Volvo XC40 Review – a deserved European Car of the Year?

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The Volvo XC40 has just won one of the top prizes that a car can get. Last month, the XC40 was crowned the “European Car of the Year 2018. A top prize indeed, and some would say that it completely deserves it. In fact, Volvo has been having a great run of fortune, with the new Volvo XC60 picking up the gong for “World Car of the Year”.

New Volvo XC40 – exterior

I’ve been looking forward to my first drive in the Volvo XC40. This is a car that intrigued me. Volvo have been making all of the right moves since 2014 with the introduction of the new XC90. Then came the rest of the 90 Series, and in my eyes both the S90 and V90 are extremely underrated cars. Both deserve more attention and much higher sales. But the new Volvo XC40 seriously had me at “hello”. Ever since the concept pictures were leaked or unveiled, there’s been part of me that was very much wanting an early test drive. I mean the XC60 was a huge success for Volvo, and the fact that you could get this Volvo quality in a smaller machine ticks so many correct boxes.

Unfortunately I missed the international launch of the XC40 due to personal reasons, but I made sure to get an early Irish spin when it landed here. So, let’s get to it. Did it deserve to win European Car of the Year 2018?

New Volvo XC40 – exterior

Let’s get started with appearance and size. Obviously, this is a smaller model than the XC60. However, it still holds the boldness and aggression, and of course the nose of its older brothers & sisters – but there’s something about the look of the Volvo XC40 that’s more angular and more unique than the rest. Volvo didn’t take the lazy route by creating a smaller version of the XC60 – nope, this car has a personality of its own. Right now, this is possibly the best looking compact SUV on the market.

The interior of the XC40 is laid out in the exact way that you’d find in the 90 Series and the XC60 – of course, the dimensions may differ. You’ll find the Sensus Connect iPad-like screen in the centre of the dash and this is angled with the driver in mind. The infotainment system looks great and it’s very connected, however, and I’ve said this many times before, it is quite a complicated system to navigate around. One thing that really stood out in my test car was the fabulous orange interior trims. The door surrounds and carpets were covered in this. Now, on first glance, I was a little put off by the brightness of the orange, but very quickly I got used to it.

New Volvo XC40 – interior

So, what’s this car like to drive? My test vehicle housed a 190hp 2.0-litre diesel D4 engine. This offers nice and even performance at low revs. The automatic gearbox is seamless, and the fact that this vehicle is equipped with a 4×4 system is an added bonus. During my week with the vehicle, I drove this vehicle normally. In other words, I wasn’t throwing it around corners. I did a lot of city miles and maybe 100km on the motorway. In all, I covered circa 380 km. This distance is definitely not enough to base an average fuel economy on, but I was disappointed at my fuel economy return of 10.5 l/100km. I’ve driven the same distances in similar sized cars with similar engines and returned much better figures. I suppose living with the car for a longer period would result in a better return.

The suspension set-up dealt with potholes and bumps in a decent fashion. On corners there was very little body roll – when you drive it like it should be driven. I did take a few corners with some gusto and that’s when you’ll feel a small amount of roll. Driving the car is very relaxing, and because of the newness of the vehicle, heads do turn. My test car came with 18” alloys, which I’m sure helped in the smoothness of the ride.

New Volvo XC40 – exterior detail

Unsurprisingly, the Volvo XC40 is jam-packed with ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems). The safety systems in the car are easily managed through the car’s infotainment system and can be turned off or on as required. Volvo’s brilliant City Safety system features, as well as a host of other technologies including adaptive cruise control and drive assist.

New Volvo XC40 – interior

So, all-in, did the Volvo XC40 deserve to win European Car of the Year? Well, yes, I think it did. It’s not a perfect machine – personally I was not impressed by its fuel economy. However, as a package, this car adds excitement to what is becoming an increasingly boring segment. We’re getting a bit of overkill when it comes to SUVs, and it’s nice to see one that’s a little different. Prices for a petrol-engined Volvo XC40 start in the Irish market from €38,900. My test model, in R-Design trim, will set you back a whopping €63,425 (which in anyone’s language is a lot of cash).

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About Author

Daragh Ó Tuama

Daragh is Contributing Editor and founder of Motorhub.ie. Past and present motoring ventures include presenting MotorMouth on Newstalk 106-108FM and MPH on TG4. Daragh was also editor for Car Buyers Guide and contributor for Beo.ie. He set up the motors section on Newstalk.com and can be heard regularly on Rónán Beo @3 on Raidió na Gaeltachta. He’s a regular contributor to The Sunday World’s Motor Mouth pages and he also regularly contributes motoring content for the Irish language online magazine, NOS.ie.

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