After redesigning and updating its excellent XC-60 and XC-90 SUV’s to international acclaim, Volvo has introduced an entirely new SUV to it’s lineup: the XC-40. A smaller and less expensive vehicle than it’s brethren, it might just be the most desirable SUV available from Volvo. We asked for and received an XC-40 to spend some time with recently and came away quite impressed with it. Of the three SUV’s, it is certainly the sportiest one of the bunch.

Our model, an XC-40 Momentum, arrived in a unique two-toned configuration: Amazon Blue with a white contrasting roof and white wheels. We were a bit unsure about the color combination at first, but it rapidly grew on us. It had a fun American 1950’s vibe that appealed to us. The white wheels seemed a bit silly at first but they matched the white top nicely and were a fun touch. The Amazon Blue, almost a light metallic blue-gray, highlighted the sculpted lines nicely and really showed off the XC40’s design. The front and rear fender cuts nicely break up the otherwise squared-off lines and do a nice job of differentiating the XC-40 from the myriad other small SUVs on the road.

Small as it looks on the outside however, the inside is quite roomy and comfortable. Our model had blonde leather-covered seats which were soft and supportive and electrically adjustable. They contrasted nicely with the charcoal carpeting and black trim throughout. Blonde carpeting also lined the door panels, contrasting with the black trim to excellent effect. All the materials were very high quality, though the carpeting in the trunk area seemed a little rough and crude. Still, that’s the cargo area so it’s not a place you necessarily want the finest materials used.

The operating controls were a mix of different and same in relation to other Volvo SUV’s. The same steering wheel, with it’s thick diameter was used. The control stalks on the steering column are the same and have the same quality feel. The same infotainment and navigation system is used. However, the shifter is different from the XC-60 and -90. Where the larger SUV’s utilize a simple automatic PRNDL shifter that the driver mechanically moves forward and backward, the XC-40 has a new electronic shifter. It looks like a leather-covered triangular ring. It responds to each bump forward or rearward and electronically shifts the transmission into either Drive or Reverse. An icon in the digital display shows what action you’ve selected. It’s quick and responsive and it performed flawlessly.

The XC-40 is just as versatile as it’s larger siblings. The rear seats fold flat to the same height as the cargo area. There’s a pass-through door built into the rear 60/40 seat to pass small narrow objects like skis or fishing poles or rare 16th-century guardsmans pikes through. The front seats are almost infinitely adjustable and are very comfortable. The only thing we really missed was the electrical seat massagers, something we’ve come to hope for in every Volvo we get to try out.

Though the illustrious T6 dual-charged 2.0L four-cylinder engine isn’t available in the XC-40, both the T4 and T5 engines are. Each are turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinders but the T5 makes a good 55 additional horsepower and almost 40 lb-ft of torque over the T4. The T5 in our vehicle felt a little coarse at idle, but under power it felt very smooth and strong. The T5 makes 248 hp and 258 lb-ft and thanks in part to the smaller size and lighter weight of the XC-40, it helped it feel much quicker than the XC-60 and -90, even though they make more power overall. The car had great power and instantaneous response, making it feel much more sporting. Even the slightest tip-in on the accelerator caused the XC-40 to instantaneously surge ahead.The ride is very quiet with only minimum wind, tire, and turbo noise.

It turns on a dime with a very tight turning radius. Something most SUV’s lack. The steering almost felt a little too light but it was very responsive and was very intuitive to inputs through corners.

Speaking of corners, the XC-40 loves them. It handles more like a sports car than an SUV and it’s one of the principle reasons we loved it so much. Instead of the typical airbag suspension that we’ve grown accustomed to in other Volvo SUV’s, this one came with a more traditional coil spring and shock arrangement and it felt more solid, more stable. Handling is much more responsive and sharp. It glides through corners with grace and confidence.

The brakes feel a little grabby at first, but once you get acquainted with them you quickly learn how to modulate them. They can still catch you by surprise during a sudden stop, but overall, they’re effective and do a great job of stopping the car without drama.

Despite driving moderately quickly everywhere we went, we saw an average of 23 mpg in a mix of city and highway driving. We thought that was pretty good. More conservative drivers should see even better numbers.

As far as SUV’s go, I’d say the Volvo XC-40 is one of the most fun SUV’s to drive on the market today, in a similar class as the Alfa Romeo Stelvio. It’s attractive, capable, efficient, and fun. You can’t get much better than that.

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