. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

I could only hazard to guess why this occurs, because the XC60 comes closer to matching the XC90’s materials quality, refinement, electronic interfaces and powertrain options as any rival brand, and would save its would-be buyer nearly $13,000 at the bottom end and almost $12k in top-line Inscription T8 eAWD Plug-In Hybrid trim, but either way it appears Volvo SUV buyers are generally wealthier than the class average, or prefer larger, roomier, more substantive machinery.

The XC90 is a true mid-size three-row luxury crossover SUV, measuring 4,950 mm (194.9 inches) from front to rear bumpers with a 2,984-mm (117.5-inch) wheelbase in between, plus 2,140 mm (84.3 inches) wide including its side mirrors, and 1,775 mm (69.9 inches) tall including its roof rails, while providing a considerable 237 mm (9.3 inches) of ground clearance, which helps it trudge through deep snow easily.

2019 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD Inscription
Inscription trim gets some extra chrome and more outside. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

That size makes it more than just accommodating. Its superbly comfortable front and rear seats confirm this just as notably upon first climbing inside as after a long road trip, a particularly elegant Magic Blue Metallic painted 2017 XC90 T8 Twin Engine eAWD Inscription tester having taken my partner and I out of Greater Vancouver, up the steeply inclined Coquihalla Highway and then over the 97C connector to Kelowna, BC’s wine country during the particularly warm fall of 2016, and while we took no passengers in back we hauled a fair bit of gear (including wine) in the 1,183 litres (41.8 cubic feet) of cargo space available when laying the third row flat.

That’s how I’d leave the seats more often than not if this were my personal ride, as I’d have little need for a third row now that my kids are grown, despite the nicely separated buckets in the very back accommodating my five-foot-eight frame comfortably. Volvo provides a reasonably large 447 litres (15.8 cubic feet) of dedicated cargo volume behind that third row, and trips to the hardware store for building materials are doable thanks to 2,427 litres (85.6 cubic feet) of available space when both rear rows are lowered. As good as all this is, I’m even more impressed by its overall passenger/cargo flexibility, the XC90’s second row divided into thirds so that everyone’s skis can be laid down the middle, thus mitigating potential whining about who gets the three-way-warming window seats.

2019 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD Inscription
The XC90 Inscription’s cabin is hard to fault, wth some of the finest detailing and highest quality materials in the industry. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Yes, this Inscription model comes well packed with features, second-row seat heaters just one of many upgrades included after choosing to move past base Momentum trim. For 2019 the Momentum starts at $59,750 plus freight and fees, with the more sport-oriented R-Design coming in at $69,800, and the Inscription starting at $71,450. All three Volvo powertrains are offered in the XC90, the Momentum’s exclusive T5 displacing 2.0-litres in four cylinders and using a turbocharger to make 250 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, the as-tested T6 adding a supercharger to the same powertrain for 316 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, and the T8 plug-in hybrid combining a 60-kW electric motor for a grand total of 400 net horsepower and 472 net lb-ft of torque. The T6 powertrain adds $4,250 to Momentum trim, whereas the T8 will set Momentum buyers back another $10,950, while the increase from T6 to T8 will cost you $12,650 in either R-Design or Inscription trims. 

2019 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD Inscription
The XC90 Inscription is the epitome of elegance and sophistication, although it provides a highly technical, minimalist approach to luxury. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

By the way, the 2020 XC90, which will start arriving at Volvo Canada retailers when this review gets published, continues to be available with the same three trim lines as the outgoing 2019 model, although a new six-passenger variant, available solely with T6 AWD Momentum and Inscription trims, provides a more luxuriously-appointed second row and easier access to the very back thanks to captain’s chairs and an aisle down the middle. The 2020 update includes a stylish new concave grille design as well, plus some less noticeable changes, all for a $1,500 hike in base price, less $1,000 in potential incentives at the time of writing. If personal savings matter more to you than getting the latest, greatest model, consider this 2019 XC90 that can provide up to $5,000 in additional incentives. Just visit the 2019 Volvo XC90 Canada Prices page at CarCostCanada, where you can also peruse through trim, package and individual option pricing, as well as find manufacturer rebate info and dealer invoice pricing.

