We tried really hard to fault Volvo's sub-compact crossover. It was almost impossible.
Volvo has an excellent shot at topping 100,000 U.S. sales for the first time since 2007, and that’s thanks in large part to the success of the XC40. Like many other automotive writers, we fell in love with the XC40 during the automaker’s first-drive event in Austin, Texas. It turns out that loving feeling hasn’t faded, as we learned recently when we spent a week behind the wheel of a 2019 XC40 T5 AWD Momentum.
Our tester came with a two-tone color scheme and plastic cladding on its wheel arches, which is the ultimate way automaker’s say, “This car is for younger people.” Fun fact: Volvo calls that blue “Amazon Blue,” and that white contrast roof is a $300 optional extra. Unlike many of its competitors, the XC40 doesn’t sport an aggressively raked roofline, and its haunches are very beefy. The flat rooftop serves a functional purpose, with riders in the rear enjoying ample headroom. The massive C-pillars that give the XC40 its taut and muscular look are an example of form being put in front of function as they make changing lanes and parallel parking challenging at times.
We’re not sure if Volvo was giving a slight wink to its past with the boxy-ish design of the XC40. What we do know is that in this case, being a bit square actually makes the XC40 one of the boldest-looking entries in its class. The Swedes have struck a perfect balance between elegance and youthfulness and an almost perfect one with form and function. Also, we loved the little Swedish flag affixed to the hood.
The 2019 Volvo XC40’s cabin design can best be described as uncomplicated and modern. Despite being crammed to the gills with tech, the steering wheel and center stack feature only a handful of physical buttons and knobs. Whereas other automakers use wood inlays to signify luxury, Volvo has chosen instead to go with a textured strip of aluminum that runs from the dash onto the doors. Standard leather seats and a sizable 9-inch infotainment screen give the XC40 a luxurious look at even its lowest price point.
Standard tech features include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a 12.3-inch digital driver display and a wireless hotspot. Standard safety features include a lane-keeping aid, oncoming lane mitigation, an emergency braking system that works at speeds of up to 31 mph and automatic high beams. Our tester came with optional safety and driver’s assistance tech, including blind-spot monitoring, cross-traffic alert with autobrake, a 360-degree surround-view camera, radar cruise control and Pilot Assist (more on that shortly).
While we loved the XC40’s cabin design and features, we did have a few complaints. Certain things, like the air vents, felt flimsy and cheap. The eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat was supportive but not exactly supple, which was felt on longer drives. The 9-inch touchscreen infotainment system takes a bit of time to learn and sometimes lags under the weight of its own capabilities. This problem was most noticeable when shifting into reverse, with the backup camera taking a long time to load or just not appearing at all.
Overall, though, there’s very little to complain about when it comes to the XC40’s interior and features. It’s a nice place to be and all the standard technology and safety features are a breath of fresh air in a segment where nickel and diming drivers is the norm.
The XC40 offers 40.9 inches of front leg room and 36.1 inches of rear legroom, which provides plenty of space for adults in both rows, although fitting three in back makes for a tight squeeze. The XC40’s raised roof offers an impressive 39.1 inches of headroom, which means that only the tallest of adults will have to worry about angling their necks so as to not bump their heads.
When it comes to interior dimensions, the Volvo XC40 is solidly in the middle of the pack, offering just about as much front headroom and legroom as its competitors. That said, the BMW X1 does offer 2.9 inches more front headroom and the Cadillac XT4 provides over three more inches of second-row legroom.
There’s 20.7 cubic feet of storage space with the rear seats up, a number that would have been smaller had Volvo not mounted the subwoofers into the dashboard. Max storage space is 47.2 cubic feet. That’s not worst-in-class, but the Cadillac XT4, BMW X1 and X2, Audi Q3, Jaguar E-Pace all offer more cargo space. The good news: The XC40 offers more cargo space than the Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class.
The cabin features several clever storage solutions, but oversized door pockets and glove-box mounted cargo hooks don’t mean you’ll be able to fit more boxes or grocery bags in back. Some of those creative storage solutions, such as the hidden storage compartment under the driver’s seat and the rear folding load floor (complete with cargo hooks) are wrapped up in the optional Premium Package.
While we found the cargo area a bit tight during big shopping trips, the XC40’s lack of storage space isn’t as bad in the real world as it looks on paper. So long as you don’t plan to move large furniture or go on Costco runs for Duggar-sized families you’ll be just fine.
Our tester came equipped with the T5 engine, which produces 248 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. All-wheel drive is standard on the T5. The other engine on offer is the T4, which sends 187 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of torque to the front wheels. All XC40s come equipped with an eight-speed automatic transmission.
Volvo estimates the XC40 will do 0 to 60 mph in 6.2 seconds, and while we forgot to bring our stopwatch during a trip from Chicago to Dubuque, Iowa, we’d say that estimate sounds about right. If you want to really wring out the XC40, you need to engage Dynamic drive mode, which ups throttle response, weights the steering and has the transmission hold gears longer.
The XC40 feels composed on winding roads, but the second you try to treat it like a performance car a bit of understeer and body roll remind you of what you’re actually working with. The eight-speed transmission is smooth and responsive but doesn’t really stand out in any way. The suspension was able to soak up most of Chicago’s potholes and provided a mostly smooth ride regardless of the road quality. While we didn’t have time for a trail climb, 8.3 inches of ground clearance and an Off-Road drive mode encourages drivers to give it a go.
Volvo says the XC40 should do 23/31/26 mpg city/highway/combined. We averaged a disappointing 16.1 mpg in the city and 22.1 mpg combined, although we often turned off the auto stop/start feature and seldom drove in Eco mode. The majority of our 456 miles came on the highway, and with a turbo-four and a curb weight of 3,854 pounds, we expected better performance at the pump.
Now spending a ton of time on the highway allowed us to play with Pilot Assist, Volvo’s self-driving technology. Pilot Assist mostly kept the XC40 within its lane lines so long as said lines were visible and the road wasn’t curving too much, although the technology is still a bit overprotective when braking. If you do a lot of highway driving then Pilot Assist is worth a look.
We’d love to spend extended time with a sportier model, like the R-Design with its rev-matching paddle shifters, to see how fun the XC40 can truly be. That said, the base model with the T5 engine offers plenty of grunt and is surprisingly fun to throw around back roads. It’s no Jaguar E-Pace R-Dynamic (296 hp) or Mercedes-AMG GLA45 (an insane 357 hp), but it’ll put a smile on your face with not much effort.
The 2019 Volvo XC40 comes in three trim levels: Momentum, R-Design and Inscription. All trims are available with either the T4 engine or the more-powerful T5, which again comes standard with AWD. The cheapest entry-level XC40 T4 Momentum has an MSRP of $33,700, while the T4 R-Design starts at $38,995. If you want the T5 engine and its standard AWD on either the Momentum or R-Design models, you’ll need to cough up and extra $2,000. The range-topping Inscription trim starts at $38,995, and upgrading from the T4 to T5 costs $1,355. The 2019 XC40 is available via Care by Volvo, the automaker’s subscription service. An XC40 T5 Momentum is $700 a month whereas the T5 R-Design runs $800 a month. Care by Volvo has been such a huge hit that Volvo has had to roll out a waitlist for it.
With all its options, our tester checked in at $44,315, which is a bit more than we’d be willing to pay for an XC40. The good news is that the entry-level XC40 is a pretty damn good crossover and features enough standard features to keep even the most discerning buyers satisfied. Attractive pricing, a wealth of standard features and a peppy (optional) engine make the 2019 Volvo XC40 a Great Buy.