2019 Volvo XC40 long-term update: Great for the long haul

In which I pack my family of giants into our little SUV for a west coast road trip.

Kyle Hyatt Former news and features editor
Kyle Hyatt (he/him/his) hails originally from the Pacific Northwest, but has long called Los Angeles home. He's had a lifelong obsession with cars and motorcycles (both old and new).
Kyle Hyatt
3 min read
2019 Volvo XC40
Manuel Carrillo III/Roadshow

Small crossover SUVs tend to strike me as boring and forgettable. But Volvo's XC40 isn't like that. With its great design and long list of equipment, it appeals to the masses without skimping on quirk and charm.

Despite being relatively diminutive on the outside, the XC40 is plenty roomy inside. And during a recent road trip in our long-term XC40 from Los Angeles to San Francisco and back, that interior spaciousness was really put to the test.

I'm 6 feet, 4 inches tall, and my wife is 6 foot 2. Already, we aren't exactly the target demographic for a subcompact vehicle, SUV or not. Add my father-in-law to the mix -- a man who stands 6 feet, 7 inches tall -- and you've got three giants all packed into the little XC40.

Meet Roadshow's long-term 2019 Volvo XC40

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Yet the Volvo proved to be surprisingly comfortable during this long day of driving up California's Pacific Coast Highway. I found the front seats of our XC40 to be supportive and surprisingly plush, especially compared to other vehicles in this class, such as the BMW X2 and Mercedes GLA, but not up to the standards set by more expensive vehicles in Volvo's lineup, such as the V90.

Front seat legroom was ample, but the reports from the rear seats were less favorable. Headroom is usually a problem for me in almost everything I drive, being as though I'm long of torso. I'm happy to say that I didn't have any issues with it in the XC40 and never found myself scrunching down to avoid bumping my head.

I have to praise our long-termer for its excellent stereo, lots of USB ports and wireless charging pad -- all of which make life with the Volvo a lot easier. The in-car Wi-Fi hotspot is a godsend, too. My wife was able to get on her laptop and study for her grad school finance midterm in the back seat, while her father and I enjoyed audiobooks up front.

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Our little long-term Volvo XC40 was a champ on the trek up the California coast.

Kyle Hyatt/Roadshow

Pros and cons

My long road trip was one part of a month-long stint with Roadshow's long-term XC40. During the rest of my time, I found a number of things to like about this little SUV.

The smart cargo area is a particularly lovely thing. The degree to which you're able to configure the cargo area with various bag hooks and dividers makes the XC40 super practical. The folding cargo floor divider is one of the most useful in-car things I've seen in a long time.

I'm glad we opted for the more powerful T5 engine, rather than the lower-output, standard T4. With 248 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, the XC40 has ample power for passing tourists in RVs going up Highway 1.

The XC40's ride quality is great, too. It certainly errs toward comfort rather than sportiness, and I think that's fine. The Volvo easily soaks up bumps and smooths out crappy coastal roads, but doesn't give much up in the way of handling. The steering is pretty light and not especially communicative, but really, who cares? This car drives exactly as it should, given the subcompact XC40's intended purpose.

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Life with the XC40 is generally quite pleasant.

Kyle Hyatt/Roadshow

That said, the XC40 isn't perfect. I wasn't able to come anywhere close to the SUV's 26 miles per gallon combined fuel economy rating; many Roadshow editors have had a hard time achieving the EPA's numbers in Volvo cars. Even on long stints of highway cruising, fuel economy isn't as good as it should be.

The automatic emergency braking system is also far too eager to step in when it thinks a collision is imminent. With the loud alarm, red flashing lights and sudden force of the brake, it's a jarring experience, especially when it's unwarranted. I found it better to just turn this off. Of course, I do have to praise Volvo for offering such a robust suite of safety systems in a car at this price.

Overall, I found my time with the XC40 to be incredibly pleasant. Volvo has always made cars that quietly impress, worming their way into your heart when you're not looking. The XC40 is no exception.

Watch this: 2019 Volvo XC40 packs a lot of charm into a small package