Stuart Martin’s 2018 Volvo XC40 Review with pricing, specs, performance, ride and handling, safety, verdict and score.

IN A NUTSHELL: Volvo throws its hat into the high-end of the Compact SUV market with its trademark style, from svelte exterior to suave interior, with more than a bit of safety on offer as well.

2018 Volvo XC40

PRICE Momentum T5 $47,990, D4 $50,990; R-Design T5 $54,990, D4 $57,990 WARRANTY 3 years/unlimited km ENGINE 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol or 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel POWER petrol 182kW at 5500rpm; diesel 140kW at 4000rpm TORQUE petrol 350Nm at 1800-4800rpm; diesel 400Nm at 1750-2500rpm TRANSMISSION 8-speed auto DRIVE all-wheel drive BODY 4425mm (l); 1863mm (excl. mirrors); 2034mm (incl. mirrors); 1652mm (h) TURNING CIRCLE 11.4m (11.8m wall to wall) WADING DEPTH 450mm GROUND CLEARANCE 211mm TOWING WEIGHT 2100kg (braked), 750kg (unbraked) KERB WEIGHT petrol 1684kg; diesel 1733kg SEATS FUEL TANK 54 litres (+14.5 l AdBlue) SPARE space saver THIRST Petrol 7.1 l/100km; diesel 5.0 l/100km combined cycle FUEL 95-98RON PULP; diesel

VOLVO HAS DOWNSIZED its SUV range but has taken a different twist to its smallest offering, the new XC40. It describes the XC60 and the XC90 as siblings, the all-wheel drive XC40 as a cousin of the larger pair and built on a different platform.

Using the Swedish brand’s new Compact Modular Architecture platform as a foundation, the range – for now – kicks off with the Momentum T5, priced from $47,990, with the D4 model asking for $50,990. The up-spec R-Design – expected to make up a majority of the sales, starts from $54,990 for the T5 and the D4 is asking for $57,990.

2018 Volvo XC40 Review

It wades into battle in a small and medium segment littered with competition, from Jaguar’s new E-Pace to the current crop from the Germans and the Japanese – BMW’s X1, the Mercedes-Benz GLA, Audi’s Q3, Volkswagen’s Tiguan, the Infiniti QX30 and the Lexus NX line-up.

Read our international launch review of the Volvo XC40.

The range will eventually expand to include a three-cylinder engine variant – which also is expected to bring a front-drive model – with a hybrid offering also likely to join the line-up. The former is likely toward the end of next year and the latter is not expected before the end of the decade.

For now, the XC40 comes with two powertrain options familiar to those au fait with the XC60 and 90 models already on sale – the petrol-powered alloy direct-injection turbo four-cylinder T5 delivers 185 kW and 350 Nm of torque or the common-rail direct-injection twin-turbo diesel (also of alloy construction) D4 offers 140kW and 400Nm of torque, with a BorgWarner Gen. 5 all-wheel drive system (albeit front-biased) and an eight-speed automatic attached to both engines.

2018 Volvo XC40 Review

The variable-valve petrol engine operates a single turbocharger and was the only engine available to sample at the launch, a power plant that delivered a flexible and useful first impression.

Volvo kicked off the XC40’s Australian debut with a Launch Edition allocation, of which 203 vehicles were made available for order. All were spoken for less than a week after being released, an indication of the demand anticipated by Volvo for this vehicle, with the Swedish brand’s staffers expecting to have demand outstripping the supply available to them given strong global demand.

The use of a different platform for the XC40 is reflected in its styling, with a different profile and flanks to the larger XC models, while retaining a strong family resemblance through the nose and tail.

What’s The Interior Like?

The cabin space of XC range thus far has been more than useful, not to mention the minimalist style working to good and comfortable effect – the XC40 has continued that trend.

Noticeably smaller in size than its Swedish cousins, the XC40 covers a similar footprint to the slightly shorter BMW X1 – it’s 4425mm long, width is 1863mm (2034mm with the mirrors included), 1652mm tall and on a 2702mm wheelbase, the new platform allows the cabin to accommodate a 190cm driver comfortably for leg and head room, with a similarly-sized occupant behind them – not common attributes in the segment.

2018 Volvo XC40 Review

There’s plenty of familiar features carrying over from the larger XC models – the filtered climate control vertical tablet with screen-swipe access to the myriad functions, including digital radio reception and the climate control system, dominates the dashboard (but some things are buried a little too deep), with the instrument panel displaying virtual dials and the satnav mapping.

Carpet material made from recycled plastic bottles speaks to the clean green theme of the brand, as does the climate control that filters out pollutants.

Clever storage abounds, with the XC40 team moving speakers from doors to allow larger pockets, as well as a flip-out hook from the glovebox to keep the food upright. A removable bin sits securely in the centre console with a sprung lid, all of which can be removed for emptying and cleaning.