2019 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD Inscription
The XC90’s fully digital gauge cluster allows for plenty of functions within its multi-info display, including navigational mapping. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

An eight-speed Geartronic automatic with auto start-stop plus all-wheel drive comes standard across the line, although the transmission and AWD systems are unique to both conventional and electrified powertrains, the latter dubbed eAWD for sourcing all of its rear-wheel power from its electric motor.

While a person could theoretically drive their XC90 T8 on electric power alone, its approximate 30-km EV range would necessitate a very short commute with very little highway time, and after that it’s merely a very potent hybrid. Still, as long as you’re not attempting to utilize its full 400 horsepower all the time, this model’s fuel economy improves over both the base T5 and mid-range T6 powertrain from 11.3 L/100km in the city, 8.5 on the highway and 10.0 combined for the T5 AWD, 12.1 city, 8.9 highway and 10.7 combined for the as-tested T6 AWD, to 10.1, 8.8 and 9.5 respectively for the T8.

2019 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD Inscription
The XC90’s overhead camera is one of the best in the business. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Despite the vehicle I tested being thirstiest on this list, it’s only worst amongst a very efficient lineup of Volvo mid-size luxury SUV trims. Comparatively the segment sales-leading Lexus RX now offers an extended three-row variant that’s nowhere near as roomy in back as the XC90, but can be had in 450h L hybrid form that’s good for the best fuel economy in this class at 8.1 L/100km city, 8.4 highway and 8.1 combined, while the same model in 350 L trim only manages a rating of 13.1 L/100km city, 9.4 highway and 11.1 combined. Likewise, the next most popular Acura MDX does a bit better than the conventionally powered Lexus with a respective 12.2, 9.0 and 10.8, while its hybrid variant achieves 9.1 city, 9.0 highway and 9.0 combined.

2019 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD Inscription
Truly, the XC90’s jewel-like details are exquisite. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Both Infiniti’s QX60 and Audi’s Q7 split the conventionally powered MDX and RX 350 L results with respective ratings of 12.5 city, 9.0 highway and 10.9 combined and 12.2, 9.5 and 11.0, while, again in order of popularity, Buick’s Enclave rating doesn’t measure up to the XC90 T6 either at 13.8 city, 9.5 highway and 11.9 combined (while also not measuring up in luxury, but I included it because it represents entry-level luxury in this class).

The XC90 is next in the sales hierarchy, followed by Mercedes’ three-row GLS 450 4Matic that only manages an estimated 14.9 city, 11.2 highway and 13.2 combined (how I wish they still offered their diesel), while BMW’s new X7 is rated at 12.0, 9.4 and 10.8, which isn’t too bad for this elongated three-row X5. Land Rover’s Discovery is the only non-hybrid model to beat the XC90, but not with its base V6 that can only manage 14.8, 11.4 and 13.0, this model’s diesel just sneaking below the least stingy XC90 at 11.3, 9.2 and 10.4, while the new 2020 Cadillac XT6 (the more luxurious version of the Buick Enclave) gets an estimated rating of 13.5 city, 9.7 highway and 11.5, and the new 2020 Lincoln Aviator achieves a slightly less efficient 13.7, 9.7 and 11.6 rating.

2019 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD Inscription
Easily two of the most comfortable front seats in the class. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Such incredible efficiency and the XC90 also outhustles many of the just-noted utilities in the base trims used to compare fuel economy (including the two hybrids, which incidentally the T8 eAWD model annihilates), its mid-range T6 AWD powertrain surprisingly strong for a small displacement four-cylinder thanks to the aforementioned turbo and supercharger combination, its zero to 100 km/h acceleration time being a very spirited 6.5 seconds, which is 1.4 seconds quicker than the base XC90 T5 AWD that manages the feat in 7.9 seconds, and only 0.9 seconds slower than the ultra-advanced T8 eAWD powertrain that scoots the big Volvo from standstill to 100km/h in just 5.6 seconds.

2019 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD Inscription
The second row is spacious and comfortable. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

My T6 AWD tester not only looks quick on paper, but it really felt strong off the line and even more confidence inspiring when passing slower moving vehicles on the highway, while it takes to the curves effectively too. No, it doesn’t track through quick corners or feel as generally hooked up as the sportiest of Germans in this elite pack, but it can certainly hold its own against all the rest, while it delivers one of the smoothest rides in its class combined with seat comfort that’s hard to beat.

