AA Driven COTY 2018: Why the Volvo XC40 made the top 10
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One glance at the bright orange carpet might set you on a path to thinking that the new Volvo XC40 is some kind of eccentric weirdo. Somewhat compounding the equation is the funky styling, with curious shapes and fixtures in the cabin complemented by a unique exterior.
None of this is particularly new for the Volvo brand, of course. It has always appeared slightly left of centre, especially when looked upon next to German alternatives from the four rings, the two kidneys, and the three-pointed star alike.
But, that knack for the alternative has always been backed up by thoughtfulness and safety, and in both cases the XC40 is exemplary. Few therefore were surprised to see it join the finalist ranks of 2018’s AA Driven New Zealand Car of the Year showdown.
Built on Geely’s new Compact Modular Architecture (CMA) platform, the XC40 is Volvo’s first foray into the premium compact SUV space.
There are three models (the $59,900 Momentum, the $67,900 Inscription, and $72,900 R-Design) and two different engines; the 140kW T4 turbocharged 2-litre unit and the more powerful 182kW turbocharged 2-litre four-cylinder derived from the larger XC60.
Click here to read Driven's full Volvo XC40 road test
While Volvo New Zealand has previously circled the Momentum as the model expected to hoover up the most sales, our testing revolved around the more exclusive R-Line (in particular, the Launch Edition package). Coupled with its beefed up powertrain, its performance didn’t disappoint on track at our Pukekohe Raceway test facility.
“It feels light and agile to drive, and is a quiet cruiser on the motorway. And of course it is fitted with the latest driver assist and safety technology Volvo is renowned for,” say the AA Driven New Zealand Car of the Year judges.
“The Chinese owners have let the Scandinavians get on with developing a model that enhances Volvo’s international reputation.”
Yes, being a Volvo it’s no surprise that safety is one of the jewels in the XC40’s shiny crown.
The requisite suite of blind-spot monitoring, cross-traffic alert, and lane keep assist all make an appearance. But Volvo went the extra mile with some of its other technologies — namely its City Safety functionality.
City Safety encompasses pedestrian detection, cyclist detection, run-off detection, and vehicle detection; all made possible via a complex web of sensors that provide the car with constant updates on the nature of its surroundings.
Admittedly, it’s a suite that we’ve found to be overly sensitive in some applications. But nonetheless it’s right more often than wrong, and it helps the XC40 achieve a five-star ANCAP safety rating. (Two-wheel drive models are yet to be put through the same test, but expect them to also achieve the high mark.)
The investment in safety is matched by the level of equipment. This Launch Edition tester came equipped with adaptive cruise control, Harman Kardon audio, parking assist, and a 360-degree parking camera as standard.
But the one thing that ensures the XC40 stands out from the compact SUV crowd is its character.
Plenty of vehicles in this segment try to boast about character, of course. Much of it manifests itself in off-the-wall design and kooky colours. The key to truly selling character is to couple it with a sense of authenticity, and it’s clear this wasn’t lost on Volvo.
That orange carpet (“Lava Interior Highlights”, in Volvo spec-sheet speak) is made from 100 per cent recycled plastic bottles. And it’s just the start of an interior space filled not only with curious shapes, but also with alternative thinking.
The Harmon Kardon sound system pumps sound to the front seats not through large door speakers, but rather through a speaker mounted behind the dashboard that booms sound through the air vents. This frees up an enormous space in each door pocket big enough to store a generously sized lap top, books on Swedish Minimalism, several blocks of cheese ... or whatever the owner fancies.
The centre console houses a wireless phone charger and a detachable and washable storage compartment (read; “rubbish bin”), there’s a curry hook on the glovebox door to prevent your orange butter chicken from staining the orange floor, and all of it is wrapped in a design that looks like no other SUV on the market.
And finally, there’s the boot. Opened via a kick underneath the “O” in the tailgate’s Volvo logo, you’re presented with a 432L space that’s customisable in a raft of ways.
The boot floor folds, revealing a range of shopping hooks to prevent the week’s groceries from rolling about on the drive home. The space underneath the boot floor is lockable (handy for safekeeping any items you want hidden), and one-touch buttons make folding the second row of seats easy. This in turn boosts boot capacity to 1308L total.
So yes, the Volvo XC40 is a clever, sharp looking, and fun-to-drive compact SUV. And the best thing of all? You can get it with black carpet, too.
• As a finalist in the AA Driven New Zealand Car of the Year award, the Volvo XC40 is also a contender for the People’s Choice Award. Cast your vote by clicking here. Your entry could win an eight-night Fiji cruise for two.