2019 Volvo XC40 breaks tradition for younger buyers

James Raia

The 2019 Volvo XC40 breaks tradition for new buyers.

When competition includes models from BMW (X1), Mercedes-Benz (GLA-Class), Jaguar (E-Pace) and Audi (Q3), Volvo had to do something different. It has. Welcome the 2019 Volvo XC40.

The new compact crossover is the Swedish manufacturer’s smallest, sportiest and least expensive SUV. It’s positioned in the lineup as an alternative to the well-respected XC90 and XC60.

The 2019 Volvo XC40 breaks tradition for new buyers.
The 2019 Volvo XC40 breaks tradition for new buyers.

The base trim, called the XC Momentum, is a misnomer. It has five drive modes and a host of safety and technical features that would qualify it as an upscale model from many manufacturers.

The turbocharged two-liter engine produces 248 horsepower and is matched with an eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive. Standard equipment includes: 8-inch five-spoke silver alloy wheels, high gloss piano black grille, a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, a 9.0-inch touchscreen with Sensus Connect with SiriusXM satellite radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and three USB ports.

Going upscale to the R-Design, a $2,500 upgrade, provides: 19-inch double-spoke matte black wheels, sport-oriented grille, aluminum inlays, pedals, three-spoke steering wheel with perforated leather and Nubuck leather upholstery. Metal front tread plates, a black headliner, glossy black roof rails, dual integrated tailpipes and automatic high beam LED headlights with active bending are also included in the package.

Impressive interior design is a Volvo signature. But rather than remain with traditional Scandinavian design, appealing to younger buyers is now the priority. My review vehicle matched a “black stone” exterior and similarly colored seats with burnt orange interior paneling and carpet. The contrasting color scheme is odd at best, particularly for a manufacturer known for simplicity, minimalism and functionality.

Volvo gets it right with the XC40’s versatility. For small storages, the console has an open bin and there’s a small removable waste container. Plenty of door pockets, cupholders, a bag hook on the glove box and a partially hidden cellphone perch are small, worthwhile conveniences.

The biggest oddity is the XC40’s shifting mechanics. The shifter uses a quick-tap method, and there’s a huge learning curve. It’s best to look at the gear listing on the dash while learning that a finesse method is best. The shifter doesn’t respond to traditional practices. It’s an unusual but stress-free system once a light touch is mastered, but it’s not for everyone.

A large, attractive control system isn’t as intuitive as it looks. It’s positioned vertically on the dash like a tablet. It’s the home base for audio, climate and phone functions. But using the systems involves complicated scrolling and swiping, which increases the likelihood of distracted driving.

Volvo offers vehicles as sturdy as any manufacturer. The XC40 follows suit. It feels solid on the road and nimble for its segment. Occupants sit high, in comfort and with sufficient legroom and headroom. As a utility vehicle, there’s adequate space. There are 20.7 cubic feet of space with the rear seats up, 47.2 cubic feet with the seats down. It’s neither the best nor worst dimensions in the segment.

Volvo advertisers the XC40 with 0-60 miles per hour acceleration in 6.2 seconds. Fuel economy estimates are 23 miles per gallon in city driving, 31 miles per gallon during freeway driving.

Volvo introduced the XC40 as a value-priced SUV with a base price of $35,200. In addition to the R-Design package, the Premium, Vision and Advanced Packages all add worthwhile conveniences. But they don’t come cheap, and some fall into the technology overload category.

The R-Design is top-line and costs $45,340. It will appeal to Volvo regulars. But the peculiar shifting system will likely dissuade potential new customers to shift from their buying preferences, particularly with the added costs.

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