The small SUV market in India is growing at a rapid pace and how! From budget manufacturers to luxury carmakers, everyone wants a piece of the cake from the small SUV's impressive sales. Volvo’s take on small SUV – the XC40 - was launched in 2018, completing the XC SUV series in India for Volvo – the XC40, XC60 and XC90. We drove the SUV during the first drive event and came mighty impressed with what the Swedish brand had to offer. The Mercedes GLA/ Audi Q3/ BMW X1 competitor had something special about it, which as it happens, can’t be understood in whatever little time we have with cars during the first drive event. What we did is ask Volvo to lend us the XC40 again, this time for a considerable amount of time and realize the full potential of the SUV. Here’s our road test review of the Volvo XC40 Inscription, understanding if safety and design alone is enough or does this SUV excel in the driving department too?
The Volvo XC40 is built on the company’s new CMA (compact modular architecture) platform, and will underpin the future 40-series cars. The design of the XC40 is nothing like its bigger siblings, apart from a couple of signature design elements like the Thor’s Hammer headlights, the boomerang-style tail-light and the concave vertical slat grille. The rest of the car looks like a proper SUV with beefy and squarish design, probably the best in the segment. There’s an ample use of straight lines, and the large wheel arches along with 18-inch wheels and the segment best 211 mm ground clearance, make it look quite high as compared to the rivals. For us, the stand out design element would be the large hexagonal crease on each side of the XC40 and the dual tone exterior shade. Also, while the White colour in most of the cars can subdue the charm, the XC40 looks premium in this shade.
The cabin of the XC40 reminds you of the rest of the new-age Volvo cars and is stylish to say the least, thanks to an all-black cabin. The test unit we drove during our first drive reviews had a black cabin with lava trim. The signature large portrait 9-inch Sensus touchscreen system with a Harman Kardon powered 13-speaker music system performs most of the functions in the car, including climate control, safety features, music and more.
The highlight for us was the crystal gearknob designed especially for Volvo by glass-specialist Orrefors Sweden. The small joystick is not only attractive to see, it has a certain intangible feel to it when you shift the gear and adds a classy touch to the cabin. The other stand out bits include swoopy door handles, frameless inner rear-view mirror, and the vertically stacked AC vents. Feature wise, the Volvo XC40 is offered with an inductive charging pad for the mobile phones, panoramic sunroof, heated seats, a powered tailgate, fully digital instrument panel with navigation support. The sub-woofer is installed under the dashboard for better acoustics throw.
Practicality-wise, the XC40 gets foldable rear seats that increases the boot space from 460-litres to 1,336-litres. There’s also an underfloor storage area in the boot with an additional 73-litres. No speakers in the doors mean there’s a huge space in the door pockets to place bottles, or even a laptop. The armrest box is big enough and has a removable bin. There are also seat trays under the front seats, retractable shopping hooks, and other cubby holes to keep your stuff.
The driver seat is nice and comfortable with ample thigh support and a prominent side bolstering. However, seating 5-full grown adults can be a difficult task as the cabin is more suited for 4 people. But that’s the only negative we can find in the otherwise immaculately designed and loaded cabin of Volvo XC40.
Volvo is offering the XC40 in India with only one engine option – the D4 diesel engine that comes with an all-wheel drive system as standard. The D4 diesel is a 2.0-litre engine producing 190hp and 400 Nm, and is mated to an eight-speed automatic gearbox. Thanks to the CMA platform, Volvo might add a hybrid unit in the later stage. Volvo cars are not an out and out performers, and the D4 in XC40 is the same, but then, it has a very linear delivery, making it drivable throughout the rev range. There are four driving modes to choose from, including Dynamic, Comfort and Eco mode. If you want to keep the driver inside you alive, dynamic mode is your best friend. The suspension is tuned well for the Indian roads and gives a plush ride quality. The XC40 rides high and the body roll can be felt at high speeds around corners, but it’s not that prominent. The steering is intuitive and responds well to all the conditions.
As always Volvo XC40 is as safe as it can get, and they have retained their ‘safest car manufacturer in the world’ tag with the XC40 SUV. Apart from the airbags, ABS, TCS, hill ascent and descent and park assist, there’s the driver assistance systems like the Blind Spot Information, road-sign reading, lane keep assist, and the run off road mitigation system. The run off mitigation alerts the driver if the car leaves the road unintentionally through steering inputs. It also gets a radar based active safety system with adaptive cruise control, pedestrian and large animal detection. We tried our hands on each and every safety aid and the XC40 worked perfectly fine in most of the conditions, barring a few occasions when someone would cut the lane and hope in front. That said, these systems are available for driver’s aid in case of an emergency and are not to play around with.
The Volvo XC40 is an entry-level SUV offering from the house of Swedish carmaker and is priced at Rs 39.90 Lakh (ex-showroom) for the Momentum variant and Rs 43.90 Lakh (ex-showroom) for the Inscription variant, the one we drove. While the rivals offer a better priced deal in this segment (BMW X1 starts at Rs 35.20), if you go for a fully loaded variant, they are priced at par with the XC40 price, minus all the futuristic safety features. What you get for this amount is a beefy looking luxury SUV with super safety and some great features too. More than the gadgets itself, it’s the little details Volvo has worked on, that makes you feel good while driving this car. Volvo has not only managed to keep the big three Germans at the bay with this product, they have actually come out a winner in this segment.