Review | Volvo's XC40 T5 R-Design epitomises Euro chic

Volvo XC40. Image: Sean Parker / Wheels24
Volvo XC40. Image: Sean Parker / Wheels24

• The Volvo XC40 was launched in South Africa in 2018.

• It's the Swedish carmaker's entry level SUV. 

• The XC40 was Volvo's second best-selling vehicle in 2019, with close to 140 000 models sold worldwide.


I need you to know upfront that Volvo's smallest SUV, the XC40, kicks ass. Why? Because it carries a footprint of 4.4 metres long and 1.8 metres wide, but brings a lot of presence on the road thanks to Thor hammer-shaped LED daytime driving lights and a bold grille. 

But this XC40 T5 has another trick up its sleeve: R-Design. In addition to the comprehensive standard features, the R-Design adds 20-inch 5-double spoke matt black diamond-cut wheels, among other items that we'll touch on later. 

This model has all-wheel-drive with the 2.0-litre turbocharged engine producing 185kW and a hefty 350Nm mated to an eight-speed automatic gearbox. 

This all-wheel drive model has an 'off-road' driving mode which mimics a crawl gear in first gear in case one needs to get up a steep incline. It's also bigger than the new Mercedes-Benz GLA, arguably its most direct rival, and carries a badge some might think it is a counter culture option in comparison to the German trio. 

volvo xc4o

Volvo XC40. Image: Sean Parker / Wheels24

Second best-selling Volvo 

As a piece of machinery, the XC40 is well put together with an array of high-quality materials. Since its launch in late 2017, the Swedish brand's smallest SUV is built in Ghent, Belgium. 

In April last year, the company said demand for the model had exceeded their expectations and announced that XC40 models for the Chinese market would be built in Luqiao, south of Shanghai. The plant is Geely, who have a majority stake in Volvo, and is operated by Volvo Cars. 

The XC40 uses the carmaker's compact modular architecture (CMA) that also underpins the brand's Polestar 2 model. In 2019, the company sold more than 700 000 cars, the first time in its history. The XC40 was the second best-selling model for the company with 139 847 models sold worldwide, behind the 2018 World Car of the Year, the XC60. 

volvo xc4o

Image: Sean Parker / Wheels24 

Let's get back to the car we had on test. Glittering in crystal white metallic with contrasting black mirrors and black spotlight surrounds, black roof rails and a rear spoiler in the same colour it looks  terrific in the metal. 

If Euro-chic were a car it would be the XC40. The exquisitely designed wheels deserve another mention. Despite launching in late 2017, the Swede has aged well. Styling is subjective, but I couldn't find anything to fault with the exterior. Even the rear brake light design pays homage to the original XC90, the brand's first SUV. 

The full LED headlights with cornering function cast a steely glare, illuminating the darkness with a blueish tinge to that's reminiscent of the water found in Swedish fjords.    

volvo xc4o

Image: Sean Parker / Wheels24

The XC40 T5 offers a strong punch from its 2.0-litre turbocharged engine. There's a slight bit of turbo lag before a whack of torque kicks in low down the rev range. It feels brisk in its sportiest setting, but that will only leave you averaging over 10-litres/100km. 

I had the car set up in eco mode for the majority of the test period and averaged just over 8.0-litres/100km. Not bad. The XC40's practicality was put to the test when I needed to cart some items in the boot. 

It has a boot capacity of 460 litres in the typical five-seat configuration. However, when the rear seats are folded flat, the size increases to a whopping 1336 litres. The nifty thing about the floor is that there are no obtrusive 'lips' or clips that items can snag onto.   

volvo xc4o

Image: Sean Parker / Wheels24

In summary, the XC40 was a lovely companion over the test period. It's brimmed with cameras and safety systems to keep the driver, passengers and even pedestrians safe. 

The City Safety system includes pedestrian, cyclist and large animal detection and front collision warning with full auto brake. Yes, the car will slam on the brakes if it thinks the driver isn't aware of an impending crash or is too slow to react. 

A highlight of the R-Design pack is the addition of the Harmon Kardon sound system that offers serene sound quality. It's excellent. The model in standard specification retails for R738 800 with the R-Design pack escalating the price to R824 950, hefty yes.

But if you can afford to splurge on a compact SUV that offers all that I've mentioned and more, the XC40 T5 R-Design (shoo that's a mouthful) is a car you should consider. 

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