2019 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R-Design review update: cheeky and fun, but not without foibles

July 14, 2018

Volvo has spent the past two years checking off a lot of tasks: big SUV, mid-size SUV, sedan, wagon. Now it's time for its maiden voyage into the small crossover SUV world, and with the 2019 XC40, Volvo takes on accomplished vehicles already on the road: the BMW X1, the Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class, and the Audi A3.

With the XC40, Volvo may not be first to the party, but it certainly makes an entrance with plenty of flair. The XC40 doesn't stray from Volvo's recent design trends, though it's compressed them into a pint-sized package. It's also cut its own path with a host of packaging innovations and design choices that its larger siblings simply don't have.

With a TCC Rating of 6.8 out of 10, the 2019 XC40 scores with clever features, competent turbo engine options, and an innovative subscription model. But it's not without its flaws.

MORE: Read our full review of the 2019 Volvo XC40

I recently spent a week with a 2019 XC40 T5 AWD R-Design. I hauled kids to camp, ran errands, and bought some organic produce just for completeness. Here's where the XC40 hit, and where it missed:

2019 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R-Design

2019 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R-Design

2019 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R-Design

2019 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R-Design

2019 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R-Design

2019 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R-Design

2019 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R-Design

2019 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R-Design

Hit: The design and color options inside and out are cheeky and fun. Want a white roof, black roof, or body-color roof? That's an option. Want fire-orange interior carpeting? That's an option. Of course, these options can lead the exterior to get kind of funky when certain combinations are chosen, so be careful. The orange carpet, by the way, has the texture of those plastic scrubbies you keep by the sink. We said fun, not lavish.

2019 Volvo XC40

2019 Volvo XC40

Miss: The shift knob isn't really a shift knob, and it's annoying. The gear selector is a stubby, leather-wrapped knob that you push forward or pull backward to select the desired gear. The issue is, to shift from park to reverse you have to push the gear knob forward twice, once to push into neutral and then once to hit reverse. From reverse to drive, it's the opposite, with yet another two pulls. This gets annoying really quickly.

2019 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R-Design

2019 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R-Design

Hit: The interior packaging is just clever. There are storage bins everywhere from the doors to the center console and more. The rear cargo area is available with a cool folding load floor to partition things from moving, and there's more space for passengers than one would expect, to the point where my front-seat passenger commented that she felt like she had more room in the XC40 than in the Audi Q5, a vehicle that theoretically competes with the larger XC60.

2019 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R-Design

2019 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R-Design

Miss: That chunky design leads to blind spots. The largest issue is the rear C-pillar. That chunky piece of metal looks great from the outside, but from behind the wheel it creates a gaping blind spot that becomes apparent quickly.

2019 Volvo XC40

2019 Volvo XC40

Hit: The infotainment system still is among the best. Volvo's 9.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is one of the benchmarks. In the XC40 it works just as well as the other new Volvos, though it still takes longer to boot up than I'd like, but that flaw is something I could live with. The standard 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster is simple yet elegant, a feature some competitors still struggle to pull off perfectly.

2019 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R-Design

2019 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R-Design

Miss: It's not that fuel-efficient. Just because a vehicle is small doesn't mean it will sip fuel. The XC40 is rated by the EPA at 23 mpg city, 31 highway, and 26 combined. The onboard trip computer indicated I averaged 23.6 mpg over the course of nearly 200 miles in a week of highway and suburbia driving. That's at the low end of the ratings, and there was enough highway driving that one would expect it to be higher.

2018
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