What is it?

This is the Volvo XC40, the Swedish brand’s first foray into the compact SUV segment. Of course, Volvo has experience in the soft-roader business – it basically invented the genre when it launched the first XC90 back in 2002. But this is the first time that Volvo has set its sights on the compact crossover market – a market that has become very crowded indeed.

And because of its price point, the Volvo XC40 goes up against some very tough competitors. At launch in the UAE, it’s only available in T5 spec, with a 2.0-litre turbocharged engine developing 247 bhp. That’ll set you back AED 175,000, meaning Volvo is butting heads with the likes of the BMW X1, Audi Q3 and Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class with this car. And it’s noticeably more expensive than the Volkswagen Tiguan.

To be fair, though, the XC40 is noticeably bigger than the luxury German cars mentioned above, being closer in size to the Tiguan. In fact, unless you had them back-to-back, you’d be forgiven for thinking that your Volvo XC40 is similar in size to the bigger (and more expensive) XC60.

Volvo’s also been generous with the tech on the XC40 – it’s all pretty much the same as what you get in the brand’s bigger cars. That means a sumptuous, minimalist interior with a large touch screen atop the centre console. You also get a lot of active safety tech, such as lane assist, park assist, blind spot monitoring, and a 360-degree parking camera. Again, all of that stuff is lifted straight from the XC40’s bigger siblings.

As a result, despite being expensive, the XC40 makes a case for itself by delivering everything you’d expect of a flagship Volvo – just in a slightly smaller package.

 

How does it drive?

Better than you’d expect of a small crossover, for sure. That T5 engine (of a very close relation to the one found in the fabulous V40 T5 hot hatch) is peppy and entertaining, making the Volvo XC40 much quicker than you’d think. The official 0-100 km/h time is 6.5 seconds, which puts it in Golf GTI territory, meaning there’s plenty of pace available.

The thing is, the Volvo XC40 doesn’t actually encourage you to tear about like you’re in a hot hatch. The power is there to make merging or getting up to speed as effortless as possible. Otherwise, this is a car that soothes you with an impeccable ride and stellar refinement. The steering is direct but incredibly light, and the suspension is plush.

In fact, we’re not sure that this T5 engine suits the XC40 that well. In the V40 T5, it’s a very angry little engine, happy to bark and snarl whenever you prod it with the throttle. And some of that aggressiveness has carried over to the XC40. It’s a little raspy at high revs, and the gearing is long – despite it featuring an 8-speed automatic gearbox – which rather ruins the feeling of serenity inside the cabin. The good news is that, when you’re up to speed at a steady cruise, this thing munches miles like no-one’s business.

Grip is good and body roll isn’t bad at all for a car as tall as the Volvo XC40. It’s bigger than you think, though, so you need to adjust your perceptions of where the corners are unless you want to graze a stop sign. Happily, visibility is great, and the feeling of space is carried over to the sumptuous interior, where you’ll find more than enough room for three tall adults in the back, and all of their luggage in the boot. We reckon the XC40 delivers the best use of space in the class.

 

Interior quality and tech

On the R-Design model we tested, you get sumptuous part-leather seats that are so supportive that they alter the way you prefer to sit in the car. They provide proper back support so that you sit up straight, with good posture, rather than slouching low and back. It’s a bit of a shock if you’re used to the latter, but after a couple of days with these seats, you’ll never go back – they’re that good.

Interior quality is excellent at every touch point. It’s a bright, open sea of uncluttered leather and hard-wearing plastics – with flashes of chrome thrown in for good measure. If you’re looking for the definition of Skandi-chic, just take a look at the Volvo XC40’s interior.

The tech is as high-quality as the general layout. That big touch screen at the top of the centre console controls literally everything, and it’s as easy to navigate as an Android smartphone. It’s as responsive as you need it to be, and it’s obvious where to find various functions. Of all the driver aids, the adaptive cruise control is the most impressive – the system works seamlessly when a car pulls out in front of you, and gets you back up to speed brilliantly when the road ahead is clear. It’s even better than most of the systems you find on luxury German cars.

Our one complaint about the Volvo XC40’s tech would be that the AC controls are located in a sub-menu on the big touchscreen. You can create a shortcut to get to the controls in a single touch, but it still adds a step to adjusting the strength of the fan – a step that wouldn’t be required if there were physical AC controls. We like the minimalist design, but sometimes physical controls are just better for some things.

 

Running costs

You can actually get your new Volvo XC40 on the road for less than the AED 175,000 asking price would suggest. Trading Enterprises, the Dubai dealer for Volvo, will do a balloon finance option with Emirates NBD for you – and you only need to put 5% of the asking price down as a deposit. After that, you can get your car on the road for as little as AED 1,700 per month over two years. That said, you will have to pay the remainder off at the end of the two years, or the dealer can buy the car back.

Still, you can get the car on the road for much, much less than it’d cost for any of the XC40’s competitors. Even if you’re only getting it for two years, it’s a seriously enticing offer.

When it comes to fuel efficiency, the Volvo XC40 is about standard for the class in this trim. The downside of that powerful engine is that it’s reasonably thirsty – the official figure is 7 l / 100 km, but you can probably reckon on closer to 9 in the real world. That means a range of about 650 km. It’ll cost you about AED 135 to fill up the fuel tank at September 2018 prices.

As for insurance, you’re looking at around AED 4,500 for a good fully comprehensive policy.

Our verdict

The Volvo XC40 may be expensive to buy outright, but the financing deals offered by the Dubai dealer really do make exploring this little crossover a no-brainer. No other car offers you this much luxury, refinement or speed, for such a low monthly outlay. And if you do want to buy the car outright, you can rest safe in the knowledge that, actually, you’ve bought a seriously high-quality product.