Monday, 11 February 2019 () Can a shot of the Volvo XC formula work in its smallest measure? Six months will tell us
*Why we’re running it: *To see if the XC40 has the substance in daily use to match its eye-catching style and if its showroom success is justified
-Month 3 - Month 2 - Month 1 - Specs-
-Life with a Volvo XC40: Month 3-
*We’ve exchanged our high-spec 4x4 petrol for a front-drive, lower-trimmed diesel - 30th January 2018*
If you think that our longterm XC40 is looking distinctively different, you’d be right. Our time is up with the red T4 AWD R-Design Pro, the top-trim XC40 and second most expensive petrol in the range, with prices starting from £35,250.
In its place is an XC40 at the other end of the spectrum, the D3 Momentum Pro – one trim level up from the bottom – with front-wheel drive and a 2.0-litre diesel engine. This one starts from £30,300 but with automatic transmission, like ours, costs £31,850.
It has plenty of extras, as did our T4, so the gap is about the same when you look at the final price as tested: £42,320 for the T4 and £38,845 for the D3.
So what’s featured on the D3? The Convenience pack (£350), which includes a plug socket in the centre console and a flexible boot floor, Intellisafe Pro (£1500), which encompasses most of the semi-autonomous driving systems, and the Xenium pack (£1600). That includes a panoramic sunroof and all the fancy parking stuff – a 360° camera and Park Assist. Plus some more single options, such as the power-operated tailgate (£375) and smartphone integration (£300).
Despite having far less exterior kit on the Momentum Pro than the R-Design Pro, the XC40 is still, in my opinion, a really good-looking car. That’s no doubt helped by the Ice White pack, a £700 option that gives the car a white roof, white door mirrors and 19in white alloy wheels.
I can’t say I’d ever opt for white wheels, but I’m really won over by it on this specification. Along with the grey body colour, it seems quirky but understated and has grown on me. Inside, the car isn’t much different, either – except there are beige plastics on the lower section of the dashboard and matching felt in the doors, rather than grey. My observation is that it’s less modern and less likeable, but my dad thinks it looks more premium than the grey equivalent. Each to their own.
It’s not surprising that the T4 engine is more enjoyable. It’s more powerful, more linear and faster. The T4 XC40, with its 187bhp, 221lb ft 2.0-litre petrol unit, achieves 0-62mph in 8.5sec. The D3 version is decent, covering the same benchmark sprint in 9.9sec with its 148bhp, 236lb ft 2.0-litre diesel. The biggest criticism, other than it being slightly gruff for a modern diesel, is that it doesn’t integrate as well with the auto ’box as the T4, failing to respond quickly enough to necessary gearchanges and revving out as a result. I’m getting used to it, but it isn’t as effortless as I’d expect for an otherwise well executed car.
One area where it’s excelling over the T4 is fuel consumption. The T4’s economy was probably the biggest concern as it never achieved more than 30mpg on average against a promised 40.4mpg. That said, the switch to the diesel occurred at just over 3000 miles, which is the point where we might have started to see the biggest gains, having run in the car. The D3 has 5111 miles on the clock and is delivering 40.1mpg – better for my bank account, but still far off the official 56.5mpg.
Other than that, it’s more of the same for the XC40. It’s an enjoyable, comfortable place to be, easily fitting in the ridiculous amount of stuff I take home to my parents every year for the Christmas period. Two children’s car seats are easy to fit and the panoramic sunroof brings a brief respite of silence from my cheery 17-month-old nephew.
*APPEARANCE *Grey paint plus white roof, mirrors and alloy wheels – a £700 option – look great.
*POWERTRAIN *D3 diesel engine isn’t as refined or well paired to the automatic gearbox as I’d expect.
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*What options are worth the extra outlay - 16th January 2018*
Our XC40 T4 R-Design Pro AWD auto costs £42,320, including options worth £5800. Recently, I tried a front-drive T3 R-Design manual with no extras, at £30,160, which has 154bhp to the T4’s 197bhp. Upshot: I’d buy the T3. Good engine, good steering, good ride. I’d only go for a few extras: Xenium pack (£1600); powered tailgate (£375); Winter pack (£500); keyless drive (£350).
