2020 Volvo XC40 review

The Volvo XC40 is stylish premium small SUV. It’s great fun to drive around town and on the open road, with all-wheel drive adding traction on slippery surfaces.

Score breakdown
Safety, value and features
Comfort and space
Engine and gearbox
Ride and handling

Things we like

  • Stylish, practical
  • Fun to drive

Not so much

  • Overly light steering at higher speeds

What stands out?

Volvo’s first small SUV is an exceptionally stylish premium crossover, with an innovative interior design and a choice of turbocharged petrol powertrains. It’s great fun to drive around town and on the open road, with all-wheel drive adding traction on slippery surfaces.

The XC40 was crowned the 2019 Wheels Car of the Year.

What might bug me?

The silly little gear shifter and the double-tap action required to shift gears from neutral to drive or reverse.

Driving at 80km/h on the space-saver spare, until you can fix your full-sized flat tyre.

What body styles are there?

Five-door, five-seat SUV only.

The most affordable XC40 drives the front wheels, the other two versions drive all four wheels.

The XC40 is classed as a small SUV, higher priced.

What features do all XC40 versions have?

A 9.0-inch central infotainment screen with inbuilt satellite navigation with voice control. Entertainment functions include Digital Radio (DAB+), Apple CarPlay/Android smartphone pairing, Aux and USB inputs and Bluetooth connectivity for audio streaming.

Reversing camera, and front and rear parking sensors.

A 12.3-inch digital instrument and driver-information display with road sign information that displays the current speed limit.

Eight-speed automatic transmission.

Autonomous emergency braking that works at city speeds.

Adaptive cruise control, speed limiter, and lane departure warning that alerts you if you begin to drift out of your lane (a sign of fatigue or distraction).

Blind spot warning, which senses if a car is coming up your side, and rear cross traffic alert, which senses if a car is coming from either direction when reversing out of the driveway from a parking space.

Power-adjustable driver’s seat with seat memory functions.

Dual zone climate control, which allows the driver and front passenger to set their own temperatures.

Roof rails, which make it easier to fit roof-mounted luggage systems.

Keyless start and entry, and hands-free powered tailgate.

Auto dimming rear-view mirror, windscreen wipers that operate automatically when it rains, and headlight washers.

Aluminium alloy wheels, which are lighter and more stylish than steel wheels (with a space-saver spare wheel).

Long-lasting LED headlamps that dip automatically for oncoming drivers and when you enter town, fog lights and LED daytime running lights with unique ‘Thor’s Hammer’ signature.

Power steering drive modes, hill descent control and hill start assist.

Waste bin with net in centre console and storage drawer under the driver’s seat.

Electronic stability control, which is mandatory on new cars and can help you recover from a skid.

Seven airbags. (To find out where they are placed, please open the review section “What about safety?”).

The XC40 is covered by a three-year, 100,000km warranty.

Which engine uses least fuel, and why wouldn't I choose it?

The economical D5 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged diesel engine was dropped from the Australian XC40 range in June 2018 and replaced with the 2.0-litre T4 four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine.

The T4 is the most economical of the two petrol engines available in the local range, with an official combined fuel consumption of 6.9 litres/100km.

One reason you may not want the T4 is because you prefer extra power from the similarly sized T5 turbocharged petrol engine. The T5 can push the XC40 from 0-100km/h in just 6.5 seconds. It’s a little thirstier than the T4, with an official combined fuel consumption of 7.7 litres/100km that pushes out to about 10.0km/h in real-world conditions.

The XC40 comes with an eight-speed automatic transmission that drives the front wheels in the entry-level T4 Momentum, and all four-wheels in the T4 Inscription and T5 R-Design.

What key features do I get if I spend more?

The T4 Momentum is the least costly XC40 spec and comes with the less-powerful 2.0-litre engine and front-wheel-drive. It has all the above-mentioned standard features including cloth/vinyl seats and 18-inch alloy wheels.

