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Volvo XC40 T5 R-Design Launch Edition 2018 review

Volvo's XC40 SUV is a stylish and capable small SUV, but will it stand up to a weekend of rigorous family testing?

The XC40 is Volvo's third entrant into the SUV market, and it's arguably its most important, with the Swedish brand's sights firmly set on claiming its share of the premium small SUV category

For this weekend test I’m reviewing the Volvo XC40 T5 R-Design Launch Edition 2018. Listed at $56,740, it comes with aggressive R-Design exterior styling (including a blacked-out gloss grille, black contrasting roof and dual black tailpipes), 20-inch 'diamond-cut' black alloy wheels and adaptive headlights with cornering beams. 

So, how will the XC40 handle family hauling duties? My kids and I had the weekend to find out.

Saturday

The XC40 a good-looking car, and it's much larger in the flesh than I'd expected. Its look is both unique and refreshing, with unmistakable SUV proportions blended with smart and stylish design touches. 

The angular nose of the XC40 appears to sit quite high, but is nicely framed by Volvo’s signature Hammer of Thor LED daytime running lights. Its side-on profile looks like a younger and more stout version of its older sibling, the XC60, and is the best angle to appreciate the car's two-tone roof finish. The 20-inch alloy wheels and rear spoiler combine to convey a sporty feel.

The XC40 T5 R Design comes with 20-inch alloy wheels. (image credit: Dan Pugh) The XC40 T5 R Design comes with 20-inch alloy wheels. (image credit: Dan Pugh)

Before getting in the car, my eye is drawn to the small Swedish flag sticking out from the front flank - a nice little design touch. Inside, the large proportions I mentioned earlier are immediately evident, with a spacious and light cabin; the latter helped in no small measure by the large panoramic roof.

The smart styling continues inside, providing a nice blend of simplicity and sophistication. Decorated with a generous amount of premium materials, it makes for an incredibly pleasant place to sit. The power-adjustable cloth-and-leather seats are comfortable and provide ample support in all the right places.

Inside provides a nice blend of simplicity and sophistication. (image credit: Dan Pugh) Inside provides a nice blend of simplicity and sophistication. (image credit: Dan Pugh)

There was a heap of space for the kids to spread out, with air vents, cup holders in the arm rest and bottle holders in the doors to keep them occupied. I sat behind my driving position and had a hand-width of space between my knees and the seat in front, and with headroom to spare as well.

In the back, there was a heap of space for the kids to spread out. (image credit: Dan Pugh) In the back, there was a heap of space for the kids to spread out. (image credit: Dan Pugh)

It's worth noting our Launch Edition version has a laundry list of additional features over the regular R-Design. These include that panoramic sunroof, tinted windows, an alarm, heated front seats, power folding backrest and headrest, adaptive cruise control with semi-automated Pilot Assist, semi-automated Parking Assist, a 360-degree camera, and a 13-speaker Harman Kardon premium stereo.

Around the suburban back streets, the XC40 displayed impeccable road manners with a ride that was comfortable and composed. Our R-Design came with sports suspension, meaning it was firmer, but well short of anything sharp or jarring.

It feels surprisingly light and agile around the corners, with plenty of punch coming from the turbocharged engine to propel all four of us forward with heaps of urgency. What’s more, Volvo has done an excellent job of minimising traffic, road and engine noise - the back seat arguments proved the only real noise in the cabin. 

Our numerous trips throughout the day provided ample time to appreciate the 12.3-inch digital driver information display. Easy to use, it did an excellent job of providing key information at a glance. 

The big portrait-layout media screen is another nice touch, and comes with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and sat nav, plus it doubles as a display for the reversing camera.

The big portrait-layout media screen comes with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and sat nav. (image credit: Dan Pugh) The big portrait-layout media screen comes with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and sat nav. (image credit: Dan Pugh)

Sunday

Our XC40 was on light family hauling duties today, so I nabbed the chance to take it for a morning drive without the kids. 

Under the bonnet sits a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder unit with a punchy 185kW of power at 5500rpm and 350Nm of torque at 1800rpm. Matched with an eight-speed automatic transmission and four-wheel drive, it can propel the XC40 to 100km/h in 6.5secs. That puts it in hot-hatch territory.

The XC40’s driving characteristics are good enough to bring a smile to your face, and completely evaporated any preconceived "Volvo driver" notions I might have had. Matt Campbell described it best in his review as a “hot hatch on stilts”. This is accomplished in part by its all-wheel-drive system, directing torque where it's needed most.

The steering feels light and agile, and inputs are met with precise responses. This has its benefits around town, too, where tight turns and parking manoeuvres are completed with ease. 

At 4425mm long and 1863mm wide (1652mm tall), the XC40 is bigger than many of its rivals including the BMW X2, the Audi Q2 and Audi Q3, the Mercedes-Benz GLA and the Jaguar E-Pace. As you would expect, though, Volvo has managed to use the extra space thoughtfully.

The XC40 is bigger than many of its rivals. (image credit: Dan Pugh) The XC40 is bigger than many of its rivals. (image credit: Dan Pugh)

Starting up front, Volvo has moved the speakers from the front doors and expanded the pocket to run the full length of the doors. The centre console bin comes with an actual bin, and there's a hidey-hole containing the Qi wireless phone charging pad.

Another smart storage touch is the 460 litres of cargo space (expands to 1336L with the back seats folded down), which includes a smart folding-floor system in the boot that's perfect for storing the shopping bags. Plus, you  get a space-saver spare under the floor.

  • With the rear seats up, there's 460 litres of boot space. (image credit: Dan Pugh) With the rear seats up, there's 460 litres of boot space. (image credit: Dan Pugh)
  • With the back seats folded down, there's 1336 litres of sacrgo space. (image credit: Dan Pugh) With the back seats folded down, there's 1336 litres of sacrgo space. (image credit: Dan Pugh)

As yet there’s no ANCAP safety rating to report, however there is plenty of safety kit to consider, including seven airbags (dual front, front-side, full-length curtain and driver's knee), a reversing camera and front and rear parking sensors. 

Auto emergency braking (AEB) is standard, with rear-collision warning, plus blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist, and a system that detects if you veer off the tarmac unintentionally.

Over the course of the weekend we covered around 350km of urban and open-road driving. The trip computer displayed a fuel-consumption reading of 10.2L/100kms. Higher than Volvo's claimed 7.7 litres per 100km on the combined cycle.


The Wrap

Two thumbs up for Volvo for producing a genuinely premium SUV that delivers thoughtful design and sporty performance. For those in the market, it’s worth putting this on your shortlist. It will surprise and delight.

Likes

Great looks
Fun to drive
Thoughtful interior design

Dislikes

Launch Edition in short supply
Long options list
Servicing costs

Scores

Dan:

4.3

The Kids: