14-03-2020

Volvo XC40 Driven

REVIEWS

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Cars are driven by people. The guiding principle behind everything we make at Volvo, therefore, is and must remain, safety.

— Assar Gabrielsson and Gustav Larson, 1927

Volvo was founded upon the concept of safety in 1927 in Gothenburg, Sweden. And for more than 90 years now, Volvo has stood for Safety. But then there was a problem, the engineers at Volvo took safety so seriously, that their cars got perceived to be boring and meant only for oldies. This led to lot of people turning away from the brand as with time, safety was never given precedence and looks, and styling took the center stage.

Then in 2014, something significant happened. Let me draw parallels here, how many of you remember the American Comedy Drama television series Ugly Betty, which revolves around the character Betty Suarez, who despite her lack of style, lands a job at a prestigious fashion magazine, and then with time, goes for a full makeover. The series ran from 2006 to 2010 in America. A very popular Indian Adaption to it was “Jassi Jaissi Koi Nahi”

So then in 2014, Volvo Cars got a complete makeover, a makeover so stunning that now, one could not take their eyes off the Volvo Cars, and the first car to get the makeover was none other than their flagship SUV- the Volvo XC90.

Then in 2016, Thomas Ingenlath showcased the concept 40.1. This prototype in engineering was a historic event in Volvo car history as it was the first five-door compact SUV released by Volvo. Ingenlath’s 40.1 concept car was the overarching inspiration for the 40 Series models.The new concept vehicle represented a shift in thinking for Volvo’s approach to vehicles. And this Concept, spanned series of compact cars for Volvo including the V40 and the XC40. Officially the XC40 was introduced in 2017 and the production began in November 2017.

While the XC90 was based on Scalable Product Architecture (SPA) platform, the XC40 is based on compact modular architecture (CMA) platform. What CMA allowed for was that the aesthetics of the exterior and interior could be altered while maintaining a sense of quality amongst all variants of cars.

2018, Volvo Cars India got the XC40 to compete with the likes of BMW X1, Audi Q3, Mini Countryman and the Mercedes-Benz GLA. Back then, it came with only a diesel engine. Then in 2020, with the BS6 norms kicking in, Volvo Cars India decided to discontinue the diesel engine in the 190 tune and get the XC40 with petrol only engine option and with only one variant- the R Design. Launched in January this year, we were present at the launch and we had already covered the SUV in our first drive report.

However, this time around, I had the SUV for a little longer with me to explore the SUV further so that I can tell you, should you pick this over the BMW’s X1, which also underwent an update, the Audi Q3, or the Mercedes Benz GLA, both of which are due for an update or the flamboyant Mini Countryman.

Should we then look at this XC40 in details.

Design Language - Exteriors

Let us start with how this SUV looks upfront in flesh from the outside, shall we. If first impressions matter to you, then you won’t be disappointed. The XC40 impresses with its first look. It still looks the same the way it looked in 2018 and Volvo has not tinkered with its design a bit. That in my opinion is a good thing. Available in the R-Design Trim, the XC40 is lot more aggressive then its elder SUV’s, the XC60 and the XC90. For instance, the front bumper has aggressive cuts, the grille is blacked out and Volvo’s famous, Thor Hammer Design has become sharper and sleeker, and the roof-line and the wing mirrors are blackened too. The Volvo logo sits proudly in the center of the grille, letting you always know, that hey, while you are looking at a stunning SUV, it doesn’t undermine its core values of being- Safe. The XC40 is the only SUV in the segment to get auto high beam assist LED headlights, which are phenomenal to say the least.

Moving to the sides, there is an ingress on the bottom of the doors to give the XC40 an aggressive stance. The 5 spoke 18-inch alloy wheels finished in dual tone colors enhances the visual appeal. The black body cladding fiber that runs on the bottom of the SUV and on the wheel-arches brings much needed ruggedness to the XC40. The rear quarter C-Pillar has a unique design with the window line arching upwards, which can tend to give a feeling of claustrophobic of people sitting behind.

On the rear, it’s a tell-tale affair. The LED taillights dawn the Volvo look. The overall back is minimalistic with no unnecessary cuts and creases. Cuts and Creases wherever present, mean business. While the front dawns the Volvo logo, the rear gets the spaced-out V-O-L-V-O lettering, something that others are copying now. The XC40 not only comes with powered tailgate, but also comes with gesture operated tailgate and the boot space is generous at 460 liters. Generous, for the size of this car.

Overall, the Volvo XC40, stands out from the crowd really well, it allows you to distinguish yourself from the pack and makes you feel different when say you arrive at an evening dinner hosted by your friends or say a morning boardroom meeting or just even for the gym that you go in the morning. May look compact on the outside, but is it equally compact on the inside? Let’s step in and find out.

