This Volvo competes with a burgeoning crowd of designer-label small SUVs from Audi, BMW, Jaguar, Lexus, and Mercedes-Benz. But it lacks the polish found in some of its key rivals.
The XC40’s upscale interior and comfortable front seats make the grade, but our testers found the controls cumbersome and maddening to use.
The turbocharged four-cylinder engine packs a decent punch. We measured a 7.3-second 0-60 mph sprint. It’s too bad that the engine sound is coarse and that the stop/start system, designed to save fuel, restarts with an unpleasant jolt at every launch. The powertrain combination returned a reasonable 24 mpg overall in our tests on premium fuel.
Volvo’s stiff suspension amplifies bumps, ridges, and ruts, and the handling is hurt by the SUV’s dull steering. Still, the XC40 performed well in our avoidance maneuver, even when pushed to its limits taking sharp corners at our track.
The touch-screen infotainment system looks inviting and high-tech, and resembles a tablet computer. It serves as the command center for climate, audio, and phone controls. But using the system while driving is frustrating, due to the multiple taps, swipes, and scrolls needed to execute common tasks.
The gear selector may give drivers fits until they master it as well. That’s because they have to move the selector twice in the appropriate direction to engage either Drive or Reverse. Miss the second move, and the transmission stays in Neutral, which is certainly annoying and potentially dangerous.
There’s impressive attention to detail all around the cabin, including brushed aluminum trim on the dashboard and door panels. The front seats are comfortable, but the flat rear seat is low to the floor and doesn’t offer enough thigh support.
The XC40 comes with lots of thoughtful storage spots, including generous door pockets, an open bin in front of the console, a removable waste bin that sits just in front of the center armrest, and a bag hook attached to the front of the glove box. Unlike in other vehicles, the cargo cover can be conveniently stored under the floor, but the overall cargo space is modest.
Unfortunately, visibility is hurt by the chunky rear roof pillar and the lack of a third side window, which most SUVs have.
All versions come with standard forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, and pedestrian detection.
Volvo's Pilot Assist system is offered as an option. It combines steering assistance and adaptive cruise control to try to make driving easier. It has no proven safety benefit, but can make driving more convenient in stop-and-go traffic. Drivers still need to constantly pay attention and be ready to take over when needed.