Volvo XC40 VS Lexus NX
- Great styling
- Good standard equipment
- Charming and smart interior
- Very pricey servicing
- Launch Editions limited to small numbers
- Stylish new exterior
- Top-shelf safety offering
- No need to start ticking options
- Infotainment system is very fiddly
- Not too much in the way of updates here
- F Sport looks far more sporty than it is
The small SUV segment harbours innovation, eye-catching style and bigger-than-you'd-think cabin space.
The Volvo XC40 delivers on all of those fronts, plus more - this has been widely regarded as a game-changer for the Scandinavian brand: but does it live up to the hype?
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
If Elon Musk could somehow harness the speed at which the new-car market moves, intergalactic space travel would no longer be an issue. Forget hyper-sleep pods and one-way trips that take decades, he could instead be tanning on Mars in the time it takes you to pick up milk.
And that's because new models come and go with a pace that makes the speed of light feel like dial-up internet (or worse, the NBN), and that throws up all sorts of challenges for manufacturers.
Case in point? The good folk at Lexus, who have just launched their updated NX into the premium mid-size SUV segment. And with new suspension, a touched-up grille, some cool new safety stuff and better in-car technology, it all sounds like pretty good news.
Except that, while Lexus has been nipping and tucking, key competitors like Audi and BMW, have been working on all-new models. So the question now is, has this mid-life freshening made the NX cutting-edge enough in the face of all this new competition?
|Fuel Type||Hybrid with Regular Unleaded|
So, there you go. My socks haven't literally been blown off, but there is no denying this is a very competent entry into the small SUV segment. The Momentum in particular offers a promising, but pleasantly packed, small SUV for the money - though most will likely opt for the sportier R-Design model.
Across the range it is arguably a bit too expensive, particularly the ownership aspect - but unlike some rivals it actually feels like you're getting your money's worth with the Volvo XC40.
Would you choose the Volvo XC40 over its small SUV competitors? Let us know in the comments section below.
Enough to keep the Lexus feeling fresh in a competitive market, this mid-life update also adds plenty of value to the NX equation. Whether improved standard safety, a longer warranty than its key competitors and a fresh new face will be enough to drag buyers out of other all-new models remains to be seen, but it certainly helps keep the NX from showing its age.
Is the Lexus NX edgy enough to tempt you away from its German competitors? Let us know in the comments below.
I think it's perfect. The more I look at it, the more I struggle to see what I would want to change, because Volvo's designers have absolutely, positively nailed the styling of the XC40.
As the Volvo Cars senior vice president of design, Robin Page, said at the launch of the XC40 this week, the Swedish brand's smallest real SUV offering (we're not counting the V40 Cross Country, here) is like a stylish Prada sneaker, where the XC60 is like a suede shoe that would look okay with jeans or slacks, and the XC90 is the luxury black leather brogue.
It has detailed lines, a bluff and tough front end with the signature Hammer of Thor LED daytime running light inlays, and a bold grille treatment that flows to a square-jawed front bumper.
The scalloped sections in the front and rear doors help ground it, reflecting the ground and the sky to make it appear light on its feet. The two-tone roof finish on the cars at launch - white roof and mint-ish coloured paint for the Momentum; black roof and white paint for the R-Design - make it seem almost like a piece of high-end household furniture.
Mr Page described some elements of the design as "robot-like", and I can see more than a bit of WallE in this vehicle. The tail-lights maintain the same shape we've come to expect of the XC range, but with a scooped bootlid that works to hunker it down. Plus it's 40mm wider at the rear, which is said to help plant it visually.
The boxy exterior is broken up by cheeky touches like the Swedish flag on the front flank. It's playful, and definitely has that youthful appeal that Volvo undoubtedly wants for its entry-level SUV.
If I wasn't sold on the outside, the inside basically did its best impersonation of Bender from Futurama and yelled "shut up and take my money".
If no news is good news, then things are looking great for the NX. Fortunately, then, Lexus' little SUV always cut a fine-looking figure on the road, and the small changes keep it looking sharp.
So, new stuff; the pinched-in-the-middle spindle grille of other new-look Lexus product makes an appearance, and does give the front end a cool and vaguely menacing appearance. The grille is the big news, but there are also new headlamp clusters, new alloy wheel designs and new chrome-tipped exhaust tips on the F Sport models.