Design Language- Interiors

Move to the inside and you notice that things haven’t changed either. It’s the same minimalistic design that attracted me earlier, attracts now too. If you remember, the XC40 earlier came with orange accents to the door pads and around grab handles, which have been removed and now what you get is an all-black interior- easier to the eyes I must say.

The front is typical Volvo, a vertically stacked 9-inch touch screen, which practically controls everything in the car, with few minimalistic buttons below it to control your audio duties, hazard light indicator, and drive modes. The screen is slightly tilted towards the driver to give him better control. While I am not personally a fan of Screen’s without physical sources of interaction with the screens, but the moment you look at the screen in the XC40, you fall will fall in love with it. To begin with, the screen feels premium, the touch sensitivity is phenomenal, and response time of the screen, is far superior than even your most expensive iPhone 11 Pro.

The center console now houses a wireless charger as an additional feature but misses on wireless Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. The best integration of wireless Apple CarPlay by default has been in the BMW’s. The gear knob is all leather and a much sleeker unit as compared to the earlier Volvo’s. Where I found the gear shifter to be stiffer in the XC60 and the V90 that I had reviewed earlier, in this XC40, the gear-knob was a delight to use, one flick and the gear level responded to your action.

The steering wheel is light and fits in hand well, the buttons on the left are for activating the adaptive cruise control and pilot assist and the buttons on the right are for audio and menu controls. Yes, you read it right, this XC40 comes with level II Autonomous Driving, what it means is the car will maintain the distance with from a follow on car and will brake or accelerate automatically basis the speed that you have set and Pilot Assist steers the car in its lane, provided the lane markings are clear. While I extensively used the Adaptive Cruise Control, I stayed away from using the Pilot Assist, as couple of times the car veered out of its lane due to poor road marking conditions on our roads. What I would have loved, is the powered steering wheel adjustment for reach and rake, instead of manual lever, that would have completed its expansive list of features.

Speaking about the features, the list of features in the XC40 is better than the cars in 2 segments or above. What you get, at this price is a dual zone climate control ac, openable panoramic sunroof, active cornering lights, auto high beam assist LED headlights, auto wipers, air purifier, powered and memory front seats, (memory only for the driver), thigh support extenders, and a phenomenal 600 watts Harman Kardon audio setup with an active air woofer, more on it later.

Orthopedic Surgeon designed front seats, or the rear seats are good place to be, but I found the rear seats to be a bit too upright from my liking. Front seats have decent amount of cushioning to let you be comfortable on the long drives and come with powered bolster arrangement too. Thigh extenders add to added sense of comfort on long drives. Moving to the rear, well, the Volvo XC40 is a compact SUV, while 2 can seat comfortably at the back, squeezing in the third passenger is going to be a pain. Shoulder room is decent however for 2 abreast passengers behind, the legroom is decent and so is the headroom. The only problem I had was the window line which arches upwards, leading to claustrophobic feeling at the behind. What also does not aid here is the all black interiors, which give a feeling of the SUV being smaller than actually it is.

Overall, the XC40 has a cabin which is reeks quality all around and is a good place to be.

In Car Entertainment

The Volvo XC40 comes equipped with 14 speakers 600 watts, Harman Kardon setup, with active air woofer technology. This setup is by far the best setup available in the segment and if you are audiophile, there is nothing better than this. Air Woofer is nothing but an active air ventilated sub-woofer which delivers powerful bass without distorting the lower notes. There are 3 pre-set acoustics modes, apart from the options of tinkering with the equalizers to arrive at the perfect sounding audio, basis your liking. What also is unique about the XC40 is the placement of the speakers, engineers at Volvo and Harman Kardon have taken special efforts to place the speakers which improve the acoustics in the car to further accentuate the sound. While, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are present, I would have loved if Volvo could integrate wireless options for both. Honestly, wired CarPlay or Android Auto don’t make much sense especially if the car comes with wireless charging as an option. But barring that, nothing to complain as such from this phenomenal system. 

Safety

Well, if it’s a Volvo, you must speak about the safety features. IntelliSafe is the hardware controller, that packs all the sensors that control the safety kit that the XC40 offers, and the software integration is taken by the touch screen. The list of safety features in this car, can put the best of the cars even in two segments above to shame, forget the cars in its category. There are host of safety features like, lane keep assist with steering assist, blind spot assist, city safe, road sign recognition, roll over mitigation, run off road protection, and full led auto high beam headlights, amongst other run of the mill safety features like 7 airbags and ABS with EBD, and ventilated discs. All these hosts of features work in tandem to ensure that you and your family are safe at all given times. 