I will refrain from itemizing every feature offered in each trim level as that would be a dreadful bore for both of us and hours of painstaking work for yours truly to endure, although those wanting all the info are free to check out my 2018 XC90 R-Design review in which you can pour over all this insufferable data to your heart’s content, and for those of us who’d rather not, suffice to say the XC90 represents good value for what’s being offered, which as a reminder includes one of, if not the most opulently attired interior in its class this side of a Bentley Bentayga, and honestly much of this Volvo’s switchgear is a helluvalot better than the big winged Brit, while all of its electronic interfaces are miles more advanced.

2019 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD Inscription
Adults can fit comfortably into the rearmost seats. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Ahead of the driver is a fully digital instrument cluster with the ability to add navigation mapping and route guidance to its centre-mounted multi-information display, amongst most other functions from the vertical, tablet-style Sensus infotainment touchscreen on the centre stack. This is one of my favourite centre displays and it’s packed full with every key feature currently offered by competitors, plus one of the best overhead cameras in existence.

My tester included the awesome sounding $3,250 1,400-watt 19-speaker Bowers & Wilkins optional audio system, complete with its lovely drilled aluminum speaker grilles including a tiny centre dash-mounted tweeter, but this particular XC90 didn’t include the jewel-like Orrefors crystal and polished metal shifter found in last year’s R-Design tester, c’est la vie.

2019 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD Inscription
The middle portion of the second row folds down to load in longer items like skis. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The glittering diamond-pattern metal-edged rotating dial on the centre stack was exquisitely detailed, however, as were the twisting engine start/stop switch and cylindrical drive mode selector on the lower console, while the open-pore hardwood used for the scrolling bin lids around the latter switchgear and shifter, which was also found on the instrument panel and doors was absolutely stunning, not to mention the superbly crafted contrast stitched padded leather covering almost every other surface, which was backed up elsewhere by more high-quality soft-touch composite surfacing than you’ll find on most competitors.

So next time you see someone drive by in a Volvo XC90 you may want to show a similar deference offered to Rolls-Royce, Bentley and Range Rover Autobiography owners, because they’re rolling in a similar level of luxury while doing a lot more to limit fuel usage and mitigate local emissions, plus they’re obviously intelligent enough to get all of the above for hundreds of thousands less than the ultra-utilities just noted.

As you can probably tell I continue to like the XC90 very much, and therefore highly recommend it.

I must admit… I really like Volvo. Particularly new, reinvented Volvo, since the Swedish luxury brand completely reimagined its place within the luxury sector in 2015 with the launch of the 2016 XC90,…

2019 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R-Design Road Test

2019 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R-Design
The new XC40 provides a funkier alternative to Volvo’s normally elegant design language, but this fun attitude fits within the subcompact luxury SUV segment perfectly. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

I must admit… I really like Volvo. Particularly new, reinvented Volvo, since the Swedish luxury brand completely reimagined its place within the luxury sector in 2015 with the launch of the 2016 XC90, from its styling, interior design and quality, to its electronics, advanced drivetrains, performance, and of course safety. Volvo is leading its more commercially relevant competitors in almost every respect, and it’s seeing success because of it. 

I’m not going to pretend that all of its new models are enjoying the fruits of its labours in abundance, mind you, but lacklustre market response to its 90-series cars is hardly an isolated phenomenon within the ebbing sedan and wagon market. After all, where the S90, V90 and V90 Cross Country only managed a collective 835 sales in Canada last year, they beat Genesis (Hyundai’s new luxury brand), Maserati, Jaguar, Acura and Infiniti in the mid-size luxury E-segment, and repeated the feat over the first three months of 2019 too. 

2019 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R-Design
R-Design trim means the roof gets painted black and other trim bits are blackened too. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Volvo is stronger when it comes to sales numbers in crossover SUV territory, but its XC60 only trounced Lincoln, Alfa Romeo, Jaguar and Cadillac last year, while getting extremely close to one-upping Infiniti, a performance it couldn’t quite repeat over Q1 of 2019 due to losing ground against Cadillac, Infiniti and Lincoln, while gaining market share on Porsche. The XC90 is stronger in the mid-size luxury SUV class, having overpowered Jaguar, Porsche, Tesla, Range Rover, Land Rover, and Maserati throughout 2018, although it only outsold Range Rover, Tesla, Land Rover, and Maserati as of March 31, 2019. This said the XC90 is doing pretty well for a vehicle that’s four years into its lifecycle. 