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*Just how useful are the XC40’s semi-autonomous functions? - 2nd January 2018*
Our long-term XC40 is fitted with all of Volvo’s semi-autonomous driving systems, creating a perfect showcase for the many years of development Volvo has undertaken in the self-driving sphere. Its early investment has paid off, with the company securing trial deals for fully autonomous XC90s with firms such as Uber.
UK trials of fully autonomous cars will start on the inner lane of some motorways next year, before a predicted widespread introduction in 2021. But for now, we have our humble XC40, which does lots of fancy stuff by itself, even if we can’t read a book behind the wheel quite yet…
One early Sunday morning, I decided to test the systems to their full extent on a drive from London to the country via some motorway. With few cars on the road, it felt like a good opportunity to try these features.
Full Propilot on the XC40 is easily activated on the steering wheel, and when it’s in play, a green steering wheel appears in the instrument cluster. That means it can accelerate, brake, keep in lane and steer in lane all by itself. On motorways, it’s faultless, although if you’re in the fast lane close to a hard concrete barrier, it can be nerve-wracking. I think the XC40 sometimes places itself a little bit further to one side of the lane than I would – which isn’t wrong but is disconcerting. It’s likely only a centimetre or two, but when you’re ceding control, it can feel a lot. If you take your hand off the wheel, the car makes a sound to remind you to put your hands back on.
So on motorways, it’s fine. Dual carriageways? Also fine. Normal B-roads? Not fine. Which is to be expected because these systems aren’t yet designed for those roads. With a clearly marked lane on only one side of the car, it went into panic mode. There was quite a lot of drifting (not the back-end kind) before the car wisely decided that it would stop the semi-autonomous system running altogether.
There are plenty of other systems, but I’ll focus on two. I see the argument for both of them and am pleased they exist but find them frustrating to deal with. One is Cross-Traffic Assist. Example: I reverse out of my nan’s drive slowly. I can see a car coming from my left and I’ve anticipated that in the very slow speed in which I’m reversing. But the car doesn’t know, so it brakes abruptly, alarming me unnecessarily.
I get a similar reaction from the emergency braking function. I know there is a small island ahead of me in the middle of the road and already plan to move around it, but the car doesn’t know so it makes loud sounds and sometimes brakes.
It’s easy to criticise such systems – which have the same annoyances on all cars that offer them – but this is the price of progress. Ultimately, they will make our roads a safer place.
*EASY LIFE ON MOTORWAYS *Propilot making motorway driving easier.
*GIVE IT A BREAK, BRAKES *Over-keen braking system not allowing me to drive.
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-Life with a Volvo XC40: Month 2-
*Meeting a fellow Volvoist - 5 December 2018*
I was filling up the XC40 recently, when a man in an XC60 parked at the pump behind me. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw him nod and smile at me. It was fellow Volvo camaraderie! The love-in continued when we passed each other in the shop. Him: “Nice new Volvo!” Me: “We have great taste!” Isn’t it great when our enthusiasm for a car or car maker brings good cheer?
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*Expecting estimates to improve - 21 November 2018*
Following our observation that the XC40’s mpg wasn’t great, a reader made contact to agree. His Volvo dealer told him “fuel consumption will be rubbish for the first 3000 miles”. Based on that, we’re optimistic we’ll see improvements. So far, the mpg is excellent on the open road and particularly poor in towns. Overall, our current consumption is 28.9mpg.
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*We’ve canvassed opinions, the people have spoken – and they like it. Here’s why - 7th November 2018*
It has been an easy first few weeks with our XC40 long-term test car. It has been carrier to many friends and family, all of whom have greeted it in exactly the same way: with praise. All have been interested in the car – what’s it like, what does it rival, how they’ve always liked Volvos. Me too, I say.
My theory is that awareness of Volvos is still rising and the good but different looks of the XC40 help it stand out from the crowded crowd. An old friend’s partner, who drives a Toyota Hilux, tells me he likes Volvos for their lack of ostentatiousness and how he has fond memories of an XC90 rented some years back.