Inside, the changes are significantly smaller. There's a larger keypad for Lexus' infuriating infotainment system, new interior colours and a bigger, easier-to-read clock. Put it this way, when part of the headline news inside is new, more ergonomically designed air-con buttons, you're not talking huge changes.
But the cabin still feels a bit of a mixed bag, if we're honest. The screen has grown, which is good, but Lexus persists with this weird mouse-pad style system to control it, which, despite being made easier to use this time around, is still plenty fiddly, and feels out of date compared to some of its competitors.
It may be the smallest 'proper' Volvo SUV to date, but the XC40 is pretty substantial - in fact, it is bigger than most of its rivals: it measures 4425mm long (with a 2702mm wheelbase), 1863mm wide and 1652mm tall.
That's bigger than many of its direct competitors, including the BMW X2, the Audi Q2 and Audi Q3, the Mercedes-Benz GLA and the Jaguar E-Pace. Only the BMW X1 is a touch longer, and we know that model is a beacon of interior pragmatism.
But the XC40 is not just big on the outside - the space inside is very good. In fact, it could be the best in its class... it's hard to tell without sitting in the competitors back to back, but with my 183cm (six-foot) frame sat behind my own driving position, I had ample space in the second row.
Kneeroom, toeroom and headroom were all exceptional, and the latter is even largely unaffected by the panoramic sunroof fitted to the Launch Edition cars we were driving.
Yep, this doesn't really feel like a small SUV, and it has all the usual must-have items like top tether points, ISOFIX child seat attachments rear air vents, bottle holders in the doors and a flip down armrest with cup holders. The map pockets are mesh numbers, backed by a hard plastic protector so the kids don't damage the fabric on the seat when they're attempting a shiatsu massage with their anxious little feet.
Now, those door pockets are great in the back, and astounding in the front (yes, it is possible to be astounded by door pockets). There are no speakers in the doors - so you get huge door pockets as a result - and the entirety of the pocket is lined with the same carpet that spans the floor of the vehicle, both up front and in the back.
That carpet isn't just any carpet... and no, I'm not referencing the orange colour, which is either ghastly or great, depending on who you ask. The carpet itself consists of 97 per cent recycled plastic, made from repurposed bottles. The other three per cent is dye.
Volvo has thought of some really good loose item storage, enough to make you think they've taken a leaf out of Skoda's book. There are good sized cupholders, there's a 'Qi' wireless phone charger in a cubby that's big enough for a few large smartphones, and there are two USB ports up front and a USB-C port in the back. The centre console bin has an actual bin at the front as well, and it's removable so you can take it out and wash it when you need to.
There are other nice touches such as a big portrait layout media screen with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and sat nav, plus it doubles as a display for the reversing camera. You can get a 360-degree surround view camera set-up (standard on Launch Edition models), and every XC40 has a 12.3-inch digital driver info display that helps if feel pretty upmarket inside.
The boot is bigger than many of its competitors, too, with 460 litres of cargo room - and that expands to 1336L with the back seats folded down. And the smart arts continue in the back, with electric seat release buttons for the 60/40 split-fold back seats, and a really smart folding boot floor system that allows you to hook shopping bags on to stop them from flying around. Plus, you get a space-saver spare under the floor.
The top-spec models get a power tailgate, and you can option that on a more affordable version.
The 4640mm long and 1870mm wide NX is actually pretty spacious wherever you sit. Up front, there are two cupholders separating the driver and passenger, along with a strange box-shaped storage space with a (somewhat suspicious) mirrored lid. There's also a central storage bin, which, in the upper-tier models, is also home to a wireless-charging pad, along with a power source and USB connection.
Step into the back seat, and head-, leg- and toe-room (behind my 172cm driving position) is generous enough for longer trips, and the pull-down divider that separates the rear seat is home to two more cupholders, with room in each of the four doors for bottles.
There are vents (but no temperature controls) for backseat riders, and an ISOFIX attachment point in each window seat, but there are no power or USB ports on offer.
Boot space is an easy-to-load 500 litres, and that number swells to 1545 litres with the 60/40 rear seats folded flat.
Price and features
The Volvo XC40 range comes in two different model grades - the entry-level Momentum and the top spec R-Design. You can get petrol or diesel in both trim lines and like most Euro manufacturers, the standard spec is better than it once was - but there are still plenty of options available.