2019 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R-Design
R-Design trim adds a unique grille with a glossy black surround. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

And how about the new XC40? This subcompact luxury SUV, winner of the 2018 European Car of the Year, opens up totally new opportunities for Volvo, and does so in a market segment that’s hardly filled out with competitors. Despite arriving just partway through the year, the XC40 outpaced Jaguar’s E-Pace and Infiniti’s QX30 (the latter discontinued for 2019), and did so by a very wide margin, more than doubling deliveries of the former and tripling the latter. It was actually nudging up against Range Rover’s Evoque as well, but stayed far from contention when compared to Audi’s Q3, Mercedes’ GLA, and BMW’s class-leading X1/X2 combination. Still, it was a worthy effort from a new entry that was only on the market for the latter half of the year. 

2019 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R-Design
Like with all new Volvos, the XC40 sports standard “Thor’s Hammer” LED headlamps, upgraded with active-bending ability in R-Design trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

How about 2019? Over the first three months of this year the XC40 has found five and a half times more buyers than the Infiniti QX30 (again, a model being phased out), almost five times as many as the Jaguar E-Pace, hundreds more than the Range Rover Evoque, has surpassed BMW’s X2 sales, and is within shooting range of Mercedes’ GLA. We’ll have to watch and see if Volvo’s upward trajectory in this class continues, but I believe if more people learn about this impressive little SUV, the more chance it has of succeeding. 

So let’s run down the list of attributes I mentioned at the beginning of this review, starting with styling. Other than looking a bit too much like Jeep’s arguably handsome new Compass, the XC40 offers up a standout design, especially in its two-tone colour combinations. I tested a base Momentum model that I’ll cover in a future review, dipped in a lovely light pastel Amazon Blue paint with a white roof, and it caused more rubbernecking than anything else I’ve driven in this class. My Crystal White Pearl Metallic painted R-Design, showing off a standard black roof like all R-Design models, drew nearly as much attention, and would be my choice due to its slightly more masculine, sportier look. 

2019 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R-Design
The XC40 R-Design’s lower front fascia details are nicely executed. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Inside, the XC40 provides all of the upscale luxury expected in a premium-labeled entry SUV, no matter the trim. The front roof pillars are fabric-wrapped, the dash-top and top halves of the door skins are finished in soft-touch composite, the armrests are padded with stitched leatherette, while the insides of the door pockets are actually carpeted, plus they’re large enough to accept a 15-inch laptop and a drink bottle. Back to the soft pliable surfacing, there’s none below the waistline, including the centre console that gets some soft paint for consolation, this above carpeting that wraps around the lower portion, while overhead there’s a high-quality woven roofliner framing a massive panoramic glass sunroof with a powered translucent sunshade. 

2019 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R-Design
These 20-inch alloys are optional, with the standard R-Design wheels measuring 19 inches, and base and Inscription models equipped with 18s. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The dash design is typical modern Volvo, which means tasteful with minimal clutter, although it’s been given a funky twist including cool retro-like vertical satin silver metal vents next to the centre stack and each corner, adorned by attractive textured aluminum inlays across the instrument panel and doors. All of the satin silver trim is exquisitely crafted, particularly the knurled metal grips on the rotating vent actuators, and the similar treatment given to the audio system’s main volume control knob, while all of the switchgear is easily up to others in this class and surpasses some. 

Likewise, the R-Design’s exclusive contrast stitched perforated leather-wrapped and metal adorned sport steering wheel is beautifully finished, while a similar treatment is given to the electronic shift lever, not to mention the stunning leather and suede-like Nubuck upholstered seats, which are joined by sporty metal foot pedals to make this the obvious choice for those who want to flex a little muscle while running their urban errands. 

