Review: 2019 Volvo XC40 looks to set a new standard in compact luxury
After spending a week with the new 2019 XC40, we came away impressed with Volvo's attention to detail on this compact luxury crossover. The XC40 builds on the excellence of the larger XC60 and XC90 models, without downsizing their ergonomics for the compact market.
The 2019 Volvo XC40 is offered in two models, the T4 and the T5, and three trim levels. The T4 is a front-wheel drive model, the T5 all-wheel drive. Both are powered by the same, competent 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, but with different power outputs for each. The T4 has 187 horsepower (139 kW) while the T5 has 248 hp (185 kW). Both use an eight-speed automatic transmission, which we found to be responsive in a sporty way in the T5 model we drove.
Fuel economy returns in the 2019 XC40 are good for the class, with the T4 being EPA-rated at 25 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway (9.4, 6.5 l/100km). The T5 sees those numbers drop slightly with the increased power output and AWD, coming in with a rating of 23 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway (10.2, 7.6 l/100km). During our week with the XC40 T5 model, we averaged 27 mpg overall (8.7 l/100km) despite the turbocharged XC40 often begging to have the throttle goosed.
Power and performance are not exactly the expected high points of the compact crossover classes, but the XC40 does offer good amounts of each. On the road, the stable chassis and strong acceleration bring a lot of confidence to the drive quality of the XC40. This crossover isn't a muscle car, of course, but it's got plenty of credible feel as a sporty drive. Off the road, the XC40 has enough capability to handle light off-pavement duties and dirt road-going with the same confidence.
Where the XC40 really got our interest, though, was not in its sportiness, but its great looks and excellent interior. This is a well-proportioned, good-looking little compact crossover. It has a similar equilibrium of design as the larger XC60 and XC90 models, downsized to match the proportions of the compact market. This is especially clear when viewing the XC40 head-on, with its black mesh grille and its Volvo sash logo. The side view gives the same impression with the silhouette of the XC40 being very much like that of the other XC models.
Inside, the 2019 Volvo XC40 has a practical, modern, and thus luxurious combination of design elements. Its excellent materials quality is primary in the latter motif, but the practical aspects bring better than expected ergonomics to the crossover. Front seating is well-done and the driver has a lot of adjustment options with a familiar controls layout creating an intuitive feel for the XC40's cockpit.
Entry and exit from the XC40 is good, especially in the front where wide-opening doors and a low sill make for easy entry and egress. The rear doors are also large, but a little more restricted, making getting into the back seat not quite as ergonomic. The back seat is adult-sized, though, and accommodates well at the outboard positions. The center spot is mostly for short trips or kids, as is true in any compact.
To get that back seat roominess, Volvo had to sacrifice some cargo space in the XC40. It's still good for the compact class, though, at 20.7 cubic feet (586 liters) with the rear seats up. Folding those down (flat, we note, in a 60/40 standard split) expands cargo space to 47.2 cubes (1,337 liters). A power liftgate is standard on the XC40, as is a ski pass-through at the center of the rear bench.
Ergonomics are a big thing in Volvo models, with the company seeing a friendly interior as being important to safety. This includes lots of small things like a purse/bag hangar on the glove box door, gadget storage in the console, large door pockets, tie-downs in the cargo area, and USB ports throughout the cabin. All these add up to really make the XC40 memorable as a comfortable daily-use drive beyond the usual luxury and drive quality metrics.
In all, our chief complaints against the Volvo XC40 are in its technology offering and price point. The XC40 is more expensive than just about every other compact luxury crossover on the market, especially when comparing base prices across the field. The Volvo does include a few more things in its base packaging, but others are now offering most of the safety equipment that is standard in the XC40 (forward emergency braking and the like). The Volvo doesn't include other things that the competition might, however, such as adaptive cruise control and blind spot monitoring.
As for technology, the 2019 Volvo XC40 uses a 9-inch infotainment touchscreen with a somewhat clunky menu system that requires some time to master. Luckily, the excellent voice controls in the XC40 can bypass much of that menu, and the included Android Auto and Apple CarPlay can also go a long way towards avoiding those menus. As in most vehicles, holding the voice control button for about a second will skip the in-vehicle voice controls and jump to CarPlay/Auto controls instead. There are two USB ports and three 12-volt plugs in the XC40 by default, with two more USB ports added to the rear passenger area with upgrades.
Overall, the 2019 Volvo XC40 sets a lot of standards for the compact luxury crossover market. We like its attention to detail, great looks, and solid drive quality. Ergonomics in the cabin push the XC40 over the top, showing what attention to detail can do for a vehicle. The XC40 has a starting price of US$33,700. Our test model rang in at $45,835 delivered.
Product Page: 2019 Volvo XC40