Since entering Roadshow's 2019 Volvo XC40 has been racking up plenty of staff brownie points. Several of my coworkers have logged lots of miles on our little Swede, and no one seems to have anything but nice things to say about our compact SUV., the
Unfortunately, I have to present myself as the odd man out.
What I don't like
With decades of seat-comfort/ergonomics research and development in the can, the automotive industry has pretty much perfected the way normal-sized humans fit into vehicle interiors. As a result, it's difficult to encounter a truly uncomfortable new car. But I can't get comfy in our long-term XC40.
At 5 feet, 10 inches tall and only 125 pounds, my body contours simply don't jibe with the driver's seat. This was especially evident on my trips from Los Angeles to San Francisco and back. On several occasions, I had to lift my bottom off the seat cushion because it started to get sore. This is something I regularly experience on motorcycles, where it's forgivable. But as someone who enjoys a good road trip once per month in a car, poor seat comfort is inexcusable.
The seats don't work for me on short trips, either. Higher-riding vehicles like the XC40 tend to toss you around a little when you enter driveways, but that slight amount of toss is magnified by this Volvo's seat bolsters. They barely hold me, and the parts that attempt to restrain me only cause pressure points that make my ribs uncomfortable.
I know, you may be thinking,but there are a lot of thin people on this planet. Adding more to my confusion, every other Volvo I've tested recently -- and to our long-termer's -- has impressed me in the realm of seat comfort.
My discomfort doesn't end with the seats. Despite the door panels being finished in soft-touch materials, the armrests within the door cards need more padding to keep my left elbow from getting sore after a couple of hours.
Furthermore, the XC40 is often jerky when taking off from a stop. It feels like first gear is slow to engage. I can counteract this by pulling away from lights slowly, so I'm not asking for a lot of power right away, but that's obviously not ideal. That jerkiness would have been worse had I kept the XC40's stop/start system activated, but the fuel-saving feature is overzealous to stop and not smooth enough when starting. I got annoyed with it after my first day with the XC40, and was happy to leave it off.
Speaking of fuel economy, it continues to be a problem. Just like almost every other Volvo Roadshow has tested, our XC40's real-world fuel economy remains lackluster. My first 500-or-so miles of mixed driving in the XC40 yielded about 22 miles per gallon. After adding almost another 1,000 highway miles with my San Francisco trip (even keeping freeway speeds below 75 miles per hour most of the time) the best I could average after a total of 1,433 miles was 24.7 mpg. We've only got about 4,000 miles on the XC40 as of now, and while things could improve over the long haul, I'm not confident we'll ever see real-world mileage that matches the EPA's estimates of 23 mpg city, 31 mpg highway and 26 mpg combined.
What I do like
The XC40 may not be for me, personally, but there are still plenty of things to like. I appreciate how it manages to look butch but adorable at the same time. Its upright proportions make it resemble a Scandinavian Ford Bronco that got tumbled around in the dryer, and ended up coming out shrunken and cuter.
Despite this Volvo's subcompact exterior measuring just 174.2 inches from stem to stern, there's a lot of space inside for up to five occupants, even if they're up to 6 feet, 7 inches tall, as you may have read in.
Open up the power rear liftgate, and the spaciousness continues. Up to 57.5 cubic feet of cargo space is great for a subcompact SUV, but when you gaze into the XC40's depths, that cargo number seems conservative. I didn't haul any Ikea furniture during my month with the XC40, but I wouldn't have flinched at the chance to pack several preassembled boxes of home furnishings into the mini Volvo.
Aside from the weird transmission jerkiness, I actually do like the way our XC40 drives. Our T5-spec long-termer packs a 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine pumping out 248 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. The turbo four offers a lot of pep, while the all-wheel-drive system is excellent at helping the XC40 quickly enter busy roads with nary a hint of front-axle slippage.
The steering is light and uncommunicative, but I don't care. It's accurate, and that's what matters. The XC40 is still fun to drive quickly and offers a comfortable ride, which is great for cruising. Get this Volvo on the highway, and you discover another one of its major party pieces: the quiet cabin. We optioned this crossover to $42,590, but this little luxury SUV seems as quiet as vehicles costing twice as much.
The crème-de-la-crème interior materials also seem to punch above their price range, especially the soft-touch trim on the door panels. The well-designed interior is striking and looks modern, thanks to a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and a sharp, 9-inch Sensus Connect touchscreen with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Wi-Fi.
Our Volvo XC40 long-termer has a lot going for it. It may not fit me, but it's still a solid machine I'd be happy to recommend to most people.