Volvo’s strategy is unlike any other manufacturer as it has been “all in” on electrification for several years. No, the company hasn’t abandoned the internal combustion engine yet, but they’ve narrowed the field to just one engine to power its entire lineup.
That engine is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder workhorse, offered in various forms: turbocharger, turbocharger and supercharger, and electrified. The latter represents plug-in models, which offer the best blend of performance and efficiency among the three choices.
Pure electric vehicles will soon follow, giving Volvo shoppers another propulsion choice. None of this, however, should overshadow Volvo’s other attributes, including handsome designs, cutting-edge safety, and advanced technologies.
As a premium brand, Volvo is making a name for itself in a segment dominated by BMW, Lexus, and Mercedes-Benz. At the same time, the automaker is within reach of mainstream buyers as “value” is yet another attribute of this Swedish marque. I found this out in my recent test drive of the Volvo XC40, the smallest and most affordable of three Volvo crossover models.
2020 Volvo XC40 Overview
The Volvo XC40 is a compact vehicle with standard front-wheel drive (T4) and available all-wheel drive (T5). Volvo offers the XC40 in Momentum, R-Design, and Inscription trims.
Unlike the XC60 and XC90, the XC40 doesn’t offer the more advanced powertrains, at least not yet. This one is turbocharged, although the all-wheel-drive model produces more power. We’ll look at the performance numbers later in this review.
Unique Model Design
The XC40 isn’t simply a derivative of the larger XC60 and XC90 models. While those two are more alike than different, the XC40 offers its own touches, beginning with its concave grille. The signature “Thor’s hammer” headlights are very much present, offering a recognizable connection to other Volvo products.
Other features of note include a beltline line that pushes up sharply ahead of the rear door handles and concave body sculpting at the base of the doors. From the rear, the boomerang headlights offer yet another connection to other Volvo models. The XC40 also offers contrasting roof colors, something we’ve seen on small mainstream crossovers such as the Nissan Kicks and Toyota C-HR.
Seating is for five, but the XC40 is most comfortable for four.
Inside, the cabin is cozy and bright. That brightness is amplified with the available Lava Orange trim, which seems like a throwback to the 1970s and is a surprising option with the normally button-down Volvo brand. Yet, it may play well with shoppers wanting additional flair.
Give Volvo credit for designing front seats that are at once comfortable and supportive. As for the rear seat, it is ideal for two, but tight for three. Lots of nice touches supply the cabin with a premium look, including texturized aluminum trim on the dashboard, large storage compartments in the doors and center console, and stylish vent surrounds.
Tech & Safety Features
Volvo is cutting-edge in all things safety, but the automaker does quite well in technology too. The 12.3-inch digital instrument panel and 9-inch touch-screen display matches what you’d find in far costlier models and are a pleasant surprise in a model with a starting price under $35,000.
Volvo includes an 8-speaker audio system, satellite radio, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity, USB inputs, and a WiFi hotspot. Again, the list of standard tech features is impressive. Customers have the option to add navigation or select a 13-speaker Harman Kardon audio package.
On the safety front, the XC40 comes with several driver-assist features, including a lane-keeping aid, oncoming lane mitigation, driver alert control, and pedestrian and cyclist detection. Optionally, shoppers can choose packages containing the following features: a blind-spot information system, park assist, rear collision warning with braking, and a surround-view camera system.
The XC40 also offers Volvo’s semi-autonomous drive system with adaptive cruise control. This system keeps the Volvo centered in its lane at all times, even when taking curves. You’re not supposed to take your hands off the wheel, but if you do the system reminds the driver to take hold.
As for safety scores, the XC40 receives top honors. Indeed, the IIHS awarded the XC40 with its Top Safety Pick+ award, its highest honor. We’re still waiting the score from the federal NHTSA, but they’re likely to come in with a top five-star rating.
Performance Chops and Towing Capability
We mentioned performance earlier by pointing out this Volvo model utilizes a turbocharger only. The interesting thing is just how much power is tapped, depending on the drivetrain choice.
For the front-wheel-drive models, dubbed T4 by Volvo, this engine makes 187 horsepower and 221 pound-feet of torque. When equipped with all-wheel drive, this same engine has an output of 248 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. Every Volvo engine works with an 8-speed automatic transmission.
Our XC40 T5 model demonstrated this vehicle’s full competency, offering ample step-off acceleration and passing power. The turbo spools quickly with little lag of note.
The oddity here, however, is the transmission shifter which requires a pair of quick pulls to move from park to drive. If you forget to do two, the transmission shifts to neutral, therefore you’re not going anywhere except perhaps to roll forward or back. This is what you get with “drive-by-wire” shifting control — a computer chip tells the transmission what to do.
The XC40’s drive mode select switch controls transmission shift points, holding the eight-speed transmission’s gears longer while adding some weight to the steering. Otherwise, in normal mode this Volvo features light steering and poised handling. The ride is comfortable, swallowing moderate bumps with ease.
One surprising benefit with the XC40 is its robust towing capabilities. Choose the tow package and this Volvo has a 3,500-pound tow rating. In comparison, the Audi Q3 tops out at 2,200 pounds, the Cadillac XT4 at 2,500 pounds, while there is zero tow capacity for the Mercedes-Benz GLA 250. Allow these numbers to sink in for a few moments.
Enduring Volvo Value
We have no problem recommending the base Momentum trim, but we’d opt for all-wheel drive and the extra power that comes with it. Choose any color that’s not Ice White or Black Stone and you’ll pay an additional $645.
In building our sample car, we’d opt for the Heated Front Seats & Heating Steering Wheel Package ($750) and the Premium Package ($1,900) which combines advanced driver-assist functions with keyless entry, a hands-free tailgate, and wireless charging for smartphone.
With all these extra features, your cost comes in just shy of $40,000, which is a tremendous value for a well-equipped premium crossover. That’s an advantage Volvo hopes you recognize as you search for an entry-level luxury model.
2020 Volvo XC40 Specifications
|Price Range||$34,345 to $40,450|
|Engine No. 1||2.0-liter, turbo I4|
|Horsepower||187 @ 4,700 rpm|
|Torque (lb.-ft.)||221 @ 4,000 rpm|
|Engine No. 2||2.0-liter, turbo I4|
|Horsepower||248 @ 5,500 rpm|
|Torque (lb.-ft.)||258 @ 4,800 rpm|
|Curb Weight (pounds)||3,574 to 3,805|
|Headroom (f,r…inches)||39.0, 39.1|
|Legroom (f,r…inches)||40.9, 36.1|
|Shoulder room (f,r…inches)||56.7, 56.3|
|Hip room (f,r…inches)||54.7, 54.6|
|Storage (cubic feet)||57.5|
|Gross vehicle weight (pounds)||NR|
|Fuel Tank (gallons)||14.2|
|EPA Fuel MPG (city/highway/combined)||23/33/27; 22/30/25|
|Manufacturing Plant||Ghent, Belgium|
Data compiled by Tom Keegan. Specifications supplied by the manufacturer.
See Also — Unpacking the 2019 Volvo XC40
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