I have to hand it to Volvo. They’ve been on an absolute tear lately with their latest models, with quality offerings that can go toe-to-toe with the best of the Germans. The Volvo XC40 not only sports a distinctive design that sets it apart from the rest of the cookie-cutter Euro SUVs, but it’s got enough going for it to give it some serious consideration when shopping around in the ever-increasing subcompact SUV segment. And this top-of-the-line XC40 T5 R-Design puts everything on the line to show us how it’s done.
The interior oozes with Swedish charm and feels truly upscale. The cabin is kept highly minimalistic and clean by incorporating a lot of the controls into the massive 12-inch vertical touchscreen at the center of the dash. The housekeeping may have gotten a bit out of hand as even the climate controls are adjusted from the touchscreen. It’s modern and sleek, but not everyone’s cup of tea. The instrument cluster is fully digital and highly legible, and a wireless charger sits at the center compartment which fits all modern mobile phones snuggly.
The seating position is higher than most of its rivals, giving you the feeling of driving a proper SUV, and not just a jacked-up hatchback. The seats up front are extremely comfortable and supportive – full electronic adjustments, of course – though the rear seats, though extremely roomy for a subcompact SUV, are a bit too upright.
The power tailgate opens to reveal a surprisingly spacious cargo area, with the option to drop the rear seats down for even more storage capacity. The Volvo XC40 won’t have any problems bringing luggage for four people.
There are other interesting details here, too, such as a removable bin in the mid console, a small fold-away hook in the glove compartment, and slots for parking cards. The XC40’s interior build quality is exceptional all throughout. Everything you touch, from the leather upholstery to the metal inlays and the switches and knobs feel fantastic, rivalling the best the segment has to offer.
Powering this T5 variant is Volvo’s turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 247 hp and 350 Nm of torque mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission. The XC40’s small package results in delightfully quick performance off the line, reaching 0-100 km/h in 6.2 seconds. Engine response is brilliant, and the transmission handles shifting without delay or hesitation.
On twisty roads, the XC40 remains impeccably composed thanks to the sport-tuned suspension found in this R-Design trim and a light and sharp steering response. While the XC40 absorbs bumps and road irregularities nicely from up front, its shorter wheelbase means that passengers in the second row won’t feel as coddled. Nevertheless, the XC40 rewards its driver with an invigorating drive whether on straight roads or twisties – something other manufacturers always aim to achieve but rarely do.
The T5 R-Design variant comes with all-wheel drive as standard, and while this doesn’t make it a dedicated off-roader, its 211mm ground clearance is decent enough to clear small obstacles on the road and is certainly capable of traversing unpaved or rough roads.
Fuel economy is decent, but not spectacular, as we achieved around 8.5 km/L on combined city and highway driving.
Volvo being Volvo, the XC40’s safety features are a mile long, with a full suite of Volvo’s IntelliSafe and City Safety package included.
While some might say the XC40’s position in the industry is for a niche audience, Volvo deserves recognition for even bringing it to our shores in the first place. As far as European subcompact SUVs go, the XC40 T5 R-Design is in a class of its own, and simply can’t be touched in the category right now.
Text and photos by Chris Van Hoven