16 August 2018

Volvo XC40 2018 Car Review

Volvo’s XC40 is arguably an example of the adage, ‘the more things change, the more they stay the same'.

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Volvo XC40
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Volvo XC40
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Volvo XC40
IMG 5509
Volvo XC40
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Volvo XC40
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Volvo XC40

For our writer was in the business when Volvo first launched a design revolution which left the old stacked-matchboxes look behind in favour of something sleeker, more muscular, and far more handsome than before. Yet under the metal, the brand DNA that emphasized family-friendly design and safety remained.

If this XC40 is anything to go by, the now Chinese-owned Swedish brand still likes strong looks, a family friendly interior and forward-thinking safety tech, now all focused more on handsome SUVs than the traditional of wagons.

This new XC40 joins the XC90 and XC60 in Volvo’s SUV stable at the opening end of the range, with a footprint to appeal to city slickers without getting too compact – it’s wide, and almost as tall as the XC60.

New Zealand launched with the headliner, the T5 R-Design launch edition – the top-spec variant sporting a list of cost options at a slightly lower price than they’ll eventually be.

Two lower-spec versions start the range, but if you want one you may have to wait – the XC40 was voted as 2018 European Car of the Year, and subsequent demand forced Volvo to expand production in Europe and China to keep up.

The XC40 is undeniably handsome, with a younger look than its bigger stablemates, but it’s the inside which really impresses, especially in this version, with its cost-option ‘lava’ orange carpet and trim. That carpet is made of soft-drink bottles, and whatever you think of the shade, it certainly imparts an edge the standard charcoal might lack.

This car really has been designed for busy, active folk with kids, and it proved incredibly easy to live with. Between the glovebox, door pockets and cup holders front and rear and a centre console large enough to hold a box of tissues, there’s a place for everything.

Out back the boot is roomy enough, if not as big as some, and it’s very well thought out, with bag hooks, a power socket and a false floor beneath which you can hide valuables. Fold it vertically to partition the space and add more shopping bag hooks. Tap buttons to auto-fold the seats flat, or store that false floor under the lower one for greater depth. Items might slide around? A grippy roll-out floor net supplied with our car sorts that.

Now you’re all set, fire up the T5 engine and enjoy its apparent vigour. Power goes to all four wheels via an eight-speed auto transmission, and the compliant, controlled chassis soaks up bumps without ever feeling overly soft. XC40 seems pleasingly agile for its breed, if not as sporty as the as the look and the sports chassis might suggest – thank goodness, as who wants car-sick kids.

Naturally Volvo hasn’t forgotten safety. XC40 recently scored five crash-test stars under a new, tougher protocol which includes cyclist detection and lane keeping systems.
Along with the usual suite of airbags and stability controls come rain sensing wipers, an all-round view for the reversing camera with a clarity which proved genuinely helpful – many aren’t clear enough for narrow, or shrub-shrouded driveways – and even a system to steer you back into your lane automatically if you stray towards oncoming traffic.

Comfort and convenience features include dual zone climate control, a hook folding from the glove compartment to carry a bag, a slide-out drawer under the driver seat, satnav, wireless phone charging, and handsfree power tailgate opening and closing. We particularly liked the uncluttered dash – uncluttered because pretty much every control, including climate, is operated via the touch screen, with buttons just for quick volume adjustment, and heating the front or rear screens.

Naturally none of this comes cheap. The R-Design retails at $72,900, including the contrast roof and 20-inch alloy wheels, but our test car included some cost options like the driver support pack ($2000) with the 360-degree parking camera, adaptive cruise control, pilot assist and Park Assist Pilot. The Lifestyle Pack ($5000) brought the sunroof, Harman Kardon sound system, power fold rear head and backrests and the tinted windows, while heated front seats added $450 and the Lava Interior Highlights, $400.

Quibbles? Although XC40 looks every bit as good as the price suggests it should, with some fabulous details and finishes, a few minor items feel a bit cheaper than you’d expect from a Volvo. Mind you, this is a more affordable Volvo…

Overall the XC40 looks and feels high-end and oozes aspirational design. It’s distinctive, it’s functional and comfortable, and though rivals such as VW’s Tiguan may deliver more boot space, few feel quite as special as this without compromising everyday usability, or pricing themselves too far into rare air.

At a glance


Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R-Design


2.0-litre turbocharged petrol


$72,900 ($80,750 as tested)

ANCAP safety rating


Power and Torque

182kW at 5500rpmrpm, 350Nm at 1800 to 4800rpm


Eight-speed auto

Fuel economy


Towing capacity




Seating capacity


Luggage capacity/payload

460/901kg rear seats up/down, to window edge


Safety systems

  • Blind spot warning
  • Collision warning
  • Cross traffic alert with Autobrake
  • Lane Keeping Aid
  • Park Assist front and rear, reverse camera
  • Run-off Road Mitigation
  • Driver Alert Control
  • Oncoming Lane Mitigation
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