Paying marginally more again for an XC40 T4 Inscription brings the same engine but with all-wheel-drive. Seats are trimmed with leather and both front seats have powered settings. The headlights bend into corners as you turn, and the wheel size grows to 19 inches.

Stepping up to the T5 R-Design brings a package adapted slightly for more spirited driving, including the more powerful of the two engines, a sports steering wheel with paddle shifters and contoured Nabuck leather seats, which provide progressively deeper bolsters each side of you, to help hold you in place around corners.

The wheel diameter increases to 20 inches, with Pirelli V tyres that are wider and lower in profile – mainly for a sportier look, but also adding grip on dry surfaces.

Special R-Design interior and exterior trim including the gear knob, foot pedals, tread plates, aluminium décor inlays, embroidery, floor mats and grille.

You also get contrasting black roof and door-mirror caps, electric folding exterior mirrors, dual tailpipes, while bright lava orange carpet is a no-cost option.

Optional extras

There are several packages which add extra features to the Momentum, Inscription and R-Design spec-levels, including the Lifestyle Pack, which for about $3000 adds a panoramic sunroof, tinted rear privacy glass, Harmon Kardon Premium Sound System and sportier-looking 19-inch alloy wheels.

The Technology Pack for the Momentum ($2000) adds a 360-degree parking camera, power-folding rear headrests, adaptive suspension dampers, LED headlights that bend into corners, and Park Assist Pilot which helps steer the XC40 into a parking space.

This is also available in the Inscription and R-Design for $1900 without the bendy LED lights which are part of their standard features list.

There also Comfort packs for each version. The Momentum Comfort Pack ($1000) brings a power-operated front passenger seat, heated front seats, heated steering wheel, and mechanical cushion extension for improved under-thigh support.

The Inscription Comfort Pack ($950) adds all that without the mechanical cushion extension that’s already included, while the R-Design Comfort ($900) pack just has the heated front seats and steering wheel.

Volvo also offers a host of individual optional extras.

Does any upgrade have a down side?

The R-Design’s 20-inch wheels use lower-profile tyres that will be more expensive to replace than those on the smaller wheels, and aren't as likely to last as long. They also produce a slightly less comfortable ride (because there is less cushioning air between the wheel and the road).

The Momentum comes with two standard colours, Black Stone and Ice White: all others cost extra. The Inscription and R-Design only offer Black Stone as standard, and a greater number of extra-cost colours.

How comfortable is the XC40?

The XC40 has a roomy and uncluttered cabin. The sculpted front seats provide excellent support on long trips. The driver sits quite high and has good forward vision, with controls easy to reach and use.

Second-row seating is also comfortable, with plenty of head and legroom, but less under thigh support than the front seats.

The cabin is pretty quiet, isolating you well from unwelcome external noises.

The optional premium audio provides a rich, all-encompassing musical experience.

What about safety in an XC40?

Volvo’s are renowned for their safety, and the XC40 is no different.

It was one of the first cars to be rated under tougher Australasian new Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) testing regime. It passed with the top 5-Star safety rating based on data provided by ANCAP’s continental partner, EuroNCAP

The XC40 has seven airbags: two in front of the driver and front passenger; side airbags to protect front occupants from side impacts; a driver’s knee airbag; and head-protecting curtain airbags down each side that protect even the third-row passengers.

Among the active safety aids on every XC40 are city-speed auto braking, blind spot monitoring (a light in the side mirrors warns you of vehicles alongside out of view), and rear cross traffic alert (which alerts you, when reversing, to cars crossing behind).

Rear Collision Mitigation Support works when the car is at a standstill. It looks for cars approaching too fast from the rear, and flashes the indicators should it detect one. If it thinks you are about to be rear-ended, it tensions your seatbelts and applies the brakes, to reduce your potential for injury.

