The petite 2019 Volvo XC40 has some growing up to do

Don’t get it twisted, Volvo’s premium compact SUV, the 2019 XC40 is not a shrunken version of its larger siblings the XC60 and XC90.  Keeping in step with the Swedish automaker’s typical flair for styling, the XC40’s exterior design falls on the funky side with a muscular stance and soft geometric appearance that is eye-catching.  The petite vehicle’s exterior certainly offers visual stimulation, but what lies beneath?

Nice innards

As you span the Volvo’s interior cabin, you’ll notice a more youthful and minimalistic aesthetic; it is nicely appointed. In typical Volvo fashion, seating all around the XC40 is supportive and well-bolstered. Seating in the front, in particular, affords an expansive view over the hood. Headroom and legroom are ample in the front for tall passengers, but in the rear, only folks south of six feet would find the space comfy. 

The materials used in the XC40 are impressive, and everything appears neatly integrated.  You’ll love the optional panoramic sunroof.  Youthful touches like streamlined oblong air vents add a bit of whimsy to the dash.  There are some do-dad stashers like the large door panel pockets, a little trash bin, and an accommodating center armrest and glovebox.  Even though the XC40’s cargo area falls a smidge on the small side at 20.7 cubes, it is large enough for an occasional big box run especially with the rear seats down (47.2 cubes). If you opt for a convenience package, you’ll get a hands-free liftgate.

Just a few tech niggles

Volvo’s Sensus Connect infotainment system projects clear graphics on a 9-inch touchscreen. Now in getting technologically acquainted with the vehicle’s touchscreen system, well, even overachievers would find fault, as there are very few things from the maze of menus that are intuitive. The technologically challenged set would have quite a time trying to figure out even the simplest of commands like changing radio stations or pairing a smartphone.  The voice command failed at its task even with the assistance of the guidance prompts.  Unfortunately, practically everything inside the cabin is controlled via the kind of laggy touchscreen system.

Stepping on the gas

The XC40 is available in three trim levels—entry-level Momentum, sporty R-Design, and top-line Inscription—and offers a choice of two turbocharged, 2.0-liter 4-cylinder powertrains: T4 models have 187 horsepower, 221 lb-ft of torque and front-wheel drive, and T5 models offer a healthy 248 horsepower (the test vehicle) 258 lb-ft of torque and all-wheel drive. An 8-speed automatic transmission is standard on all.

Driving the XC40 is comfortable and poised; there is no real head toss over razor-edged potholes.  Braking in the compact provides authoritative stopping power. Steering, however, is on the light side and lacks feedback. As far as driving dynamics, it falls short of scintillating when a twisty road is tackled, but it provides enough satisfaction for the average driver. Since the XC40 is petite, it tucks nicely in urban parking spaces. Wind noise is also kept to practically a hush at higher speeds.

The biggest annoyance in the compact is the shifter! In order to engage Drive or Reverse, drivers need to move the gear selector twice in the appropriate direction, like a double-tap. If they miss the second tap, the transmission stays in Neutral.The shifter is TOTALLY counterintuitive and can be confusing, especially for older drivers.

The EPA-estimated fuel economy for the XC40 is 23 mpg city/33 mpg highway in T4 models (which are front-wheel drive) and 23/31 in T5 models (which are all-wheel drive).

Safety is a priority

Volvo is always front and center as far as safety.  Standard safety features on the XC40 include blind spot information system and cross traffic alert, city safety collision avoidance technology, driver alert control, lane keeping aid, oncoming lane mitigating, whiplash protection system and airbags/inflatable curtain.  The Volvo On Call with car sharing is also standard and is a smartphone app designed to control your Volvo vehicle remotely.  As far as safety and Volvo, there are absolutely no complaints.

If you pine for a Volvo

The 2019 Volvo XC40 is the least expensive way to get into a Volvo.  The compact SUV gets a nod for its overall attractive design and compliant ride.  If you’re willing to forgive the vehicle’s technological letdowns, then the XC40 is worth a look.

Prices start at $33,700.  Need more info?  www.VolvoCars.com

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