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Volvo XC 40
Hello, XC40!
Hollis Johnson/Business Insider
  • The Volvo XC40 is the carmaker’s compact luxury crossover.
  • The compact SUV segment is ultra-competitive these days.
  • I drove the Volvo XC40 for a week and found it to be a high-tech, premium crossover that was both versatile and thrilling.

The luxury SUV segment is getting crowded.

That’s because consumers, seemingly overnight, have turned against sedans. What this means is that well-established brands, such as BMW and Mercedes, are somewhat saddled with legacy four-doors whose sales are sliding. Meanwhile, brands that are re-inventing themselves have a runway to crank out crossover and surf the trend.

Volvo is one of those re-inventing brands. The Swedish nameplate is now owned by China’s Geely and over the past few years has been rolling out revamped SUVs. The XC90 was Business Insider’s 2015 Car of the Year, while the XC60 was a finalist in 2017.

Now we have the XC40, Volvo’s compact offering. You could maintain that this is the most important new crossover of them all, because this is where customers will now start with the brand.

For what it’s worth, the start isn’t what it used to be. Decades ago, you bought one of Volvo’s blocky sedans or wagons because they were renowned for safety, looked good dirty, lasted forever, and were anything but German. Luxury was not part of the calculation.

But it is now. And so is performance, as Volvo seeks to match up with BMW, Audi, and Mercedes. I was lucky enough to try out a performance-oriented XC40 T5 R-Design, with all-wheel-drive, tipping the cost scales at $45,835, after the addition of numerous options.

Here’s what I thought.

Photos by Hollis Johnson.

1/29

The Volvo XC40 that we sampled for a week was a top-level T5 all-wheel-drive crossover, with the “R-Design” treatment. This is the Volvo that zigs! Ours had a “Bursting Blue Metallic” paint job.

The Volvo XC40 that we sampled for a week was a top-level T5 all-wheel-drive crossover, with the Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

2/29

We’ve also sampled the XC90 and the XC60. The XC40 is the smallest of the trio, but I like its sleeked-yet-still-boxy Volvo looks more than the XC60’s.

We've also sampled the XC90 and the XC60. The XC40 is the smallest of the trio, but I like its sleeked-yet-still-boxy Volvo looks more than the XC60's. Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

3/29

The grille is all signature Volvo elements: the legendary badge, along with the newer “Thor’s hammer” headlights.

The grille is all signature Volvo elements: the legendary badge, along with the newer Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

4/29

As compact, near-luxury crossovers go, the XC40 fits nicely into the segment. The styling is angular and linear, with few swoops or curves or to distract from the basic silhouette.

As compact, near-luxury crossovers go, the XC40 fits nicely into the segment. The styling is angular and linear, with few swoops or curves or to distract from the basic silhouette. Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

5/29

The road presence, as one might expect from a small SUV with an elevated ride height, is sort of spindly. This isn’t a solid-looking Volvo; rather, it exudes youth and pep.

So what's the verdict? Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

6/29

The 19-inch wheels aren’t really large enough to fill the arches — but 20- and 21-inchers are available.

The 19-inch wheels aren't really large enough to fill the arches — but 20- and 21-inchers are available. Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

7/29

The rear is arguably the XC40’s best angle.

The rear is arguably the XC40's best angle. Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

8/29

If we zoom in, you’ll notice the relatively graceful integration of numerous design elements.

If we zoom in, you'll notice the relatively graceful integration of numerous design elements. Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

9/29

Angles galore! But the two-tone roof-body treatment, the crimped rear window, the hatch spoiler and the jagged shape of the tail lights all echo each other.

Angles galore! But the two-tone roof-body treatment, the crimped rear window, the hatch spoiler and the jagged shape of the tail lights all echo each other. Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

10/29

Straight in, the rear presents a familiar Volvo appearance — one that the brand has been using for a decade.

Straight in, the rear presents a familiar Volvo appearance — one that the brand has been using for a decade. Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

11/29

As snazzy as the headlights are, the tail lights have a more stunning configuration.

As snazzy as the headlights are, the tail lights have a more stunning configuration. Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

12/29

Cargo capacity amount to roughly 12 cubic feet, which is plenty for typical hauling duties, such as grocery store runs and weekend trips. Drop the rear seats and you have close to 60 cubic feet.