There’s also Front Collision Mitigation Support that helps avoid collisions by automatically veering to avoid a collisions with oncoming vehicles if travelling between 60 and 140km/h. If you cross a lane marking in the way of an oncoming vehicle, it automatically steers back and warns you.

The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) is yet to test or rate the Volvo XC40, but it’s inconceivable that it would rate anything less than the maximum five stars.

I like driving - will I enjoy this car?

You will enjoy driving the XC40, which, apart from the raised driving position, doesn’t really feel like you’re behind the wheel of an SUV. It’s particularly great around town where it feels well planted with light, direct steering.

That power steering can feel a little too light at speed though, where it feels a little disconnected from the front wheels meaning there’s less feel through bends. It does handle the bends well though, with the taught chassis doing well to contain its high-centre of gravity.

The XC40 absorbs bumps; with any jarring well contained by the suspension and ergonomic front seats. Things can feel a little choppy in the back seats, though. Optional active suspension dampers improve ride and handling considerably.

The T4 and T5 versions feel relaxed when driving around town and at highway speeds. The T5 in particular really comes alive when you put the foot down, when overtaking for example, with the eight-speed automatic gearbox providing smooth and well-timed gear changes.

The all-wheel drive system on the XC40 Inscription and R-Design helps it maintain drive on snowy or otherwise slippery sealed roads, on gravel roads and on smooth tracks. The car does not have the ground clearance, underbody protection or low range gearing it would need for rough off-roading. And if you were to get a flat tyre while off the beaten track, you would have to struggle home on the skinny space-saver spare.

How is life in the rear seats?

The second row seats provide ample leg and headroom for two adults, or three smaller people.

Rear seat passengers get their own air/heating vents, and a USB socket to keep their devices charged.

Side vision is restricted, particularly for smaller people, thanks to the rising window line and the frame separating the split door window.

It’s comfy back there, but it can get bumpy on rough roads and there are no grab handles to help counter side movement when travelling around bends.

How is the XC40 for carrying stuff?

Cabin storage is a highlight the XC40’s interior design, with illuminated front door bins big enough to hold a laptop bag, a flip-out handbag hook on the glovebox lid, and a deep, removable tub in the centre console that doubles as a rubbish bin.

Boot space is 460 litres, which is about average for small SUV, but four bag hooks in the cargo area and a floor that lifts up to reveal a cavity to place loose items more securely, add practicality.

The 60:40 rear seats easily fold down flat to extend cargo space should you need to fit a bigger load.

Where is the XC40 made?

The XC40 is made in Ghent, Belgium, and will also soon go into production in China where Volvo's parent company Geely is based.

Are there any rivals I should consider?

The luxury small-SUV market is a late bloomer, with the XC40 joining a smallish field that includes the Audi Q2, BMW X1 and X2, Lexus UX, Jaguar E-Pace and Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class.

Most of these models have comparable performance, thanks to a range of efficient but punchy turbocharged engines.

I like the Volvo XC-40, but I can't choose which version. Can you help?

They’re all very good, but we reckon the mid-spec all-wheel-drive T4 Inscription hits the sweet spot in terms of pricing and features. The T4’s 2.0-litre engine while not as gutsy as the T5 still offers good all-round performance.

Are there plans to update this model soon?

The current XC40 was introduced in May 2018 as an all-new model with D4 diesel and T5 variants.

The D4 was unexpectedly dropped from the range within two months of the XC40s arrival, and was later replaced by the petrol T4 along with the mid-priced Inscription spec level.
A more economical three-cylinder T3 engine is available overseas and was expected to be added to the Australian range though it’s still unclear when that will happen. There is also a hybrid version in the works.

Otherwise no XC40 updates are expected before late 2020.
Score breakdown
Safety, value and features
Comfort and space
Engine and gearbox
Ride and handling

Things we like

  • Stylish, practical
  • Fun to drive

Not so much

  • Overly light steering at higher speeds


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Senior Journalist
WhichCar Staff

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