Pedro Arrais review: Small Volvo SUV goes big on features

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The 2020 Volvo XC40 is a chip off the old block, with decidedly Swedish style that incorporates a handsome look, clean lines and an upscale demeanour.

Having grabbed the attention of premium buyers with models such as the XC90, Volvo has set its sights on a more compact package.

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The XC40 is Volvo’s smallest offering, with compact dimensions that will appeal to both those who are downsizing and to urban dwellers.

It also helps that the XC40 is also the least-expensive vehicle in the company’s model range, with a starting price of $39,750.

Looking ahead, the XC40 is also the platform for Volvo’s first pure electric vehicle.

The XC40 is offered in three trim levels. I drove an Inscription, which is designated as the top-of-the-line luxury offering, with a manufacturer’s asking price of $48,200.

While our neighbours to the south can equip their XC40s with just front-wheel-drive and a less-powerful engine, the base Canadian XC40s come with a higher equipment and feature configuration.

In Canada, all XC40s come with a T5 designation, giving the vehicle a potent, turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine producing 248 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque.

It is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive.

For a manufacturer that prides itself on environmentally responsible and safe transportation, the XC40 can really be a lot of fun when driven with abandon.

It is markedly faster and more engaging than comparable luxury offerings such as the Lexus NX 300.

The engine is a little hoarse in the upper ranges, but is quiet and restrained under normal cruising speeds. The eight-speed transmission is so quiet and unassuming that it literally disappears in the background.

This segment of the automotive market is not known for its towing prowess, so it might come as a pleasant surprise to find that the compact SUV comes with a 1,588-kilogram (3,500 lb.) tow capacity.

I would be remiss not to mention that the XC40, equipped with engine stop/start, delivers a fuel-efficiency rating of 10.3 litres per 100 kilometres in the city, besting both the BMW X1 and the NX 300.

On the highway, the XC40 sips a litre of premium gas less than the NX per 100 km (7.5 vs. 8.5 L/100 km).

The interior of the XC40 offers Volvo’s signature Scandinavian design distilled into a smaller package.

Your right brain will tell you logically that by the numbers the XC40 is smaller, but the designers at Volvo have used colours, shapes and lines to inform the other side of your brain that it is otherwise.

The cabin gives off an open, spacious and inviting atmosphere.

Unlike German, Japanese and American design, the Scandinavian ethos is more contemporary. While it is first and foremost function over form, the Volvo designers have managed to create a truly upscale space.

In the Inscription trim, metals, driftwood with a raised textured feel, chrome and leather only serve as the background to a Orrefors crystal transmission shift knob.

The clean interior is reinforced by a lack of buttons and dials, save for a prominent audio volume knob (large enough to be operated by a gloved hand).

Otherwise, most of the controls and infotainment is found in the centre nine-inch screen (which is slightly canted toward the driver).

Operated much like a smartphone, you can swipe left and right to get to menus and sub-menus to access the vehicle’s many customizable displays and controls.

Because of its boxy shape, there is ample leg and headroom, even in the rear seats. The square shape contributes to the vehicle’s 460-litre cargo capacity. The floor in the cargo area can be folded to keep articles separate, left in place to keep stuff hidden or removed entirely. The power tailgate can be operated via the key fob or by a wave of a foot under the bumper.

As this is a Volvo, there is a plethora of driver-assistance and safety equipment standard, such as automated emergency braking for vehicle, pedestrians, bicycles or large animals, and lane-keep assist.

As a vehicle born in the age of technology, the XC40 is fully integrated into your lifestyle, with a number of functions, such as pre-heating or cooling or finding your car, possible through your cellphone, tablet or smartwatch.

As such, the entertainment options in the XC40 are an extension of what you might already enjoy, with built-in Spotify for music and a Harman Kardon premium sound system.

While the 2020 XC40 is first and foremost a luxury vehicle, it is also steadfastly a Volvo, with its attendant approach to design and convenience. That it is fun to drive as well makes it a worrisome entry to some of its competitors.

THE SPEC SHEET

Type: Compact premium SUV, front engine, all-wheel-drive

Engine: Turbocharged 2.0-litre four cylinder, 248 hp at 5,500 r.p.m., 258 lb.-ft. of torque at 1,800 r.p.m.

Transmission: Eight-speed automatic

Dimensions (mm): Length, 4,425; width, 1,863; height, 1,652; wheelbase, 2,702

Curb weight (kg): 1,646

Price (base/as tested): $48,200/ $53,215 (includes $2,015 freight and PDI and $100 AC tax)

Options: Metallic paint $900, premium plus package $2,000

Tires: 235/55 R18 on alloy wheels

Fuel type: Premium

Fuel economy (L/100km): 10.3 city/ 7.5 highway

Warranty: Four years/80,000 km new car

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