The T5 petrol Momentum opens the range at $47,990 (all prices plus on-road costs), while the D4 diesel Momentum attracts a bit of a premium, listing at $50,990.
The Momentum grade has standard equipment including push-button start, dual-zone climate control, 18-inch alloy wheels, LED 'Thor's Hammer' headlights with automatic high-beam, auto-dimming mirrors (inside and out), a 12.3-inch digital driver information display, 9.0-inch touchscreen media system with sat nav, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, eight speakers, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and Qi wireless phone charging.
The Momentum models have part-cloth/part-faux leather seat upholstery, along with an electronically-adjustable driver's seat and four-way lumbar support.
The safety story is strong for all models - check out the safety section below for all the details.
The sportier R-Design in T5 petrol guise is listed at $54,990, while the D4 diesel R-Design model is the flagship offering for now, listing at $57,990.
Over the Momentum, the R-Design models add some extra kit for your extra cash.
The most obvious change is the more 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, plus it rides on the 'sport chassis' with stiffer suspension, and adaptive headlights with cornering beams.
Inside it gets R-Design perforated leather trim on the seats, steering wheel (which also gets paddleshifters), and gear selector, plus it has a black headliner. In addition to electric driver's seat adjustment, R-Design models get electric passenger seat adjust, plus there's full keyless entry, an electric tailgate with gesture function, and ambient mood lighting.
Volvo is celebrating the arrival of the XC40 with a pair of value-packed Launch Edition models - and as nice as they are, they're sold out already.
The T5 Momentum Launch Edition model lists at $52,990, while the D4 version is $55,990. Volvo claims $10,120 of extra value for a $5000 additional cost to consumers.
The Launch Edition version of the Momentum adds LED headlights with active bending beam, 19-inch five-spoke alloy wheels, a panoramic sunroof, tinted windows, an alarm, leather trim, heated front seats, electric front passenger seat adjustment, seat cushion extension, power folding backrest and headrest, keyless entry with electric tailgate, adaptive cruise control with semi-automated 'Pilot Assist', semi-automated parking assist, a 360-degree camera, and a 13-speaker harman/kardon premium stereo.
The T5 R-Design Launch Edition model is listed at $56,740, while the D4 R-Design Launch Edition comes in at $59,740. The value-add according to Volvo is $6670, but it costs buyers just $1750.
The Launch Edition version adds (over the regular R-Design) a 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.
The NX still arrives in three trim levels; the entry-level Luxury, the performance-styled F Sport and the top-of-the-range Sports Luxury, and there are two unchanged engine options; a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol unit (which is fitted to 300-badged cars) or a 2.5-litre hybrid setup (in the 300h-badged vehicles). The NX is still available in two- or all-wheel drive.
Sadly, though, the extra kit has come at a cost, with price increases across most of the range.
The entry-level (although it sure doesn't sound like it) Luxury cars will set you back $54,800 for the NX 300 and $57,300 NX 300h in two-wheel drive, climbing to $59,300 and $61,800 respectively if you spring for the AWD models.
New stuff includes auto-dipping wing mirrors, a bigger 10.3-inch multimedia screen controlled through a larger and allegedly easier to use remote-touch controller, a shark-fin antenna and new interior colour and material choices. That all joins the existing 18-inch alloy wheels, 10-speaker stereo and leather-trimmed seats.
The big news, though, is the standard inclusion of the Lexus Safety System + package across the range, but we will drill down on those details under the Safety sub-heading.
Step up to the F Sport trim and the cost of entry climbs to $60,800 for the NX 300 and $63,300 for the NX 300h in two-wheel drive (the first time that's been offered), and $65,300 and $67,800 for the AWD cars.
And for that money you'll add a new variable-suspension set-up (a system borrowed from the Lexus LC500), along with four driving modes and performance dampers at the rear. Inside, expect a vaguely sporty focus, with new paddle shifters, metal pedals and new scuff plates. A wireless phone charger arrives here, too, along with a head-up display, heated and cooled front seats and better multi-LED headlamps.
Outside, the sporty wand has been been waved over the F Sport's exterior, with more aggressive front and rear bumpers and a reshaped grille.
Finally, the NX range tops out with the Sports Luxury, which is only available with AWD and will set you back $73,800 for the NX 300 and $76,300 for the NX 300h.
That not-insignificant investment buys you the same variable suspension setup as the F Sport cars, but adds some genuine niceties like a leather-trimmed interior, a full-colour head-up display and a 14-speaker Mark Levinson stereo. You'll also find a moonroof (which is a sunroof, in case you're wondering).