2019 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R-Design
These trademark L-shaped LED taillights could only come from Volvo. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Those seats are extremely comfortable and feature good side bolstering as well as extendable lower cushions that cup nicely under the knees, plus the rear seating area is ultra-generous, even fitting in large six-foot-plus passengers with room to spare. Volvo provides rear occupants with a flip-down armrest in the middle, which doubles as a centre pass-through when the otherwise 60/40-split rear seatbacks are folded flat to accommodate longer cargo in the equally sizeable and wonderfully flexible cargo area, which incidentally measures 586 litres (20.7 cubic feet) when the rear seats are in use, and 917 litres (32.4 cubic feet) when lowered. 

Making matters easier, they lower via a control panel of powered release switches on the passenger’s side cargo wall, while adding yet more utility is a cargo floor that folds in half and sits vertically with three handy grocery bag hooks on top, or alternatively can be swiveled into a small parcel shelf. I tested the former out on the way home from shopping and they worked fabulously. 

2019 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R-Design
The XC40’s doors close with the solidity of a much larger luxury SUV, while Volvo’s smallest also gets an impressively finished interior. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Speaking of handy, the XC40 also includes a foldout hook from the glove box, a removable waste bin within the centre console, an available storage box under the driver’s seat cushion, a parking pass holder on the left side of the inner windshield, plus gas card slots to the left of the driver’s knee. Additionally, ahead of the centre console is a large compartment for stowing a big smartphone with sunglasses or what-have-you to each side, the base of which optionally doubles as an inductive device charger, plus sidled up beside a 12-volt charger there are two USB ports within the compartment as well, one solely for charging and the other for connecting to the Apple CarPlay- and Android Auto-infused infotainment system just above (there are three USB ports altogether). Yes, this little SUV is as convenient as they come, and really should win an award for thoughtfulness. 

2019 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R-Design
Like the exterior, the XC40’s interior offers up a funkier take on the brand’s normally well-executed design. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Such hidden standard items might go unnoticed unless your Volvo sales or service rep points them out, but it’ll be difficult to miss the configurable colour TFT digital gauge cluster staring you in the face upon climbing inside. It’s large and bright at 12.3-inches in diameter, high in definition, and filled with features including an available navigation map that expands to fill most of the multi-information display portion in the middle. No direct competitor delivers anything anywhere near as good in standard trim, with most not even offering the a digital gauge option at all, giving Volvo the lead in electronic interfaces. 

This said, I haven’t even mentioned the brand’s award-winning nine-inch vertical centre touchscreen, which comes closer to resembling an iPad- or Samsung-style tablet than anything else in the category. No matter whether you’re purchasing this entry-level SUV or the full-tilt XC90, Volvo doesn’t differentiate between its Sensus systems, meaning you get the best they have to offer, and it’s truly superb. Like a tablet it ideally responds to touch gestures such as tap, swipe and pinch, and does so for many more functions than the usual navigation map. In fact, adjusting the temperature settings for the as-tested upgraded dual-zone automatic climate control system results in tall readouts popping onto either side of the display, letting you slide your finger up and down to choose your individual comfort zone. 

2019 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R-Design
A standard 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster, with the ability to display full navigation mapping at centre, sets the XC40 apart from all challengers. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The Sensus touchscreen also allows control of all audio functions including streaming Bluetooth, satellite radio, 4G LTE Wi-Fi, and more, while it’s easy to connect your phone, whether doing so by Bluetooth or plugging it in for the aforementioned Apple and Android apps. It’s an elegantly designed interface that’s easily one of the best in its class, and should be easy to operate for anyone used to a modern-day smartphone. 

Also on the centre stack, a narrow row of high-quality switchgear can be found just below the main touchscreen for quick access to key HVAC controls, a couple of audio controls including the aforementioned metal-edged volume knob, plus the hazard lights, and to the very right a drive mode selector with Eco, Comfort, Dynamic, Off-road and Individual settings, the Off-road setting incidentally not available with base Momentum trim. 

