2020 Volvo XC40 T5 review: no more SUV malaise

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The amalgamation of sport utility vehicles has continued in 2020. About half of the new vehicles sold this year in the United States will be full-on SUVs or crossovers. Many brands are interchangeable, but Volvo has emerged from the cluster of sameness.

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The Volvo XC40 was introduced last year and for 2020 has a few updates, including varying upholstery and other equipment tweaks and a more efficient interior with new storage areas. But this year’s edition is largely the same vehicle the debuted last year and gained plenty of attention for automotive watchdogs and prominent review sites.

2020 Volvo XC40 stands out in crowded SUV field
The 2020 Volvo XC40 stands out in crowded SUV field

A two-row, five-passenger crossover, the XC40 features a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with either a T4 or T5 designation. The T5 offers 248 horsepower and is standard with all-wheel drive; the T4 has the same engine, but it’s detuned to 187 horsepower and has front-wheel drive. Both vehicles are equipped with eight-speed automatic transmissions.

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To improve fuel and engine efficiency, Volvo has joined other manufacturers’ new ways. The XC40 uses an automatic start/stop feature that cuts engine power during idle circumstances, such as stoplights or prolonged traffic standstills. Despite its efficiency, some new owners won’t like the idea, which is fine. It can be undone via an icon on the touchscreen menu.

Volvo is owned by China-based Geely, but its engines are still made in Sweden with other components manufactured in Belgium and Japan. The vehicles are assembled in Ghent, Belgium.

Plenty of the original character of Volvo’s origins in Guttenberg, Sweden remains, notably the Volvo sturdiness, driving dynamics and top-level safety. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) awarded the XC40 a Top Safety Pick+ rating. Not every SUV gets the same marks.

Competition is intense compact crossover SUVs, with Audi, Lexus, Lincoln in the same price range and BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche top vehicles in class bur more expensive.

Driving the XC40 is also singularly Volvo. Unlike long-ago relatives with heavy box-on-wheels reputations, recent-year Volvo models pleasingly combine overall power, durability, acceleration, maneuverability and handsome looks.

The XC40 has a shorter wheelbase and shorter overall length than many of its competitors, but it drives bigger than it looks. It’s quiet, comfortable and drives confidently while handling any imperfect road conditions presented. The standard 0-60 miles per hour acceleration test is achieved in 6.2 seconds. Gas mileage averages are 22 miles per gallon in city driving, 30 mpg on freeways.

Volvo’s high-seating characteristic further boosts the vehicle’s overall confident persona, resulting in an attractive concept, a car that’s simultaneously practical and fun to drive. How do spunk and elegance work together?

Repeat SUV buyers may opt for well-honed mainstream brands, and there’s something to the notion of buying what you know. The XC40 is in its infancy, but repeat Volvo owners welcome the newbie with sales of about 30,000 in its first model year.

The Scandinavian interior remains a Volvo strength. The Orrefors Crystal shift knob is elegant but may cause initial problems. While technically a shifter, the Volvo changes gears without shifting, but with finesseful flicks. It’s modern and cool, like a lot of Scandinavian design.

The remainder of the interior is equally stylish and creative. Fold up the rear cargo floor and a secure cargo box is offered. The dash and console evoke furniture hipness with smith curves and contours. A nine-inch center audio touchscreen and a 12.3-inch digital display are well-situated but functions could more intuitive.

Besides its sturdy structure and good looks, Volvo vehicles are comfortable, with excellent leg and back support. The driver’s side and rear vision are superior.

The base price is $35,700. The Inscription Package ($8,7550) is a lengthy list of technology, safety and power features, all worthy. The Advanced Package ($1,400) and several stand-alone upgrades, taxes and delivery push the price to $47,395.00. Consider it money well spent.

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