Volvo's XC40 is the brand's first attempt at a rival to the BMW X1, Audi Q3, and Mercedes-Benz GLA. But that's not the only first – it also introduces 'Care by Volvo', a new means of subscription ownership that covers everything from insurance to maintenance and almost everything in between. For a few hundred dollars a month, all costs but fuelling the XC40 are covered – and after a year or two, you upgrade to a new one, with no trade-in costs or hassle of selling a used car. Featuring trickle down technology from the larger XC90 and XC60 SUVs, this compact is the crossover for the millennial generation.
Though it may be small, the XC40 has been cleverly packaged to maximize space. Starting from the trunk, where a floor pan folds to create shopping bag divides with a false floor, two tier storage, and enough space for the privacy cover to be stowed away. The maximum cargo capacity of 47.2 cubic feet isn't too shabby either, though that shrinks with the rear seats in place. The rear bench offers plenty of space for passengers, in both head and legroom departments, though the bench lacks sufficient thigh support for lengthy journeys.
But up front is where you'll find micro-innovation at its finest. Small details like the trash can mounted in the center console, or the full width door card pockets that Volvo claim can swallow a 15-inch laptop are the types of innovation that show the XC40's aim at millennials, as well as Volvo's attention to detail where it counts.
Riding on a new compact platform, the XC40 learns lessons from its larger siblings in refinement and comfort. On standard suspension the ride has just a slight amount of wallowiness to it, though for the most part body control is still pretty decent. The compact dimensions and short wheelbase make the XC40 nimble, and though the steering lacks feel, the XC40 feels agile and eager to move about when commanded to.
The R-Design trim features stiffer suspension that reduces the amount of roll present and tightens up body movements. Through corners, the R-Design even inspires you to push a little harder and lean on the natural body movement and high levels of grip. Of course when things get too quick though, the easy to modulate brake pedal does a fair job of bringing the XC40 to a halt.
At launch, there's just a single engine derivative available – the T5 AWD. The 2.0-liter turbocharged inline 4 under the hood produces 248 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, distributed to all corners by an 8-speed automatic gearbox. The gearbox is a little slow – not as intuitive as the unit in the BMW X1 – and the engine has a whiff of lag, but overall it's a decent drivetrain. In the summer of 2018, a front wheel drive T4 is expected to arrive with lower outputs of 180hp thanks to a smaller turbo and revised programming.
The XC40 benefits from all the safety tech that's made bigger Volvos great in recent times, including large animal detection, blind spot monitoring, lane keep assist, and semi-autonomous Pilot Assist functionality. Momentum and R-Design are the only trim lines available for the XC40 at launch.
The Momentum trim includes leather upholstery, a portrait mounted infotainment screen, power driver's seat, and an optional panoramic sunroof. The R-Design swaps the standard seats out for leather and faux suede sport items, 20-inch alloys, sporty molded bumpers, and R-Design interior design elements, in addition to the firmer suspension setup for improved handling.
Think of the Volvo XC40 as an XC90 in miniature, and that's exactly what it is. It's a daunting thought for BMW, Audi, and Mercedes, as the Volvo is jam packed with tech and thoughtful touches that will appeal to a large audience who yearn for a practical compact.