Class: Premium Subcompact Crossover
Miles driven: 525
Fuel used: 23.0 gallons
Real-world fuel economy: 22.8 mpg
|CG Report Card
|Room and Comfort
|Power and Performance
|Fit and Finish
|Report-card grades are derived from a consensus of test-driver evaluations. All grades are versus other vehicles in the same class. Value grade is for specific trim level evaluated, and may not reflect Consumer Guide's impressions of the entire model lineup.
|Big & Tall Comfort
|Big & Tall comfort ratings are for front seats only. "Big" rating based on male tester weighing approximately 350 pounds, "Tall" rating based on 6'6"-tall male tester.
Driving mix: 55% city, 45% highway
EPA-estimated fuel economy: 23/31/26 (city/highway/combined)
Base price: $35,200 (not including $995 destination charge)
Options on test vehicle: R-Design Features package ($2500), Premium Package ($900), Vision Package ($1100), Advanced Package ($995), heated front seats and steering wheel ($750), metallic paint ($595), Panoramic Roof ($1200), Lava (orange) carpet, console, and door panels ($100), 20-inch “5-Double Spoke” alloy wheels ($800), Harmon Kardon audio system ($800)
Price as tested: $45,935
The great: Functional cabin space within tidy exterior dimensions; youthful-yet-sophisticated styling inside and out; upscale interior ambiance
The good: Comfortable-yet-athletic driving personality
The not so good: Mediocre observed fuel economy; complicated infotainment system; pricey option packages drive up the bottom line
Just to be sure it’s got this whole SUV thing covered, Volvo is rolling out another one. The newcomer is the XC40, an early-debut 2019 model, aimed at folks who might not find the redesigned 2018 XC60 compact enough. Indeed, the XC40 occupies about 10 fewer linear inches than the 60, which places it in our newly created Premium Subcompact SUV class.
At its spring ’18 rollout, the time of Consumer Guide®’s test of the new vehicle, the XC40 was available as an all-wheel-drive T5 in entry-level Momentum or sporty R-Design trim levels. Due to follow were front-wheel-drive versions with a lower-powered T4 engine, plus a luxury-oriented Inscription trim level with both drivetrains. CG sampled an R-Design with a delivery-included base price of $38,695 but enough options to reach the mid $40,000s.
The T5 engine is a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder of 248 horsepower joined to an 8-speed automatic transmission. (The 2.0-liter T4 in the upcoming cheaper front-drive XC40s will make 187 horsepower.) R-Design distinctions include a sport-tuned chassis, 19-inch-alloy wheels, gloss-black roof and mirror caps, blackout grille, dual integrated tailpipes, and fog lights in the front spoiler. Inside, the leather-wrapped steering wheel, gearshift knob, pedals, carpet, front sill plates, and key fob are all specific to the R-Design, as are the Nappa leather seats with Nubuck fabric inserts in the backs and cushions.
Other key pieces of standard equipment are dual-zone electronic climate control, a cooled glove box, 12.3-inch digital vehicle-information display, 8-speaker audio, satellite radio, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone Integration, voice control, Sensus navigation system, power-adjustable front seats with driver’s-seat memory, keyless entry, hands-free tailgate, integrated roof rails, oncoming lane mitigation, and lane-keeping assist. The test vehicle was augmented with extra-cost items like Crystal White Metallic paint, 20-inch wheels, eye-opening orange interior accents, heated front seats and steering wheel, a panoramic moonroof, and a host of other packaged tech features.
The XC40 comes off as easily maneuverable. It can be tucked into parking spaces with ease. It handles well, with a good degree of body-lean control in corners. It also stops well with the aid of its large 4-wheel disc brakes. Standard drive-mode settings (“Comfort,” “Eco,” “Dynamic,” “Off-road,” and “Individual”) not only modify engine performance but steering, ride, and traction calibrations too. This driver stuck with Comfort mode for his normal commuting and found it delivered a quite compliant ride.
The T5 engine is a bit of an enigma in the XC40. While pretty strong overall for its size, it’s not the quickest initially. Even with a good tromp on the gas power has to build for a few moments. Then the transmission downshifts and power starts to arrive briskly. To this driver’s ear, the engine was a little noisy when pushed. The transmission is pretty fast acting, and in Comfort-mode operation, upshifts under heavy throttle are perceptible but not harsh or intrusive. The R-Design comes with paddle shifters for drivers who want to work through the gears for themselves now and then.
EPA ratings for the T5 XC40 are an estimated 23 mpg in the city, 31 mpg on the highway, and 26 combined. This reviewer wasn’t so lucky. He saw 22.0 mpg after a test drive of 135 miles that included 55 percent city-style operation.
Driver and passenger will find pretty good head- and legroom in front. The practical limit for adult seating in back is two people. They, too, benefit from decent headroom, even under the moonroof, and legroom isn’t half bad but stands to get cramped if front occupants are tall and need to stretch out. Wide B-pillars and thick, rising rear pillars compromise driver vision to the sides and over the shoulder.
The XC40 does a pretty good job of providing cargo space even with the rear seats up. There’s a wide underfloor storage area (large enough to store the retractable cargo cover), and floor height is adjustable—at one setting, the rear 60/40-split seats fold absolutely flat with the floor. The Premium Package added to the test car includes, among other things, a folding floor section that kinks to form a partition to keep items at the rear from rolling forward, and remote lowering buttons for the rear seat backs located in the right sidewall. There are a couple of small open cubbies in the corners; the one on the right side has an elastic strap to help hold up vertical items. Finally, there is a pass-through for skis and other long items in the rear seat.
For personal-item storage in the cabin, there is a generous glove compartment and a modest console box. An open tray at the front of the console houses electronic-device inputs and makes space for the extra-cost wireless charger (another Premium Package item). There are big pockets in the front doors, smaller pockets in the rear doors, and net pouches on the backs of the front seats. Cup holders are found in the console and the pull-down rear armrest.
The comfy, upscale interior in the test truck was enlivened—to say the least—by the flashy optional “Lava” carpet and door panels. It won’t be to everyone’s taste. Keeping with current Volvo practice, the XC40 has a not-so-easy-to-use vertically oriented 9-inch touchscreen that dominates infotainment, climate, phone, and vehicle-settings functions. In some ways it’s a lot like a smartphone, with plenty of tapping and swiping to uncover more “windows” of information. The unfortunate result is that it often takes several steps to achieve the desired result. Some climate settings on the dash, but most are accessed via the screen, including a pop-up menu for the seat and steering-wheel heaters. A toggle-style shift lever requires bumping forward to access Reverse, and clicking backward to select Drive, with a separate button to set Park. It will take drivers some time to get acclimated to this arrangement.
Volvo’s XC40 incorporates several new motoring ideas. It’s available with a semiautonomous “Pilot Assist” system that will handle some of the accelerating, steering, and braking in highway driving. Plus, there’s a new way to buy one: “Care by Volvo,” a sort of subscription program that allows the purchase of specifically equipped vehicles, maintenance, and insurance for a flat monthly fee for 24 months, with the option of switching to another vehicle after 12 months. Most important for Volvo, though, is that the XC40 provides even more coverage of the popular SUV market.