BARCELONA, Spain – It could be argued that the box-fresh XC40 arrives with the potential to be the most important car in Volvo’s current line-up. With global growth of most SUV and crossover segments showing no signs of abating, the Swedish brand has finally fielded its new premium light crossover. And it could just end up being the automaker’s most popular product.

Debuting the new CMA platform, which was designed in conjunction with Geely-owned start-up Lync & Co, the XC40 finds itself entering a class that is becoming increasingly competitive.

At first glance, the XC40 looks like a product that fits the bill, thanks to the utilisation of Thomas Ingenlath’s distinctive Scandinavian design philosophy. But, although it clearly is a Volvo, the small SUV doesn’t borrow too many of its larger siblings’ design cues.

The new model boasts unique head- and taillamp designs, plenty of plastic cladding and (probably the most endearing touch on this car) a small rubber Swedish flag sited near the bonnet’s edge, much like a label one would find on a high-quality golf shirt. Take an even closer look and you’ll find there’s plenty that sets this new model apart from the rest of the Volvo line-up.

The cabin, on the other hand, falls closer in line with those of other Volvo SUVs. Here, you’ll find the same style multifunction steering wheel, tablet-like infotainment system (although now angled towards the driver) and a centre console with an array of handy storage compartments. The XC40 comes across as a premium offering, but with a bit of a playful side (this one even features lava red carpets) – fitting for a vehicle in this segment.

Adding to this playful nature is the powertrain configuration, which in this case consists of Volvo’s familiar 2,0-litre turbodiesel four-cylinder engine, delivering 140 kW and 400 N.m to all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission. This makes for a punchy but refined delivery of power that works well both in an urban setting and out on the open road.

With its relatively stubby 2 702 mm wheelbase (and some 211 mm of ground clearance), the XC40 also feels suitably agile, but still manages to serve up a surprisingly plush, composed ride; a characteristic that is actually rather rare in this segment. The XC40 sits on a front MacPherson strut and rear independent suspension setup, while the 19-inch alloys are wrapped in 235/50 Continental PremiumContact6 tyres.

Most of our launch driving took place in the city of Barcelona, which meant we spent a fair amount of time in traffic … and plenty of time negotiating traffic circles. Fitting when one considers that this is the sort of environment for which most XC40s are destined. In these urban settings, the small SUV is a cinch to pilot thanks to light controls and a decent driving position. The pedals, however, are sensitive and can catch you off guard in traffic (although this is something that should become less of an issue with familiarity). Out on the open road, the XC40 also feels right at home. Refinement levels are high and comfort levels impressive, although the seats are a little on the hard side.

Both the T5 and D4 all-wheel-drive derivatives will reach South African shores by April 2018, with the D3, T3 and T4 variants to follow at a later stage, some of which will bring the (cheaper) option of front-wheel drive.

Specification for the top-tier models we drove included a nine-inch infotainment screen, a digital instrument cluster, an automatic tailgate and wireless cellphone charging. These features, along with the LED headlamps, Bowers and Wilkins audio system and auto climate control have been confirmed as standard for the South African market. Most of these features will be standard throughout the range.

Ultimately, the XC40 is a highly promising offering. With an estimated starting price of just under R500 000, this fun little crossover should provide an appealing entry point to the Volvo brand … and may just have some competitors looking over their shoulders.

Fast facts

Model: Volvo XC40 D4 AWD
Price: TBC
Engine: 2,0-litre, 4-cyl, turbodiesel
Power: 140 kW @ 4 000 r/min
Torque: 400 N.m @ 1 750 - 2 500 r/min
0-100 km/h: 7,9 seconds
Top Speed: 210 km/h
Fuel Consumption: 5,5 L/100km
CO2: 166 g/km
Transmission: eight-speed automatic
Maintenance Plan: Five-year/100 000 km Maintenance Plan
  • teofli

    I don’t understand why the go for the 19 inch wheels in a segment where comfort matters so much. It will be interesting how this matches with the BMW X2.