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2018 Volvo XC40 Review : First Drive

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The global SUV fiesta continues as the Swedes have now decided to enter the compact SUV arena. Entering this highly competitive segment is the all new XC40 that will bring the fight to the Audi Q3,BMW X1, Mercedes GLA, Range Rover Evoque and Jaguar E Pace, which will also make its way to India sometime this year.

The new Volvo XC40 is certainly a unique looking car. When I first laid eyes on it, I was pleasantly surprised. Nevertheless, it appears to be bit small – it’s a compact after all. Unlike other models such as the X1 and Q3, which are not so distinct from their bigger brothers, the XC40 is distinctly different from the XC60 and XC90 – it seems more like a distant cousin than an immediate brother. Its design include new lines and shapes not present in the XC60 or the XC90. It’s an angular and relatively small sides, but it’s stretched, octagonal-shaped lower body makes it look longer than it really is. The rear section of the car is wider than the front by two inches. In some variants, it comes with two-tone paint schemes. The front grille, headlights and rear bumper along with taillights are where the car is similar to the other models.

When you step inside the cabin, similarities with the XC60 and the XC90 become apparent. However, the interior of the XC40 has a more colourful aspect to it, but that’s because the variants we drove were customised that way. The car has a number of different visual options to choose from – our test car had orange carpeting both on the floor and the lower parts of doors. Once you look past the funky and colourful design, you’ll find the cabin to be very spacious and practical. It uses some pretty clever ideas to keep your possessions or baggage organised. The dashboard setup is also similar to the bigger XCs – just don’t expect the same quality. The cabin is ergonomically designed and houses the Volvo’s Sensus infotainment system complete with a nine-inch portrait touchscreen display. The R-line variants of the D4 and the T5 – ones I drove – come with leather upholstery, LED front fog lights, gloss black exterior trim, a sporty body kit, sports suspension and electric folding door mirrors, while the range-topping Inscription model has driftwood touches in its interior, chrome highlights, ambient interior lighting, a powered tailgate, thick pile floor mats and front parking sensors.

Because the XC40 uses the brand-new platform called ‘compact modular architecture’, it doesn’t share most of its parts with other Volvo models. With this new platform also comes a more space-efficient and cheaper rear suspension setup. All costs will eventually be pushed down by sharing this platform with premium Chinese brand Lynk & Co., which like Volvo is also owned by Geely. Although it’s a joint venture, the platform was engineered in Sweden, and so it uses Volvo’s now-familiar, four-cylinder diesel and petrol engines.

As I mentioned earlier, we only drove the R-Line variants of the D4 and T5, both in AWD formats. The 2.0-litre, four-cylinder D4 produces 190bhp, while the 2.0-litre, four-cylinder T5 about 247bhp, and both come with the 8-speed automatic gearbox. These numbers do seem a bit competitive because the car’s weight has been kept low at about 1,700kg.

The XC40 has been designed primarily for urban use, although it does have four different driving modes, including an off-rode mode, which I don’t think anyone would ever use, but the fact that it’s available is admirable. Even though I only spent a brief time with the car, it did feel like a soft-riding car with an ability to make gentle progress. Overall, it very much felt like a Volvo. Even though we had the R-Line, which has sports suspension, the XC40 is certainly not a firmly sprung, rubber-burning tarmac terroriser. The driving dynamics are kind, and the car is very comfortable. The petrol engine certainly has a lot more life to it than the diesel engine. The ride quality, however, is great in both variants. The petrol engine revs nicely and sounds pleasant. The initial acceleration is pretty quick, and there is plenty of power available throughout the rev range. The diesel variant does seem to be a little slower in picking up pace, but it’s a handy mid-rev kick that is not overburdened with any sort of lag. The T5 can sprint to 100km/h in 6.5 seconds, while the D4 takes about 8 seconds. The gearbox does take its time and can be a little indecisive at moments, and that’s why I used the paddle shifters throughout my drive.

The XC40 certainly is a great looking and a smooth riding car. It looks chunky and well sculpted on the road and has better thought out and more comfortable interior than most of its competitions. It’s also equipped with some pretty ingenious features and safety tech. On the other hand, it’s not as exciting or driver focused as, say, the Q3 or the GLA, and that’s fine because the majority of customers in the premium compact luxury segment are not likely to look for a fun-to-drive car. Instead, they might want something that’s a looker, spacious, practical, unique and loaded with technology. In this respect, the XC40 is definitely a stylish entry in the compact luxury SUV space.