Performance- Engine & Gearbox

Fire the engine and first thing that you expect from any petrol motor is for it to be refined. Well, in the case of the Volvo XC40, that is not the case. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that the engine is not refined, it is refined enough, but occasionally engine noise does filters in through the cabin insulation. Volvo offers this XC40 with a 2.0 litre petrol engine producing 190 bhp and 300 nm of torque, which is enough to keep the SUV moving forward and match the pace of others in the segment. While the power on tap is good, it particularly is not an exciting engine which will entice you to push the car every-time. It’s a smooth criminal, if you get what I mean. The engine is mated to an 8-speed gearbox which does the job of keeping the engine on boil, pretty well. The gearshifts are smooth, there are no sudden jerks.

While the Volvo XC40 looks sporty, it is not the sportiest luxury SUV to drive, it loves to gently potter around and yet is able to attend the triple digit speed quickly.

Performance- Ride, Handling & Drivability

The ride quality is where the Volvo XC40 shines. Where the BMW X1 is overtly stiff and the Audi Q3 overtly soft, the Volvo XC40 comes across a complaint handler. Yes, the suspensions are setup on a stiffer side, but you won’t have a bone jarring experience behind the wheel.

I felt that the steering wheel was overtly light, and Volvo could have worked a bit to make the steering a bit sharper. Let me give a perspective, before the LandRover Evoque, I reviewed the Jaguar XE. Having used the car for a week, when I shifted to my Skoda Octavia, my Octavia’s steering felt lifeless. Then for a week now, I was driving this, the XC40, again when I shifted to my Octavia, well this time, I felt my Octavia’s steering to be well weighted. While it may not be in the league of say the BMW’s in terms of handling, but one thing nice about the steering wheel is its fluidity, it fits in the hands well, feels nice to hold and overall feels great. XC40 does not love to be attacked in corners. It doesn’t get jittery, but it does not love to be pushed in the corners. Lane change manners while are brisk but a certain amount of body roll does creep in, if its sudden. Like any other SUV in the segment, the XC40 also comes with various driving modes, right from ECO to Individual, which alter the steering, acceleration and engine response basis the mode chosen. If you are out for some spirited driving on the highways, then it is obvious that the Sport Mode is what you should be driving in, however in the city driving conditions, the Comfort Mode or the Eco Mode, does go about doing the job well. 

Drivability in city or highway is good. It does not bog you down with want to push the car every other time. The XC40 is happy to potter around the city traffic with ease. With one word of caution, you will have to switch off city guard feature, coz every other time, in chaotic traffic, the car applies emergency brake by taking over controls from you, which can be disastrous if the driver in car behind hasn’t made a note of it. I was lucky enough twice not to be rear ended. Keep the speeds in check, don’t rush through and the car will be a rewarding experience to drive, whether in city or out on highways.

The Verdict

At INR 39.90 lacs ex-showroom, the Volvo XC40 is not the cheapest in its segment. But then who said great things come cheap? Look at it this way, last time when I reviewed the LandRover Evoque, I said, if Price for the Size matters to you than the Evoque is not for you. Here I would say the same thing, albeit differently. Yes, the Volvo XC40 does come at a price, but for that price you get a whole lot more of a car. You get whole lot more of features, be it comfort features, safety features, convenience features or luxury features. How can I forget the phenomenal audio set up that it comes packed with like any other Volvo car.

So if you are in the market to buy a compact luxury SUV, and drivability is not your only talking point if you had to buy the SUV, then the Volvo XC40 is the right SUV for you, and here are top 5 reasons for you to pick. One, it stands out in the parking lot, mall podiums, office podiums, like nobody else does. Two, it has the most practical yet modern interiors with features list, lengthier than your spouse’s shopping list, Three, it’s a Volvo, it got to be safe, and it is not only safe, but the safest SUV around, Four, if you are an audiophile, sit once in the cabin of the Volvo XC40 and you will not want to get out of the car. And Five, the world is moving towards petrol, and this SUV comes with a potent petrol engine, which may not be rev happy, but goes about doing the job, well, pretty well.

Do let me know, what do you think about this Volvo XC40, and should you wish to book a test drive of the same, all you have to do, is to fill in the test drive form below and our team member will call you to confirm the slots.

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About Author
Nilesh Sawant
Nilesh Sawant

With an experience of over 3 lac kms of driving across the continents and with extensive experience of driving on the tracks, and passion for technical things around anything on wheels, reviews written by Nilesh are crisp and to the point.  



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