New Car Previews

Preview: 2019 Volvo XC40

Volvo’s compact XC40 crossover made its North American debut this week at the Los Angeles Auto Show, and it brings with it a new model for automobile ownership.

“We wanted to make buying a Volvo as easy as getting a phone.”

“The subscription model is becoming a more common way to access many products and services,” noted Anders Gustafsson, Volvo’s senior vice president for the Americas.

“We wanted to make buying a Volvo as easy as getting a phone.”

Care by Volvo is an all-in-one, no-haggle subscription service that bundles all vehicle ownership costs including the vehicle payment, insurance, all maintenance and service, 24/7 concierge service, and roadside assistance into a single monthly payment, with no down payment required.

Care by Volvo subscriptions will run for a period of 24 months (with an option to change vehicles as early as 12 months into the agreement), and while Canadian pricing has not been announced, Volvo confirmed that it will indeed be bringing the service to Canada in 2018. Across the border in the US, a two-year subscription for an XC40 will run around $600 to $700 per month depending on how the vehicle is configured.

For those who prefer a traditional purchase or lease arrangement, that’s no problem, as the Care by Volvo subscription service will be offered in addition to these traditional options.

In a bit of showmanship aimed at demonstrating the ease with which a customer can arrange a subscription, Volvo flew prospective customer Heith Rogers down to the LA Auto Show from San Francisco. Sitting on a comfortable couch on the Volvo stage, Rogers went online as Gustafsson described Care by Volvo, and by the time Gustafsson’s talk ended 10 minutes later, Rogers had configured a blue R-Design XC40 and finalized his US$709/month subscription.

“The XC40 is targeting a new group of customers for Volvo, who prize access over ownership,” noted Gustafsson.

The XC40 is Volvo’s smallest SUV, preceded by the full-size XC90 and the mid-size XC60. It is built on Volvo’s newest modular CMA (compact modular architecture) platform, which will also underpin Volvo’s other 40 Series cars including an upcoming sedan, and electric models.

For its Canadian launch the XC40 will initially be offered in Momentum and R-Design trims, with all cars getting the T5 powertrain.

That means a 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder engine that produces 250 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque and that makes the XC40, according to Volvo, the most powerful entry in the segment under $40,000. Mercedes’s GLA 45 is much more powerful at 375 hp, but has a base price of $52,300.

The transmission is an eight-speed automatic, and Canadian vehicles will include all-wheel drive as standard equipment. A hybrid powertrain option was hinted at for the future.

The clean, bold exterior design features Volvo’s now-familiar “Thor’s hammer” headlights, an almost rectangular grille, deep hollows at the bottom of the doors, and an upward-sweeping C-pillar. A wide variety of colours will be available, with the option of a contrasting roof.

The interior features a number of innovative and clever design touches. These include storage areas under the seats, a removable waste basket in the centre console, and felt-like inner door panels made of recycled pop bottles.

The dashboard is anchored by a digital instrument panel and a large, vertically oriented touchscreen in the centre stack. The touchscreen is used to control most vehicle functions, and is backed up by a minimalist group of switches just below it. Essential tech features include Bluetooth connectivity, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support, and apps including Spotify, Pandora, and Yelp.

The interior style is clean, attractive and modern in the Scandinavian tradition, with a couple of boldly avant garde colour schemes on offer (including a glorious black and orange combination), in additional to more subdued looks. The materials appear top-notch and include soft-touch surfaces on the front door uppers.

A brief opportunity to sit in the XC40 suggests that the front seats will maintain Volvo’s reputation for exceptionally comfortable seating, and the rear seats offer adequate space for a six-footer, although there’s no recline function for back-seat passengers.

Standard and available creature comforts include dual-zone climate control, Harman Kardon audio system, leather upholstery, integrated mood lighting, an inductive phone charger, and a panoramic roof. Being a Volvo, the XC40 will be equipped with safety features including Pilot Assist, City Safety (featuring pedestrian, cyclist, vehicle, and large animal detection with emergency auto-brake), run-off road protection, cross-traffic alert, and a 360-degree camera to aid parking.

The XC40 will compete with BMW’s X1, Mercedes-Benz’s GLA and Audi’s A3. Production started in late November 2017 in Ghent, Belgium, and the XC40 will go on sale in Canada in the spring of 2018 as a 2019 model, with a starting price of $39,500.