New Volvo XC40 leads new compact 40 series

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What you see here is unmistakably a Volvo. That’s how well the company’s new design language has been etched into our shared vision in such a short time; the XC90, which started this new look, was launched just two years ago. The look in question – which the new XC40 compact SUV shares – involves an upright stance, a squared-off nose and shoulders, ‘Thor’s Hammer’ headlamps, a bold, slightly convex grille, and an interpretation of boomerang-shaped tail-lamps. But when it comes to the company’s SUV range, there are distinctions. The XC90 is the stately, luxurious one, the new XC60 has something of a sporty bent, and this XC40 clearly has a more youthful air to it. You can see it in the two-tone color schemes, the more liberal use of black cladding around the base, and the sharper angles and cuts in the bodywork. And while it’s easy to fall prey to a rounder, crossover-like shape with this size of SUV, Volvo has impressively kept things very bold and SUV-like. This difference is a sign that Volvo knows its audience, and its competition – the very general BMW X1, Mercedes-Benz GLA and Audi Q3.

SPA TO CMA

It’s also with the big XC90 that we were introduced to ‘SPA’ or Scalable Product Architecture – Volvo’s new modular architecture designed to fit a number of body styles, and house hybrid and EV powertrains. However, the XC40 presents SPA’s compact counterpart, the Compact Modular Architecture (CMA), which, apart from being planned for smaller vehicle applications, uses fewer expensive materials and alloys in its construction. However, it too is designed to accommodate the batteries, wiring and motors needed for electrification, which will be made available in certain variants down the line. The platform will also be joint with other brands owned by Volvo’s

Chinese parent business, Geely.

The CMA is also designed to be powered by engines with up to four cylinders and no more, so expect the ever-widening range of Drive-E motors to feature here too. The car will be launched in Europe with a 2-litre diesel with 190hp and a 2.0-litre petrol with 250-hp, with a Haldex AWD system as normal for both. Less powerful and front-wheel drive versions will follow shortly. Included in the package, at least on higher trims, is Volvo’s full suite of active and passive safety systems.

INDIVI-DUALITY

Volvo has said that trim levels on the XC40 are not just about adding equipment, but about personalization too. For instance, each trim comes with a preset color for the contrast roof, but you can still choose. There is also a choice of wheel sizes in Europe ranging from 17 to 21 inches, and only the top-spec Inscription trim feels overtly comfortable like this car’s larger siblings, the 60 and 90 series. In fact, Volvo has experimented with new materials like felt and textured plastic on the interior. Other clever tricks inside include the movement of all speakers from the doors to places higher up in the cabin so that there can be larger door bins for storage. It’s also good to know that the 9.0-inch vertical touchscreen from the bigger Volvos returns, and is now an integral part of any Volvo’s dash, while an all-digital instrument cluster is also available. It’s practical too, with loads of storage bays around the cabin and a 460-litre boot.

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The CMA platform will, of course, lead to a series of models with ‘40’ in their name, which will likely include a successor to the V40 and probably an S40 compact sedan too. What’s good is that this baby of the range doesn’t seem to have given up any of the style, class and cleverness that allowed the new 90 series cars to make Volvo cool again. There’s little doubt that the XC40 will come to India, it’s really just a matter of when. Expect it to be priced competitively against the X1, Q3 and GLA, in the Rs.30-35 lakh range.