2019 Volvo XC40 First Drive | Edmunds

2019 Volvo XC40 First Drive

A New Take in an Emerging Class

The concept of "one size fits all" rarely succeeds. This is especially true of cars today, with shoppers narrowing down their Goldilocks zone to nearly custom-tailored specifications. The latest subcategory to emerge among luxury SUVs are subcompacts that deliver the elevated ride height many drivers seek, but with a smaller footprint that's easier to maneuver. The latest entrant comes in the form of the 2019 Volvo XC40.

The XC40 will reach dealers in the spring featuring all-wheel drive and a 248-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder called the T5. It will be available first with the Momentum trim, which asks $36,195 and includes 18-inch wheels, LED headlights, a power liftgate and Volvo On-Call vehicle control via smartphone apps, among other luxury features. Standard safety features will include lane keeping assist, frontal collision mitigation with pedestrian and animal detection, automatic post-collision braking, and a system that intervenes if it senses you leaving the road. The upgraded R-Design trim costs $38,695 and includes 19-inch wheels, a black roof, a sporty suspension, a cooled glovebox and a navigation system.

An optional Premium package adds some R-Design features to the Momentum trim, along with upgrades for both trim levels, such as adaptive cruise control, power-folding rear seats, a configurable cargo floor, a wireless charging pad and an additional storage bin under the driver seat. Other add-ons include the Vision package (power-folding and auto-dimming exterior mirrors, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, and front and rear parking sensors), the Advanced package (a surround-view camera system, headlight washers and adaptive headlights) and a Harman Kardon audio system. Other stand-alone options include a panoramic sunroof, a contrasting white roof, 20-inch wheels, and heated front seats and steering wheel.

2019 Volvo XC40

The XC40 also debuts with a new method of vehicle ownership called Care by Volvo. Modeled after cellphone plans, the program allows shoppers to pay $600 to $700 a month for their vehicle, depending on trim and options. These plans will include maintenance and insurance for two-year terms. Besides fuel, participants will only have to pay tax and registration. After the first year, they can opt to switch to another eligible XC40 model if they choose.

In the summer, a less powerful, front-wheel-drive entry-level model called the T4 Momentum will arrive with a starting price around $34,000. Around the same time, an adaptive suspension will be available as a stand-alone option as well. We also expect an announcement on hybrid and electric powertrains in a year or two.

2019 Volvo XC40

Compact and Classy
The 2019 Volvo XC40 doesn't stray far from the exterior styling established by the larger XC60 and XC90, and that's a good thing. Those designs pay homage to Volvo's identity yet push forward with a minimalist and modern body. The XC40 gains a few extra creases to shed some of the visual weight and give it a youthful athleticism to match its size. Its proportions are pleasing, an area in which other cars in this class can struggle. Momentum models have the option for a white roof that adds a playful character mostly absent in the class.

On the inside, the XC40 again echoes the style of larger Volvo SUVs with a large vertical touchscreen dominating the center of the dash, sparing use of physical buttons, and a simple yet classy overall impression. Volvo's Sensus infotainment system has a lot of visual appeal, but it takes longer to learn than most other systems. Accessing submenus and settings requires a finger swipe in a particular direction, though it's not initially clear which. Once mastered, however, operation is as easy as with any tablet.

Outward visibility is excellent with forward roof pillars that minimize obstructions. The roof pillars in the back are thick, but the rear window is big enough to give a good indication of what's behind you. The available surround-view camera system removes any remaining guesswork when backing into a spot. These cameras also provide a larger and clearer view than we've seen in other cars. The virtual instrument panel is likewise clean, but it can be washed out by harsh sunlight.

The front seats don't have an abundance of adjustments, but they're well shaped and appropriately padded for long-distance comfort. The R-Design seats have faux suede inserts that provide additional grip to keep you firmly anchored, but they are not available with ventilation. The rear seats are rather flat by comparison but will likely provide adequate comfort for the average-size adult. The seat cushion is mounted low to the floor and falls on the short side, which might leave taller passengers' thighs unsupported. It does result in adequate headroom, though, and there's more legroom than expected. We assumed that the rear passengers might feel a bit confined because of the thick roof pillars, but the view out the side windows is only minimally affected. With the massive panoramic sunroof and a good view out the windshield, the XC40 feels unusually spacious and airy from the back seats. Wherever you sit, the XC40's interior materials have a premium look and feel. None of the elements inside feel out of place, giving it an equal footing against other luxury subcompact SUVs.

We list road noise among our few complaints, with a constant white noise that can sometimes be intrusive. The European-spec summer tires may be contributing somewhat, but we're certain the U.S.-bound models with all-season tires will still make some noise. For most people, turning up the stereo will likely alleviate this issue.

2019 Volvo XC40

Smart Design
Besides being a safety pioneer, Volvo is also known for smart and subtle features that demonstrate the company's understanding of how people actually use their vehicles. The XC40 is a miniature showcase for this concept. The designers and engineers put the large speakers usually found in the front doors in a spot hidden behind the dashboard. This move freed an expansive space in the doors for a large and visually striking pocket that can hold a 15-inch laptop. It's also fabric-lined to eliminate that irritating plastic-on-plastic rattle. Integrated into the deep center armrest is a removable, covered wastebasket to keep your car tidy. In the lip of the glovebox is a retractable hook for holding a bag of takeout food for the drive home. Tucked underneath the center stack bin where a wireless charging pad resides is a small bracket to hide a credit or gas card, which could come in handy if you're sharing the car with family members. Two additional card slots are located to the left of the steering wheel with the intention of holding parking stubs or access cards.

The cargo area matches the average for the luxury subcompact SUV class at 20.7 cubic feet, but it earns points for its clever engineering. The floor of the cargo area can be configured to create two sections for keeping items in place with additional hooks for shopping bags. It can also be folded to create a split-level shelf. Furthermore, the cargo privacy cover can be stored underneath the floor, so you won't have to figure out what to do with it when you're hauling bulky items. With the rear seats folded, you'll have a maximum cargo volume of 47.2 cubic feet, which is small for the class.

On the Road
With 248 horsepower, the engine delivers plenty of power for the average driver, though we did notice a slight delay in response when accelerating from a stop. Otherwise, getting up to highway speed and passing slower traffic are decidedly easy. The engine can sound a little rough under hard acceleration, but it's quiet enough in every other condition. The transmission is adequately responsive when downshifting to a lower gear when you need more power, and it executes smooth gear changes under less demanding acceleration. Selecting the sportier drive mode sharpens the responses further and keeps the engine revving in a lower gear. The brake pedal is moderately firm and easy to modulate, just as you'd expect.

With smaller dimensions than other Volvo SUVs and the R-Design's stiffer suspension, our XC40 test vehicle displays sure-footed and confidence-inspiring manners through curves. Body roll is slight and well managed without exhibiting harshness on rougher pavement. We expect the Momentum trim's softer suspension to be marginally more compliant. Overall, the XC40 is a pleasant car for logging miles. The gear selector was one of our few gripes since it requires a double tap to select between Reverse and Drive, something owners will have to become conditioned to do after time behind the wheel.

The Verdict
The 2019 Volvo XC40 matches or bests other subcompact luxury SUVs in the class in terms of driving pleasure and price. These rivals include the Audi Q3, BMW X1, Jaguar E-Pace and the Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class, even if it costs a few thousand dollars more. The Volvo gains an advantage over this impressive group with its clever features, attention to detail and unique Scandinavian design. We left the drive impressed on a number of levels and sure that the XC40 stands out as an attractive alternative to the prevailing German choices.

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