AA Driven Car of the Year small SUV winner: Volvo XC40, sharp character
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For the second year in a row, the Volvo XC40 has won the AA Driven New Zealand Car of the Year prize for best small SUV.
Twelve months has past since the Swedish stunner was an outright COTY finalist, but — like the Suzuki Swift Sport's win in the Light Car class — there are few things out there that have been able to shake the unique and clever little Volvo.
What sets the XC40 apart is that in a segment where quirkiness is adopted by most, the Volvo manages to come across genuine. The way it solves problems is truly unique — like the neon-coloured 'Lava interior highlights' formed out of recycled plastic bottles or the Harmon Kardon sound system that makes use of an 'Air Woofer' set-up that incorporates the air conditioning system and a subwoofer mounted in the dashboard.
Road test: Volvo XC40 — A bigger hit than Abba?
“On the road, the car handles well and feels flexible and agile,” said chief judge Liz Dobson during Driven's earlier XC40 road test. “The steering is sharp and accurate and it has a great turning circle. Sure, the XC40 could be classed as a city car but it also comes into its own on more challenging roads.
“On the motorway I’d shift out of comfort mode and into dynamic where the result befits the name. The steering firms up, the gears are held longer and the exhaust system comes alive. [...] The car is well-composed even on poorer road surfaces. I even had to engage off-road mode heading into Titirangi village where the rutted road surface was demanding.
“Volvo NZ would be well placed to use an Abba hit in its advertising campaign against its competition — when it comes to the XC40 the winner takes it all.”
Simultaneously, we applaud the other podium-getters in the small SUV class; the SEAT Ateca and Skoda Karoq. Both are ambitious crossovers making a grand effort to elevate their respective brands into the mainstream, and both caught the attention of our panel of judges over the course of the year.
As for Volvo, they're in for a considerably bigger 2020 with the new S60, V60, and XC60 Polestar Engineered all landing on Kiwi shores. Each is set to further raise the bar for safety and distinct luxury. Don't be surprised to see them make an appearance in next year's COTY group.