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volvo xc40 t5 preview does it drive as good as it looks

Volvo XC40 T5 preview: Does it drive as good as it looks?

The XC40 is designed for the city, yet we drove it up and down some mountain instead

Christopher Ng Photo

Christopher Ng

18 Oct 2018

Away from the fashionably-dimmed lights of the launch venue and on the helipad with nothing overhead but clear blue sky, the Volvo XC40 looked every bit dapper as in the photographs. The XC40 wears all the design hallmarks of its larger siblings – the XC90 and XC60 – but with a compact body. 

First impressions were indeed positive. Strong, dominating lines run from nose to tail and from roof to the wheel. And the T-Shaped lights are as captivating as ever. The XC40 seemingly lacks any sort of design language but that, as one may argue, could be a language upon itself. 

The interior was as I expected it to be, devoid of any driver-distractions yet interesting enough to admire. You’ll find the portrait-oriented touchscreen in here and underneath it rests a thin panel that homes the volume control, demisters and hazard lights. 

There are notable deviations from the larger models. The Drive Select and start button have moved from the centre tunnel and found new homes. What stands out the most is the gear lever, which is no longer all glass but wrapped in leather.

The test drive proper started out smooth, rolling down the helipad and onto the tarmac with calm confidence, pootling out and away from the hotel. It wasn’t too difficult to negotiate around the sometimes-tight turns, I’m seated tall and have large enough glass to look out of.

The only concern came from the rising kink from the rear door that may obstruct vision when checking the blind spot. Then again, I’m not sure if it is something I’ll have to do a lot of given that the XC40 comes standard with the Blind Spot Information System together with a host of active and passive safety systems; the same you'll find in the XC60 and XC90.

Heading downhill uncovered the XC40’s dynamism. For sure, the chassis displayed good composure and cleared the frequently-encountered large speed bumps comfortably. The steering felt good, and the XC40 accurately heads into the direction I pointed it to. The firm suspension keeps the body composed as the tallish SUV slinked down the mountain; the all-wheel drive made sure no wheel goes out of sorts.

Shortly after the brief stop for photographs, I pointed the XC40 upwards and headed for the helipad. Scaling up the mountain will give the engine a proper workout. My Volvo XC40 is powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine and nothing more – electrification has not arrived for this little one yet. Nevertheless, the power output numbers of 252hp @ 5,500rpm and 350Nm @ 1,800-4,800rpm suggest the XC40 has enough on tap. An 8-speed automatic sends power to all four wheels, giving this compact SUV a 0-100kph time of 6.4 seconds and a top speed of 230kph. 

I started out in its default setting and quickly discovered that the XC40 needed a noticeable moment to spool the turbo. Engaging the XC40's dynamic mode proved to be the cure, transforming the engine's demeanour from relaxed to racy.

Given the venue and duration of the test, I am sure the XC40 had other charms to show but didn’t have the chance to. An in-depth review will come in due time, and then we can fully discover all the XC40 has to offer.

In the meantime, if you have bought and received your XC40, we’d love to hear what you think.