2019 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R-Design
Volvo’s 9-inch Sensus touchscreen is the most tablet-like infotainment system in the industry, shown here with its temperature setting panel expanded. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

As noted just before, navigation isn’t standard, but rather a standalone $1,000 add-on, yet the standard list is nevertheless long and includes most everything already mentioned plus LED headlamps, roof rails, remote engine start, pushbutton ignition, a leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel, an electromechanical parking brake, rain-sensing wipers, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, automatic climate control, voice activation, heated front seats, a powered driver’s seat with four-way lumbar support and memory, genuine aluminum inlays, plus a host of active safety gear like forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning and mitigation, etcetera, enough to earn it a best-possible Top Safety Pick + rating from the IIHS (the only SUV in its subcompact segment to do so), all for just $39,500 plus freight and fees, which makes it one of the most affordable vehicles in its luxury class with standard all-wheel drive. 

2019 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R-Design
The overhead camera is superb. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The as-tested R-Design, which starts at $44,100, includes all items noted previously as well as a one-inch larger set of 19-inch alloy wheels (although my tester wore optional 20s) attached to a sport suspension, plus a unique grille treatment, black skid plates, black mirror caps, gloss-black exterior trim, and the aforementioned black roof top, as well as active bending headlights, fog lamps, a rectangular set of exposed dual tailpipes (the base model’s are hidden), special aluminum front treadplates, upgraded carpets, better interior illumination, dual-zone auto climate control, a powered front passenger’s seat, cushion extensions for both front seats, a panoramic glass sunroof, black fabric pillars and roofliner (instead of light beige), an aluminum cargo sill protector, etcetera. 

My tester also had a $1,750 Premium Package featuring the inductive phone charger, the underseat storage box and grocery bag holders mentioned earlier, plus headlight washers, auto-dimming power-retractable side mirrors, heated wiper blades, a heatable steering wheel, heated rear outboard seats, a powered tailgate, and Blind Spot Information System with Cross Traffic Alert. 

2019 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R-Design
The centre pad within a cubby on the lower console doubles as a wireless charger. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

On top of this was a $2,000 Premium Plus Package including a 360-degree overhead Surround View parking camera, a HomeLink universal garage door opener, adaptive cruise control, Volvo’s Pilot Assist semi-autonomous Driver Assistance System, semi-autonomous Park Assist Pilot with Park Assist Front and Rear (a hands-on self-driving system that helps to ease highway driving quite well), and a 12-volt power outlet in the cargo area; plus Volvo added the previously noted $1,000 navigation system, as well as $950 worth of great sounding 600-watt, 14-speaker Harmon-Kardon audio. 

Prior to its brand-wide revamp initiated in 2015, Volvo started to upgrade past models with a new lineup of innovative powertrains. Unlike any other luxury brand, or any other major automaker for that matter, the Chinese-owned Swedish company chose to base its entire model line on one 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine using turbocharging in base form, both turbocharging and supercharging in mid-range trims, and, debuting with the XC90 for 2016, a turbocharged, supercharged and plug-in electric version boasting 400 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque. 

2019 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R-Design
The eight-speed automatic transmission’s shift knob is a nicely sculpted array of leather and metal. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

While a 400-horsepower XC40 sounds like a barrel of fun, a February 2019 announcement stated the plug-in variant slated for Volvo’s smallest SUV would in fact be the completely new 184-net-kW (247-net-hp) T5 Twin Engine with 328 net-lb-ft of torque thanks to an electric motor and a 1.5-litre three-cylinder gasoline-powered engine driving the front wheels. This should be followed closely by a version of the XC40 incorporating an even thriftier T4 Twin Engine, although we’ll likely only receive the more potent PHEV in North America. Additionally, Volvo announced in March that it will reveal a full-electric version of the XC40 before the end of 2019, as part of a push toward having half of its global sales made up of full-electric vehicles by 2025. 

2019 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R-Design
Comfortable and accommodating, the XC40’s driving position is excellent, and the R-Design’s seat upholstery plush and luxurious. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

For the time being, Volvo’s second-most popular model worldwide (behind the XC60) receives a standard 2.0-litre turbocharged engine making 248 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, which drives all wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission. This said a new 2.0-litre turbo-four designated T4, capable of 187 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of torque and coming standard with the same eight-speed auto and AWD, will be the base powerplant in Momentum trim for 2020, with R-Design and Inscription trims including the T5 engine, featuring 248 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, as standard kit. 