Front occupants get two USB inputs and a 12-volt outlet, while rear passengers get one mini-USB jack. Both front and rear seat cushioning is on the firm side but remains comfortable for a reasonable timeframe on the move, with the front seats offering decent levels of support; the driver is able to get into a good position behind the reach and rake adjustable leather-clad wheel.

2018 Volvo XC40 Review

Vision for the driver is good front and rear, with back headrests folding forward to give a little better vision to the rear when the seats aren’t in use, something that is aided in the top-spec models by 360-degree cameras.

Claiming 460 litres of cargo space (up to a maximum of 1336 litres), the boot is accessed on a powered tailgate function that is appreciably quicker than the norm and is unaccompanied by the annoying beeps that seem to be de rigeur for many brands.

2018 Volvo XC40 Review

The load area is cleverly set up, with a folding false floor that can keep items out of sight or be folded up to securely hold shopping bags in place and the space saver spare beneath the second floor.

What’s It Like On The Road?

The latest SUV offering from the Chinese-owned Swedish brand continues its efforts at providing a chassis well-balanced between control and ride quality.

Where the new-generation ’60 and the ’90 before it made progress in delivering steering and suspension that would work in many different markets, the XC40 has taken another step in the right direction.

The metropolitan commute on the launch drive delivered few surprises – road and tyre noise wasn’t an issue (on high-grade bitumen, more on that later) and the ride from the MacPherson strut front and four-link coil-sprung rear on the suburban roads was in the firm realm but with enough compliance to avoid any groans post-bumps.

2018 Volvo XC40 Review

The XC40 played its home ground without concerns and the small turbo petrol engine delivers more than enough to get the hefty (at 1.7 tonnes) little SUV punching through the traffic with little hesitation – 100km/h is completed in a claimed 6.4 seconds, but it feels a little more enthusiastic than that.

The power steering system is something of an over-achiever, which is fine in tight carparks and doing the daily duties, but changing the Drive Mode to Dynamic and there’s little real change to the tiller. There’s a level of accuracy to the steering – it runs 2.7 turns lock to lock – but the system doesn’t relay it to the driver as much as would be ideal on a swift and winding country road run.

2018 Volvo XC40 Review

The coarse-chip bitumen favoured for rural roads does elicit more road noise from the 45-profile Pirelli P-Zero tyres, but the overall behaviour of the suspension on a winding back roads is surprisingly good. 

The absence of Volvo’s adaptive damping system (offered elsewhere in the world but not taken for Australia) is less of an issue than the over-assisted steering, as the chassis delivers good body control and it settles into bends without the nose ploughing wide.

The only power plant on offer during the launch was the T5 petrol turbo, and it delivers a broad offering of torque – more than enough for brisk daily motoring.

2018 Volvo XC40 Review

More spirited throttle use is more than feasible too, but its raspy top-end is not to all tastes and the manual paddle shifters will be a better option than relying on the eight-speed auto if press-ahead pace is required.

The auto’s shifter also takes some familiarity, requiring two pulls or pushes of the lever to complete a trip through Neutral to go from Reverse to Drive and vice-versa.

What About Safety Features?

While the XC40 is yet to be pulverised against a wall or a pole by anyone outside Volvo, including the folks at NCAP, the brand has history on its side when it comes to putting together a top-notch package for protecting its occupants.

It’s not been shy about releasing vision and imagery of its own crash-test work either and the brand is unlikely to break its unbroken 5-star NCAP rating streak with its small SUV.

The cabin is wrapped in an ultra-high-strength steel safety cage and offers dual front, driver’s knee, front-side and curtain airbags, as well as myriad systems designed to avoid an impact in the first place.

The XC40 safety features include the semi-autonomous active-steering Pilot Assist system, as well as the auto-braking City Safety system that detects pedestrians, vehicles (including oncoming traffic with braking and steering support for the driver), large animals and cyclists.

Active lane departure and blind spot warning systems, rear cross traffic alert with auto brake, active cruise control, rain-sensing wipers, automatic LED headlights (with active feature on the up-spec models), parking assistance, hill start and descent control and the 360-degree cameras are also on the features list. 

So, What Do We Think?

One of the latest additions to the compact prestige SUV ranks, Volvo’s representative in the class is roomy, clever and fit-for-purpose. The Swedes are justified in being confident of demand exceeding supply and once the price point is lowered with the addition of the three-cylinder engine, that supply problem is likely to worsen.

2018 Volvo XC40 Review


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About Author

Stuart Martin

Stuart Martin started his legal driving life behind the wheel of a 1976 Jeep ragtop, which he still owns to this day, but his passion for wheeled things was inspired much earlier. Regular work and play has subsequently involved towing, off-roading, the school run and everything in between, with Martin now working freelance as a motoring journalist, contributing to several websites and publications including Practical Motoring.

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