That’s the thing with Volvos. People seem to have fond memories of boxy Volvos of old, such as the 200 Series or 850, and none of the bad memories of idiotic drivers on the roads like, totally hypothetically speaking (cough), they might have of a BMW or Mercedes driver…
Anyway, back to the car at hand. So far, it has done plenty of trips around the M25 and up the M1 to my home, the home counties, proving itself to be an excellent motorway cruiser. There is absolutely nothing of note on these journeys except how comfortable and peaceful it is.
There was a trip to the Shuttleworth Collection, a celebration of heritage planes but also cars, reminding us of the wonders of vehicle engineering over more than a century, helping us to progress to today – and cars as impressive as the XC40.
My partner and I took custody of my niece and nephew for an afternoon, perfectly demonstrating the family friendliness of the car. Two child seats went in easily, both in terms of fitting and size, and my three-year-old niece (“I’m four in November,” we heard a lot) approved of the car. Now that she’s noticed that aunty regularly turns up in a number of different cars, she’s a harsh critic.
Still, she was easily won over by the panoramic sunroof, and even more so when we let her control it briefly. The other weekend jaunt in the Volvo was to Thame Food Festival, full of chutney, fudge and deliciously fattening food. It was also the first chance I’ve had to take my all-wheel-drive XC40 off road. Admittedly, it was some very dry but bumpy grass, so that didn’t push its limits, but it held its own well, with far less juddering than plenty of its two-wheel-drive rivals on uneven ground.
It feels too premium and pretty to want to push the limits with it off road – which is why I predict almost no owners will use it in such a way – but still, it’s nice to know it’s there. It’s particularly comforting when thinking about the winter months ahead and my journeys to my parents on non-gritted hilly country lanes.
This outing of over-eating demonstrated decent space in the back, too. My unwilling friend (as the photo shows) was happy with the XC40’s ample leg room, even if she wasn’t allowed to eat churros in there…
The only negative comment I’ve had so far concerns the price. When family and friends ask how much the car costs and I say “around 40 grand”, their response is “well, it should be bloody nice!”. There’s no like-for-like rival in the Audi Q3 line-up but its range-topping model, the 2.0 TFSI 180PS Black Edition quattro, costs £36,945. Volvo’s ultimate range-topper – one up from ours – is the D5, which in this trim costs £37,320. The point is the Volvo might be a tad more expensive than other premium compact SUVs, but not enough to be a major negative factor in buying decisions.
*BROAD APPEAL *Getting lots of good attention from friends.
*IRRITATING DRIVER TECH *Some of its driving assistance systems are deeply annoying.
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-Life with a Volvo XC40: Month 1-
*Top-quality cabin finish - 17th October 2018*
The XC40’s interior materials might not seem that interesting. But honestly, they are worthy of note. The industrial felt in the doors and around the footwell not only looks cool and original, but is also made from recycled plastic bottles. I like the ridged floor mats too. They’re understated, smart and different from the boring equivalents.
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*Welcoming the XC40 to the fleet - 10th October 2018*
Reader, a disclaimer: I’m a Volvo fan. I love its cars for not being ostentatiously German yet still premium, I love them for having a bit of cool Swedishness about them and I love them for their comfort. I sold my 2009 C30 a few years ago, and still regret it.
I’m not alone, though. Volvo has undergone a resurgence in recent years, with an incredibly fresh model line-up (the oldest model, the V40, is five years old and will be replaced next year). Testament to this is last year’s sales figures: Volvo sold 571,577 cars worldwide, an increase of 7% on the previous year. By comparison, Jaguar sold 178,601.
In the SUV sector, the XC90 and XC60 have already done wonders in their respective segments, but last year came arguably the most important of them all: the XC40.
This compact SUV brings some welcome fresh blood into a hugely competitive segment: it vies with the Mercedes-Benz GLA, BMW X1, Audi Q3, Range Rover Evoque and a plethora of cheaper but very good rivals, such as the Seat Ateca and Nissan Qashqai.
