REVIEW | 2020 Volvo XC40 is charming, but not quirk-free

26 August 2020 - 09:25
The aesthetic character of the XC40 is tough to ignore.
The aesthetic character of the XC40 is tough to ignore.
Image: Supplied

Our world was different when Volvo held the global launch of the XC40 in 2017. We headed to Barcelona, Spain for initial exposure to the model – an experience that saw us testing the newcomer through picturesque coastal roads.

It all seems like a distant memory while typing this from my corner of our Johannesburg office. Parked down below is a (slightly dusty) white example of the most compact XC-labelled family member, in D4 derivative.

Luckily, certain competencies shone through even though the settings are a bit more, shall we say, real world than the enchantment of a Mediterranean country. From tarmac pocked with holes and scars, to wayward taxi operators and other hazards, a city like the one we live in provides a fantastic – often frightening – proving ground for any vehicle.

The XC60 interior is luxurious and cosseting.
The XC60 interior is luxurious and cosseting.
Image: Supplied

The well-insulated and cosseting confines of the XC40 made navigating such discord a little less daunting. The Swedish firm is good at that sort of thing: vehicles that soothe ... assure and imbue its occupants with the feeling of wellbeing akin to receiving a warm hug.

Volvo makes cars that nurture passengers. But in some areas, the nanny vibe goes a bit too far. Like, you can tell that they are firmly against the driver deactivating the stop-start system. Because there is no clearly-marked, dedicated button for that anywhere on the fascia – instead, it is concealed beneath a maze of menus in the digital interface.

And then we have the intrusiveness of some of the collision-prevention watchdogs. For example, the other day I was calmly reversing the XC40 into the parking bay at my flat – as I had done with countless cars before. The Volvo thought I was approaching the tall pot plant behind the car with far too much verve and had the car equivalent of a heart attack, spewing an assortment of chimes through the speakers and slamming the brakes.

Pricing for the Volvo XC40 T3 starts at R571,200.
Pricing for the Volvo XC40 T3 starts at R571,200.
Image: Supplied

Maybe this overcautious nature should not be complained about. Better to have a companion that cares, than one that silently and indifferently lets you plant your hind end into a cactus.

That said, an abrupt shove in the backside is what the acceleration of the diesel-engine Swede often feels like. After a notable interval of lag, it realises what it ought to be doing and spits out the bounty of its 400Nm. Power from this turbocharged 1969cc four-cylinder is rated at 140kW. But it is probably the one to have, over the thirsty T5 petrol, which has the same displacement and an output of 185kW and 350Nm. The T3, with its boosted 1477cc, three-cylinder (115kW and 265Nm) seems unlikely to have the effusion needed to keep a 1,497kg sport-utility vehicle on the boil, on paper anyway.

But back to the good stuff. The aesthetic character of the baby XC is tough to ignore, with its expressive details and stocky profile. Top marks for interior quality, where fit, finish and the robustness of fixtures simply cannot be faulted. Then again, it should feel appropriately plush, since the D4 starts upwards of R698,900. The T3, meanwhile kicks off at R571,200.  

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