When the competition includes models from BMW (X1), Mercedes- Benz (GLA-Class), Jaguar (E-Pace) and Audi (Q3), Volvo knew it had to do something different. And so it did. Meet the 2019 Volvo XC40.
The new compact crossover is the Swedish manufacturer’s smallest, sportiest and least expensive SUV. It’s positioned as an alternative to the well-respected XC90 and XC60.
The base trim, called the XC Momentum, is a misnomer. It has five drive modes and a host of safety and technical features that would qualify it as an upscale model from many manufacturers.
The turbocharged, 2-liter engine produces 248 horsepower and is matched with an eight-speed automatic transmission. Standard equipment includes: 18-inch, five-spoke silver alloy wheels, high-gloss piano black grille, a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, a 9.0-inch touchscreen with Sensus Connect with SiriusXM satellite radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and three USB ports.
Going upscale to the R-Design ($2,500 upgrade), provides: 19-inch double-spoke matte black wheels, sport-oriented grille, aluminum inlays, pedals, three-spoke steering wheel with perforated leather and Nubuck leather upholstery.
Impressive interior design is a Volvo signature. But rather than remain with traditional Scandinavian design, appealing to younger buyers is now the priority. My review vehicle matched a “black stone” exterior and similarly colored seats with burnt orange interior paneling and carpet.
The contrasting color scheme is odd, particularly for a manufacturer known for simplicity, minimalism and functionality.
Volvo’s versatility is always impressive. The console has an open bin and there’s a small removable waste container. Door pockets, a bag on the glove box and partially hidden cellphone perch are small, worthwhile conveniences.
The biggest oddity is the XC40’s shifting mechanics. The shifter uses a quick-tap method, and there’s a huge learning curve. It’s best to look at the gear listing on the dash while learning the finesse method. The shifter doesn’t respond with traditional practices. It’s an unusual but stress-free system once a light touch is mastered, but it’s not for everyone.
A large, attractive control system isn’t as intuitive as it looks. It’s vertically positioned on the dash like a tablet. It’s home for audio, climate and phone functions. But using the systems involves complicated scrolling and swiping, increasing the likelihood of distracted driving.
Volvo offers vehicles as sturdy as any manufacturer. The XC40 follows suit. It feels solid on the road, nimble while maneuvering. Occupants sit high in comfort and with sufficient legroom and headroom. There’s adequate interior space, 20.7 cubic feet with the rear seats up, 47.2 cubic feet with the seats down.
It’s an adequate spec for a vehicle that otherwise gives Volvo plenty of robust competition for its rivals.
James Raia, a freelance writer based in Sacramento, California, specializes in sports and lifestyle topics. He publishes the website theweeklydriver.com.