The Volvo XC40 compact SUV is the Scandinavian company's new baby - in every sense of the word. Being new it gets the very latest development the company has to offer - including a new platform. And it is literally the baby - being the smallest XC badged vehicle the company has ever made. For Volvo this is not a gamble, as investments to the new compact modular architecture are shared with parent co Geely; and compact SUVs are a global sweet spot - hence likely to generate good volume too. But we have told you all of this when the car debuted last year in Milan, and then again when we drove it in Europe during the global media drive. So what you want to know is what is India getting, right? Well I am here to tell you just that! The XC40 will arrive in the first week of July in just one trim, and with only one engine variant. That will be the D4 (2-litre diesel, 186 bhp, 400 Nm torque) dressed in the edgy and racy R-Design trim. The car takes on the BMW X1, Audi Q3 and Mercedes-Benz GLA. The Range Rover Evoque, new Lexus NX and a car we still have not got - the Jaguar E-Pace also slot in here.
Also Read: Volvo XC40 India Launch Live Updates
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The Volvo XC40 will be available only in one variant and one engine option
In Volvo-speak the R-Design badge implies top spec - but more on the sporty than luxurious side. So far we have seen the latter from Volvo Auto India - with most models launching in their Inscription trim as standard - well, at the start anyway. So where Inscription stands for sexy opulence, R-Design is sporty indulgence, and sits one step below the Inscription - this will be a crucial point later as you will see. So it is younger, more vibrant, and very attractive as a result. My test car in Crystal White Metallic looks striking with its black two-tone roof. That roof is standard on the R-Design. You also have red and my favourite - bursting blue as options. Volvo could introduce more colours later. On the inside there are two palettes possible. The white car gets the black and orange (or lava as Volvo calls it) combination, while its all-black on the other two. That fuzzy Lava fabric panelling on the doors and floor is an unusual colour and I recall tripping over it when I first saw the car in Stockholm in October last year. Its also a different wool-like texture on that I hope will survive the brutal Indian conditions!
The XC40 is a looker all right. It's great, Volvo has not gone the usual cookie-cutter way of its rivals, and so we never got a small, medium, large version of the XC90 when the XC60 and XC40 arrived. The car's have family traits but are very different. The XC40 is young, edgy and has a very upright stance. The metal work, raised hood, sculpted tailgate and C-Pillar graphic are very distinct. The two-tone will accentuate that, as does the octagonal cutout along its wheelbase. The car stood proudly against the rocky backdrop I parked it against in Hyderabad's searing heat. It's at home in a rugged setting, and very much so in a posh urban one too. The lights are typically Volvo and yet with an XC40 twist. The vertical LED taillight stack screams XC family, and yet ends in a rounded, sunken c-shaped motif that's very modern. The headlight cluster has the now-customary Thor's-hammer DRL (daytime running light), but instead of the hammer's straight T-line, it gets a split arrow-like design. Well, even Thor went to Nidavellir and got a new hammer didn't he, so why not the Volvo DRL inspired by it, eh?
The XC40 is meant to be a compact city runabout, but with some off-road pedigree that will largely help traverse bad roads and such too. The car sits on Volvo's new Compact Modular Architecture - a new platform with a space-efficient rear suspension that will also spawn the next S/V40 and models for China's new premium brand Lynk & Co (also owned by Geely). The XC40 will have AWD standard. It gets the 4th generation Haldex system that (especially in Off-Road mode) can send torque on demand to all 4 wheels.
The steering of the Volvo XC40 is lighter than expected but it handles well on Indian roads
The throttle response and ESP settings change in off-road as well, and the car's tyres are also up to a bit of rough-roading. But this is not a serious off-roader and isn't meant to be anyway. It will give you good approach and departure angles though, and a generous 211 mm of ground clearance (The BMW X1 has 165 mm). It is on the road that the car will spend most of its time anyway. And there you will be happy with a supple ride quality, good handling and reasonably good power at hand. There is a touch of roll at higher speeds, which I did not expect. And the steering is way too light for my liking - even in Dynamic mode. The stiffer ride and quicker throttle response in that mode are good though.
Being a Volvo it is ridiculously studded with safety features. Besides the multiple airbags, ABS and ESC, and hill-descent control, you also get Volvo's City Safety functionality. This allows for emergency braking (even to a hard stop), oncoming lane collision mitigation by actively steering the car out of harm's way, and even pedestrian or animal detection. The car also gets other semi-autonomous radar-based features like lane-keeping, adaptive cruise control (ACC) and my favourite - Pilot Assist. The latter is when the car will steer itself on a clearly marked road; and coupled with ACC will pretty much drive itself. Though you must keep your hands on the steering and stay engaged in the drive, else the system will detect this and disengage with ample warnings. The car also has collision alerts and the run-off road feature - which helps protect your back and neck in the event the car suddenly has to go off the tarmac.
It is great to see all of this on offer on the Indian spec car. And if that doesn't impress you enough, the cabin certainly will. The car has some cool concave surfaces which are finished with 'Aluminium Cutting Edge Inlays' - part of the R-Design trim. Its badging can be found on the sporty steering wheel, which like the gear shifter is wrapped in leather and has thick white stitching running through it. The seats have that stitching too and are sporty. The black treatment gets a relief from that Lava treatment I mentioned earlier - and I suspect will appear roomier than the all-black.
Volvo's big cabin USP - the Sensus system with its tablet-like touchscreen, a Harman Kardon sound system, panoramic sunroof, and the virtual instrument cluster - are all standard. You get Apple CarPlay/Android Auto and also wireless phone charging capability. The rear is surprisingly roomy for a car this size, and will suit most family requirements. Overall the seats are upright and you sit tall, giving you that proper SUV feel. The tailgate is electrically operated and can also be opened or closed by swinging your foot under the rear bumper.
The boot is also spacious enough, and the rear seats can be folded down to give you tonnes of cargo space - yes enough for luggage, shopping, and even the occasional Ikea purchases! Hey I am testing the car in Hyderabad and saw the massive Ikea coming up - so don't hate me for using that Swedish cliché! The car will launch in the first week of July, and will be imported from Sweden. Volvo will focus on its SPA (Scalable Product Architecture) cars only for now - when it comes to local assembly at its Bangalore plant.
So don't expect a locally made XC40 anytime soon. Locally made or not, we have seen Volvo take an aggressive approach on pricing. Not necessarily the cheapest in the segment, but with fewer variants on offer, certainly not the priciest either. And offering much more value than some rivals in terms of equipment and trim. So I reckon the price for the one-variant-only XC40 will likely sit around ₹ 40 lakh. If Volvo can go to ₹ 36 lakh with all that's on offer, it will blow the competition sky-high out of the water.
Photos: Pawan Dagia