Engine & trans
There's no real 'entry-level' engine as yet, but a base model three-cylinder version with front-wheel drive is expected at the end of 2019. That's a long while to wait, but in in the meantime, there are petrol and diesel models to choose from.
The petrol is known as the T5, and it's a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder unit with a punchy 185kW of power at 5500rpm and 350Nm of torque from 1800-4800rpm. Those figures put it on par with a Ford Focus ST, and Volvo claims a sprightly 0-100 sprint time of just 6.5 seconds.
The diesel is called the D4, and it's a twin-turbo unit, again with high outputs: 140kW of power at 4000rpm, and 400Nm of torque from 1750-2500rpm. If you're interested, the 0-100km/h time for the diesel is claimed at 7.9sec.
Both engines are teamed with eight-speed automatic transmissions as standard, and both are all-wheel drive, giving these little tykes a point of difference against competitors like the Audi Q2, BMW X2 and Mercedes GLA, all of which have front-wheel drive entry level models.
Unlike some of those other models, though, the XC40 is a bit of a porker - the petrol model weighs in at 1710 kilograms, with the diesel around the 1743kg mark... so it needs the power to get it moving.
The towing capacity across all models is identical, at 2100kg for a braked trailer and 750kg un-braked.
Yes, the model name climbing from 200 to 300 suggests bigger engines and more power, but both under-the-bonnet options are unchanged for this facelift.
The 300-badged cars arrive with a turbocharged 2.0-litre engine, producing 175kW at 4800rpm and 350Nm at 1650rpm. It pairs with a six-speed automatic, and can drive either the front or all four wheels - the latter adding about 60kg to the kerb weight. Expect a 7.3 second sprint to 100km/h in FWD cars, and a 7.1 sec sprint in AWD models.
The 300h cars make use of a naturally aspirated 2.5-litre engine good for 114kW at 5700rpm, and that pairs with an electric motor that lifts total outputs to 147kW and 270Nm. And it's here where the benefits of all-wheel drive shine, with the all-paw cars fitted with a bonus motor at the rear, producing an extra 50kW and 139Nm - although that bonus power is only intended to help with initial traction, and doesn't impact overall outputs.
The hybrid engine pairs with a CVT auto and can be had in two- or all-wheel drive, but performance times aren't quoted.
These engines don't prioritise frugality over usability, but they still offer respectable claimed fuel consumption for the class in which they compete.
The petrol is claimed to use 7.1 litres per 100 kilometres, which is fine, but you'll need to use 95RON premium unleaded when you fill up.
The diesel's claimed fuel consumption is rated at 5.1L/100km - again, not setting any benchmarks, but a respectable figure nonetheless.
On test, we saw around 10.0L/100km for the T5 over a mix of some urban driving, a big stint of country driving on twisty and straight roads, and some freeway work, too.
The fuel tank capacity is just 54 litres, so you might find yourself refuelling fairly often as the range isn't exceptionally good.
You'll be utterly unsurprised to hear the hybrid version is the easiest on fuel, sipping 5.6 litres per 100 kilometres on the claimed combined cycle, and 5.7 litres should you opt for AWD. Emissions (C02) are a claimed 131g/km, 133g/km for the all-paw cars.
The turbocharged petrol will use 7.7 (2WD) or 7.9 (AWD) per hundred kilometres claimed/combined, and emissions are pegged at 178g/km (2WD) or 184g/km (AWD).
That's a good start. I mean, the Polestars were fast, but they weren't the last word in dynamism. The XC40 - like I said before - is designed to be a bit more fun, and that translates to the way it drives.
I only had a chance to get behind the wheel of the R-Design T5 model, and I couldn't help but associate this new model as some sort of high-riding hot hatch.
The engine's outputs suggest it could be, and the performance on offer pretty much backs up that notion. In Dynamic mode it offers willing performance, though the eight-speed automatic can be caught out in its quest to lower fuel consumption rather than offer outright edge-of-your-seat performance. But, fear not - there are paddle-shifters that allow you to take matters into your own hands, quite literally.
The steering is pretty quick, which helps separate it from the slowly, slowly approach of the more sedate larger SUVs in the brand's line-up. It is light and accurate, without much feel (it's an electric system, after all), and makes for easy parking, decent high speed direction changes, and good assuredness in the bends.
