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2019 Volvo XC40 T5 long-term review, part one

By Alex Inwood, 01 Jan 2019 Reviews

2019 Volvo XC40 T5 long-term review, part one

Honey I shrunk the COTY winner! Inwood downsizes, but should he temper his expectations?

I CAN guess what you’re thinking: Inwood has been banging on about this white Volvo for months now. Yawn. But look closer; all is not what it seems. Yep, like many other Aussies, I’ve embraced this whole ‘downsizing’ thing and swapped out the (brilliant) XC60 T8 I’ve run since its COTY win in January for its smaller brother – the box-fresh, and highly sought-after XC40.

My time in this new addition will be fleeting. It’s earmarked for Wheels online editor Ryan Lewis who’ll slip behind the wheel next month once his 3008 long-termer heads back to Peugeot HQ.

For now, though, I thought it’d be useful to share my initial thoughts on how the XC40 measures up. After all, expectations are high: concentrating the goodness of the XC60 into a smaller, funkier and more affordable package has to be a recipe for success, surely?

Read next: 2018 Volvo XC60 T8 long-term review, part six

Just getting an XC40 is a minor miracle in itself. A combination of supply constraints and a massive underestimation of demand by Volvo Oz means that for now, there’s a six-month wait on orders. Just one powertrain is available; a 2.0L turbo four in two states of tune. Ours is the sportier T5, in R-Design trim level, which adds a smattering of upgrades inside and out (see sidebar above), with a few options that build on the $55,990 list price. They include the $2500 Lifestyle Pack (heated seats, panoramic sunroof), Adaptive Cruise Control with Pilot Assist for $2500, and an excellent 360 camera for $900.

All up, the sticker jumps to $62,710, which is a sizeable $43K saving compared with the larger XC60. And there’s plenty of core goodness to enjoy. The first thing you notice is the size. Foursquare and tall, with a chunky stance and a generous 2702mm wheelbase, the XC40 feels perfectly proportioned for a young family. The cabin is airy, the rear seat spacious, and the number of cleverly designed and thoughtful touches verges on Skoda-esque. There’s a small, removable rubbish bin in the centre console, a take-away food hook that extends from the (chilled) glovebox, and the 460-litre boot has a three-piece floor that lifts and folds to stop bags sliding around.

There’s performance to burn too. T5s deploy the same 2.0-litre petrol/eight-speed auto combo as some XC60 variants and with 185kW/350Nm on tap, performance is hot-hatch rapid.

Read next: 2018 Volvo XC40 Range Review

Unlike the XC60, however, the smaller XC40 debuts Volvo’s all-new CMA (Compact Modular Architecture) platform, though there’s plenty of common DNA. The pair share the same smartphone-like infotainment system, the steering has that unique combination of being accurate and quick-witted while feeling light and a little distant, and both roll on huge wheels. In R-Design trim the XC40 boasts 20-inch hoops and it’s here that we run into the first chink in its armour. Suspension comprises struts up front with multi-links out back, and while the passive set-up is nicely poised through turns, we are keen to see what ride improvement comes with cars fitted with optional ($850) adaptive dampers.

Meanwhile, the back seat cushion is a bit firm and flat, and rear three-quarter vision is heavily impeded by that chunky C-pillar.

And annoyingly, the stop-start function switches itself on with every new journey. Turning it off requires you to dive into the infotainment screen, swipe right and locate the appropriate tab.

2018 Volvo XC40 review

Where the XC40 claws back ground is with its personality. Unlike the beautifully engineered and mature XC60, the XC40 majors on character and spunk. There’s plenty of visual flair and I especially like the scalloped bonnet and section on the lower door. The only bummer is this particular XC40 doesn’t have the lairy Lava Orange carpet option, which makes me think of the Peugeot 205 GTI.

So is the XC40 as convincing as our reigning COTY? First impressions are that it shares much of the fundamental virtues. Let’s see what Lewis makes of it over the next five months.