But if you spend enough, you can eliminate that one weak point.
We'll be honest, subcompact luxury crossovers are not our favorite vehicle type. Cars in this segment tend to get pricey when well-optioned, don't offer more space than a cheaper sedan, crossover, or hatchback from a mainstream brand, and often fail to deliver luxury promises from their respective brand's larger models. But the 2022 Volvo XC40 might be one of the few sub-compact crossovers we actually enjoy. It's stylish, it's fun to drive, and it maximizes its limited space with clever interior design.
There's a lot we loved about the XC40, but as with most vehicles in this segment, there are a few drawbacks to point out, including one that's easily solvable. Here's what we enjoyed (and disliked) about Volvo's smallest crossover.
Volvo's current design language is among our favorite aspects from the Swedish luxury automaker. Being the smallest model in Volvo's lineup, the XC40 takes a more cutesy approach with its design, still offering recognizable design elements like the Thor's hammer headlights. The XC40's proportions work brilliantly with the Swedish design language, culminating in a handsome SUV that still looks sporty. We particularly love the optional 21-inch fitted to our test car, but as we'll discuss later on, they aren't quite worth the premium Volvo charges.
Our lone design complaint lies with the XC40's limited color palette. Black Stone is the only no-cost option with the other hues all adding $695 to the sticker price. The XC40 happens to look quite lovely in black, but we prefer more fun shades like Fusion Red or Denim Blue.
The XC40 is not a massive SUV, measuring just 174.2 inches long with a 106.4-inch wheelbase, but it maximizes that space. With 20.7 cubic feet of space in the trunk (57.5 cubic feet with the rear seats folded), the XC40 is among the larger vehicles in its segment, though not the largest overall. Upper trim levels like our Inscription tester get a useful trunk divider that includes grocery hooks so your bags won't roll around. Up front, the XC40 gets a removable trash bin in the armrest and a bag hook that pops out of the glovebox. These clever innovations are Volvo-exclusive features that we'd love other automakers to copy.
Volvo offers the gas-powered XC40 in two flavors: the T4 FWD and the T5 AWD. The T4 isn't exactly sprightly, managing just 187 horsepower and 221 lb-ft torque from a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. This variant takes 8.1 dreary seconds to hit 60 mph, which doesn't scream "premium automobile." That's why we highly recommend upgrading to the T5. Not only does it add all-wheel drive for just $2,000, but it also bumps the output to 248 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. That's well worth two grand! With the T5, the 0-60 time drops to a far more exhilarating 6.1 seconds.
If you crave a bit more performance (and we really mean only a bit), Volvo offers a Polestar Performance package for the XC40 T5. This upgrade is purely software-based, upping the power to 252 hp and the torque to 295 lb-ft. That power increase is minimal, but the torque bump is sizable. Along with the output bump, the Polestar pack changes the transmission, throttle, and engine tuning to deliver a more engaging driving experience.
Volvo says this package "results in a vehicle that responds quickly and predictably, which is important for those who engage in active driving, whether on the racetrack or on the road." That sounds cool, but it only drops the 0-60 time by a tenth of a second. And let's be honest, who's taking their XC40 to the track?
The Volvo XC40 T4 Momentum starts quite reasonably at $36,195, which lives in the same ballpark as other European options like the Audi Q3 and BMW X1. However, that price can easily go up if you aren't careful with the options. Stepping up to the sporty R-Design or luxurious Inscription trims bumps the starting MSRP to $41,445 and $41,995, respectively. With such a small price different, we don't have a strong preference between those two, but think that either is worth the upgrade over the base Momentum. From there, the $2,000 T5 powertrain is easily worth the upgrade, adding AWD and a significant output boost.
We'd also add some reasonably-priced options like a fun color ($695), 19-inch wheels ($800), Harman Kardon audio ($800), the Advanced Package ($1,450), and the Climate Package if you live in a cold area ($750). As described, an XC40 T5 Inscription would run you to over $47,000. That's right around where we'd be comfortable buying an XC40 before opting for something larger like a Volvo XC60. But our tester crested above the $51,000 mark thanks to pricey options like the Polestar Package ($1,345) and the 21-inch wheels ($3,315). Those wheels are so outrageously expensive, we don't know why customers wouldn't opt for the next size down at a fraction of the price.
We've been mostly positive about the XC40 to this point, but this car is missing a crucial bit of Volvo's latest technology; Android Automotive. The XC40 still uses Volvo's older Sensus Connect infotainment system, which is fine but not class-leading with regards to features. Oddly, the XC40's electric counterparts (including the Polestar 2) all offer the newer Google UI, which offers a more future-proof experience with app integration, over-the-air-updates, faster processing, and intelligent voice control. We've had a chance to sample the Google interface, and aside from lacking Apple CarPlay, we found it far more useful than the old Sensus setup.
As we mentioned earlier, the XC40 starts reasonably, but our T5 Inscription tester clocked in over $51,000 as-tested. For that price, we'd much rather get the all-electric Volvo XC40 Recharge. Starting at $51,700, the Recharge delivers a whopping 408 hp, a blistering 4.7-second 0-60 mph time, and up to 223 miles of range. If you factor in the $7,500 federal tax credit, the Recharge is technically cheaper than a fully-loaded XC40 T5, plus you won't have to stop to fill it up with expensive fuel. After recently driving the XC40-based C40 Recharge and the Polestar 2, we much prefer Volvo's electric powertrains to its gasoline engines. We aren't sure if the C40 is worth the $7,000 premium over the XC40 Recharge, but it's a handsome SUV coupe to say the least.
For the price, we think the XC40 Recharge is the far superior value if you're ready to spend over 50 grand on a compact luxury crossover. Until the Audi Q4 e-tron and Mercedes EQB arrive in the US, Volvo has the subcompact luxury EV segment to itself.