So far, the XC40 has certainly proved its worth. It sold 5610 units in Europe in July, more than the XC60 and more than double its rival, the Evoque – which is reason enough for Autocar to see whether the hype is justified by having one on our fleet for the next six months.
Looks are always subjective but, personally, I reckon Volvo has nailed the XC40. It manages to appear different from the XC90 and XC60 while still having a commonality and, crucially, it stands out from all the other compact SUVs on the road. Its British designer, Ian Kettle, has since been poached by Tesla, showing that it has been well received not only by buyers but the industry too.
We’ve gone for the middle-of-the-range petrol engine, the four-cylinder 2.0-litre producing 187bhp and called T4, in range-topping R-Design Pro trim. The T4 comes only with all-wheel drive and an automatic eight-speed transmission, although, of course, plenty of the variants are available with front-wheel drive and a manual ’box. For now, the entry-level D3 diesel remains the biggest seller in the UK, but Volvo expects it to swing towards petrol in the not too distant future.
Our XC40 achieves 0-62mph in a respectable 8.5sec. The fastest variant, the T5, shaves 2.0sec off that and the slowest is the D3 AWD with automatic gearbox at 10.4sec. Our car costs £35,820. We have plenty of options, but even the most basic XC40 has a good specification.
This includes navigation, a 9.0in centre console touchscreen, rear parking sensors, LED headlights with active high beam, cruise control and hill-start assist. Volvo prides itself on leading on car safety (earlier this year, research found that there had never been any passenger or driver fatalities from car-on-car collisions in an XC90 in the UK since 2004, when records started) and so it includes three safety systems as standard.
These are City Safety, which can detect pedestrians, cyclists and large animals, and front collision warning with fully automatic emergency braking; Oncoming Lane Mitigation, which automatically provides steering assistance if you drift out of your lane; and Run-off Road Protection, which tightens the front seatbelts if the car leaves the road and front seat frames with a collapsible section to reduce vertical forces and help prevent spinal injuries, says Volvo.
Our option list is extensive but most notable in terms of extra cost are two packs. The first, the £1500 Intellisafe Pro, gives you more safety tech, such as rear collision mitigation and cross traffic alert, as well as auto-folding door mirrors. The second, the £1600 Xenium pack, brings the panoramic sunroof, 360deg parking camera and automatic parallel and 90deg parking.
First impressions? As I’d hoped and expected: the XC40 is instantly comfortable. Comfortable on long and short journeys, with a cosy, enclosing interior that I expect will treat me well over the winter months.
It’s perfect around town and surprisingly nifty getting into small spaces on narrow roads with parallel parking. I haven’t pushed our XC40 on the handling front yet, but that’s not its goal. Instead, the car offers light if not wholly precise steering perfect for urban driving. The R-Design Pro is a harder ride than some of the lesser trims but it is still acceptable over the endless speed bumps on my commute.
I have two minor gripes so far. The notch gearstick takes some getting used to. Presumably, it has been used to keep the feature as compact as possible, but even after a couple of weeks with the car, I sometimes have to check in the driver display that I’m in reverse, not drive, or vice versa.
The other thing is fuel economy. Official combined economy so far is 40.4mpg. We have got it to a best of 28mpg so will be watching it closely as we run the car in to see if or when that figure improves.
I’m really liking the Volvo XC40. It looks great and is comfortable and well-finished. The ride’s a bit lumpy at low speed but, if that’s the price of lower-than-Audi road noise, I’ll take it any day. Surprised at the current sub-30mpg real-world fuel consumption. Maybe it’ll improve with miles. We’ll see…
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-Volvo XC40 T4 R-Design Pro AWD specification-
*Specs: Price New* £35,820 *Price as tested:* £41,620 *Options: * Convenience pack £350, Intellisafe Pro £1500, Xenium pack £1600, gearshift paddles £125, power passenger seat £300, wireless/inductive mobile phone charging £175, power-operated tailgate £375, Tempa spare wheel and jack £150, smartphone integration with two USB hubs £300, keyless entry and keyless start with remote tag plus hands-free tailgate opening/closing £350, metallic paint £575
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