That comes down to the all-wheel drive system, which helps apportion torque where it's needed because it's an on-demand system. Grip from the Pirelli P-Zero tyres was excellent, too.
Because I was in the R-Design, I had the 'sports chassis' firm suspension - by way of stiffer springs, dampers and anti-roll bars as part of the MacPherson strut front and independent rear end (coil-sprung, unlike the inverted leaf se-tups of the bigger Volvo SUVs). And the result was a ride that wasn't necessarily plush, but nor was it too sharp or abrupt over bumps.
Admittedly, I could feel the lumps and bumps in the road surface as a driver and as a passenger, but I thought it kept in good stead with the persona of this little SUV - something a little bit more sporty than you might expect from Volvo. Especially a Volvo SUV.
That said, I'd give anything to drive the front-wheel drive XC40 three-cylinder on 18-inch wheels and the standard chassis set-up, because it has the potential to be an absolute peach.
It's anything but an overhaul, but the little changes don't dent the NX's on-road appeal.
While genuine sportiness still feels elusive, we tested the NX over a huge variety of road surfaces, and it always felt connected and involved, if never quite sporty.
Yes, the tyres will moan and the front end will begin to push wide if you insist on asking too much of it, but drive it as 99.9 per cent of its owners will surely do and the suspension (re-tuned in the entry level model, or all new in the top-tier cars) does an absolutely fine job of sorting out bad road surfaces, while still offering enough dynamic poise to keep you confident on twisting roads.
Lexus tells us that a key focus for this update was ride and handling - hence the suspension adjustments and upgrades - and general NVH (in other words, how quiet and comfortable it is in the cabin), and while it's possibly not quite as cocooning as we were expecting, the cabin is still a nice and refined place to spend time.
In short, it remains an easy and trouble-free drive, only now with plenty of bonus safety stuff that will step in if required.
The Volvo XC40 is yet to be tested by EuroNCAP or ANCAP, so there's no crash test score to talk about.
But there is plenty of safety equipment fitted as standard - and we're referencing the regular models, not the sold-out Launch Edition versions.
Let's start with seven airbags (dual front, front side, full-length curtain and driver's knee cover), a reversing camera and front and rear parking sensors. You can option a 360-degree camera if you like, and there's a 'Park Assist Pilot' semi-autonomous parking system available, too.
Auto emergency braking (AEB) is standard, and not only for the front - the XC40 has rear collision warning and braking, too. Plus there's blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning, lane keeping assistance, and a system called "run-off road protection and mitigation" that can detect if you veer off the tarmac unintentionally.
All models have cruise control, but you can option an adaptive cruise control system with Pilot Assist semi-autonomous driving.
The NX's safety credentials can't be questioned, with this mid-life update sharing the best of the safety kit right across the range.
Every NX now gets the Lexus Safety System+ package as standard, which includes AEB, active cruise and a lane-departure-warning system. All that stuff joins blind-spot motoring, rear cross-traffic alert, trailer-sway control and an upgraded reversing camera with a new widescreen mode.
The Lexus NX received the maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating when crash tested in 2015.
Volvo really needs to address its ownership costs... these numbers are either the most honest in the premium maintenance world, or the most expensive in the luxury car class.
There's a capped-price service plan available in two different levels - 'SmartCare' and 'SmartCare Plus' - the latter of which includes consumables like wiper blades, brakes (pads and discs) and pollen filters, plus the occasional wheel alignment.
As with the other Volvo models, buyers can choose to opt for a three-year/45,000km plan, a four-year/60,000km plan, or a five-year/75,000km plan. All of them are expensive. Very expensive.
The prices are as follows. SmartCare: three years - $2165; four years - $3320; five years - $4030.
Then there's the SmartCare Plus: three years - $2980; four years - $5160; five years - $6345.
This downside is compounded by the fact there's no special treatment in terms of warranty cover, either. The brand backs its cars with a three-year/unlimited kilometre plan, which is on par for its competitive set.
At least you can get up to six years of roadside assist included at no cost, provided you service your car with Volvo authorised workshops.
The NX is covered by Lexus' four-year, 100,000km warranty, and the Japanese brand will offer you a loan car during each service, or pick up and drop off your car from your home or work. Which is lovely.
Service intervals are pegged at 12 months or 15,000km, with the first one free of charge.