I can’t speak for the upcoming T4, but my tester’s T5 powertrain is an ideal match for the lightweight XC40, resulting in a fast-paced, fun-to-drive subcompact crossover SUV. Of course, it’s hardly the most formidable in its class, Jaguar’s E-Pace and Range Rover’s Evoque R-Dynamic models bringing 296 horsepower apiece to the segment, BMW’s X2 M35i stepping up with 302 horsepower, and Mercedes’ blisteringly quick AMG GLA 45 holding the category title with 375 horsepower. 

2019 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R-Design
The R-Design gets a large panoramic sunroof, that really opens up the interior. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Still, the XC40 immediately jumps off the line, its eight-speed autobox a bit annoying when moving into Drive or Reverse as it needs two taps to do so, but once underway it shifts with nice, snappy increments, especially when its sportiest “Dynamic” drive mode is selected and my R-Design model’s paddle shifters are engaged, and it feels nice and planted while doing so. 

No doubt my tester’s lower profile 20-inch tires played a role where rubber meets the road, not to mention its sport-tuned suspension setup, which otherwise is fully independent with aluminium double wishbones up front and a unique integral-link design that includes a lightweight composite transverse leaf spring at the rear. Hence it hooked up well enough through the corners, something I enjoyed when making up for lost time around town, as well as during a couple of fully engaged test sessions in the countryside. 

2019 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R-Design
The rear seating compartment is spacious and comfortable too. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

You sit up nice and high, which is ideal for visibility, and while this should negate at-the-limit handling it’s not destabilizing at all, but rather my XC40 R-Design felt confidence-inspiring when pushed hard, only leaning slightly when asking more from it than most owners ever would. Fortunately braking is quite good, whether feathering the front discs to set up a corner or jamming down hard on all four during a panic situation, it responded with poise. 

Its ride quality is very good for such a small SUV, the XC40 feeling more substantive overall than its size should allow, and I don’t believe there’s much if any difference in suspension comfort from models with 18-inch wheels and a regular “Dynamic” suspension than the sport setup wearing 20s. Volvo offers an adaptive Four-C Chassis for $1,000, but honestly I don’t think it’s needed. 

2019 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R-Design
The XC40’s cargo compartment should be large enough for most peoples’ needs, plus th rear seats include a handy pass-through in the middle. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

All in all the XC40 feels like a bigger and more substantive SUV than it really is, its doors and hatch closing with impressive solidity, plus it’s quiet and feels well-built when encountering road imperfections such as broken pavement, potholes, bumps, etcetera. 

Fuel economy, rated at 10.3 L/100km in the city, 7.5 on the highway and 9.0 combined, only looks poor if putting it up against something much less powerful and front-wheel drive like Lexus’ new UX (only 169 horsepower and 151 lb-ft of torque) that gets 7.2 combined in non-hybrid form. In fact, the XC40’s combined city/highway rating is identical to the Mercedes GLA 250 4Matic, better than the BMW X1 that can only manage 9.3 combined, noticeably ahead of the base Jaguar E-Pace P250’s rating of 9.8 combined, and a big improvement over Audi’s new Q3 that’s rated at just 10.6 combined. If anyone cares, the XC40 is even thriftier than the comparatively anemic yet still most capable (153-hp) full-load Buick Encore AWD that can only manage 9.1 L/100km combined. Of note, most of those above, including the XC40, benefit from auto start/stop technology that shuts the engine off when it would otherwise be idling, especially helpful in improving air quality. 

2019 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R-Design
The XC40 has plenty of thoughtful convenience touches, including this folding floor that doubles as a grocery bag holder. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

I don’t think Volvo will mind if I end this review on such a positive note. The fact is, after a weeklong test I haven’t found much to fault the new XC40 on, but rather I feel it’s one of the better compact luxury SUVs now available. You may have heard me say this before about something different, but keep in mind that most new models improve with each new generation, and in the case of the XC40, which allowed Volvo a completely clean slate to build upon, it’s been extremely well executed. 

Thanks to a quiet, comfortable ride with better than average handling, strong straight-line performance mixed with impressive efficiency, a comfortable, accommodating, and superbly crafted cabin filled with thoughtful touches that make life more convenient, plus value that’s hard to argue against, the XC40 is a clear winner that should attract plenty of new customers into the Swedish brand’s fold, and that bodes well for Volvo’s long-term future.