When the Thomas Ingenlath-designed Volvo XC40 was introduced to an eager global consumer market for model year 2018, adoring acclaim was practically universal. The change in design championed the development of luxury compact SUV’s and sedans within the Volvo lineup. Built upon the innovative compact modular architecture (CAM) platform, Volvo ensured that their latest additions were specifically tailored to smaller vehicles.
Such was the success of the XC40 that this platform was recently pushed further into the spotlight when Volvo unveiled their very first battery electric vehicle (BEV) and the XC40 Recharge introduced globally on October 16, 2019.
In the T5 R-Design trim as tested, Volvo’s engineers came up with a luxury SUV with a sporting edge. Unique styling details and colours instantly establish the vehicle’s tone on the outside including 20-inch alloy wheels and a premium Harman Kardon sound system, placed our test vehicle at just under $54,000.
Pilot Assist (Volvo’s semi-autonomous driving tech that will drive, steer and brake all while maintaining a pre-set (driver established) distance from the vehicle in front was included as a part of the optional Premium Plus Package. At the time of driving this vehicle, central Ontario experienced the first snow and ice of the too long winter season, and safety being our watch word, we declined to check it out—this time. This writer has used Pilot Assist in Volvo’s XC90 and S90 and I can attest to its ability to serve up the semi-autonomous experience. For some, it may, indeed feel like a leap of faith—and in truth it is!
Once again, Volvo’s engineers have wrung every available ounce of power and torque from their four-cylinder engine—248 horsepower and 258 lb.-ft. respectively. This power plant, when coupled with Volvo’s eight-speed Geartronic automatic transmission, never leaves the driver with the impression that there is nothing left to give. Our tester was outfitted in a dynamic Fusion Red with a black roof and adjustable charcoal leather/nubuck textile comfort seats, adding to the general premium look and feel.
Throw in a panoramic sunroof, and you are all set for a very pleasant driving experience. The XC40 T5 R-Design has a starting price of just over $45,650. For the record, our standout compact SUV was dressed to the nines with all the latest Volvo technology—including a 12.3-inch infotainment/driver display and the always impressive 360-degree camera—which, when in reverse gear, shows an overhead view of the vehicle maneuvering into a parking space!
The XC40 T5 receives all-wheel drive as standard, and aggressive acceleration will get you from 0-100 km/h in a reasonable six seconds or so. The eight-speed automatic transmission handles gear changes without delay and transmits no harshness to the cabin while doing so. When cruising on the highway, the powertrain is quiet and refined. Towing capacity is something that’s a rarity among sub-compact luxury crossovers; the XC40 boasts an almost impressive 3,500-pound limit.
The XC40 could easily be mistaken for the bigger SUV, the XC60. The upright fascia houses a similar grille, flanked by high-mounted headlights with Volvo’s “Thor’s Hammer” sideways-T LED light graphic.
As a result of the general wheelbase stretch, there is more space, especially legroom in the rear cabin area. The improvement is noticeable; rear passengers sit on a cushion that’s comfortably up off the floor and enjoy generous rear leg and headroom. Overhead, a panoramic sunroof is standard on all models and helps brighten the interior.
The dashboard design, TFT instrument cluster, and vertically-oriented touch screen all do a convincing impression of the stylish XC90. We did find the touchscreen a little annoying and not as responsive as we might like—hard not to be distracted when driving. Note: do not use while wearing heavy gloves—the touch screen is not perhaps what you have become accustomed, and prodding and swiping with thicker-than-normal fingers may be problematic!
With unique styling, great packaging, and frankly, a compelling driving experience, the XC40 R-Design will likely not cannibalize sales within the XC family—the XC60 and the award-winning full-size XC90. Each is a little different from each other–vis-à-vis weight, length, and interior space.
All in all a great all-round, good for just-about-any-occasion vehicle where budget is still a consideration.
2020 Volvo XC40 T5, AWD R-Design trim
Body Style: Sub-compact luxury SUV.
Engine: As tested, 2.0 L direct-injected turbocharged I-4, generating 248 horsepower and 258 lb.-ft. of torque.
Fuel Economy (stated): (Premium) 10.7/7.7/9.4L/100 km city//highway/combined.
Cargo Capacity: 1,628 litres with the back seats folded or 586 litres while seating five adults.
*Does not include freight. PDI, HST and other taxes extra.
David Taylor is an independent automotive lifestyle writer, producer, and editor based in Barrie.