- Well-appointed interior
- Hip styling
- Volvo comfort and quality
- T5 engine has us smitten
- Frustrating shift knob
- Narrow rear seat
- Mediocre fuel economy
features & specs
The 2020 Volvo XC40 honed in on the Netflix and Stitch Fix crowd, with smart dynamics and style and an all-in subscription plan.
The 2020 Volvo XC40 tackles the most trendy new-car segment, that of the compact crossover. It makes its case with bold colors, funky styling, and—most significantly—with a subscription plan that cuts through the point-of-purchase mess that applies to most new car transactions.
It’s sold in Momentum, R-Design, and Inscription editions—and in two turbo-4 outputs, with front- or all-wheel drive.
We don’t have comprehensive safety data yet, which dampens the score a bit, but for now we give the Volvo XC40 a 7.0 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The XC40 is an impressive piece of work. It departs radically from Volvo’s usual SUV shapes, with a blunt, tall stance that sort of vaguely reminds us of a Jeep Compass—albeit one with its styling act together. The choppy, edgy shape pairs with a cockpit that flanks front passengers with data and gauges and screens—and if they’re tasteful, Lava Orange carpet, as achingly on-point for Scandinavian design as the optional driftwood trim.
Otherwise the XC40 is an ordinary small crossover. It is powered by one of two turbo-4 engines. All-wheel drive is available, as is a sportier R-Design version that comes replete with stiffer suspension, bigger wheels, and the requisite glossy-black trimmings. We like the two powertrains, though we’ve spent most of our time in all-wheel-drive XC40s with the sport suspension. It’s well-damped with available adaptive shocks, has quick steering and a light touch to the controls, though its transmission gear selector needs a rethink.
The interior is on par with the XC40’s bigger, pricier brethren in terms of functionality. Comfy front seats make the most of the available room, and so does Volvo’s attention to small-item storage. Cargo space and flexibility are great, but two adults will be happier in the narrow back seat than three.
The usual touchscreen infotainment has portrait-style output here, and the smartly packaged features get even more inclusive in R-Design and Inscription trim. The biggest point of interest with the XC40 is the new subscription service it offers. For $700 a month, participants in the Care by Volvo subscription plan get to use the XC40 much as they would were they leasing it for three years. Still, we’d spec out a lower-priced Momentum to get the most of what the 2020 XC40 offers—interestingly styled crossover-as-commodity bona fides—at the lowest price.
2020 Volvo XC40
The Volvo XC40 has an urbane look that’s at home downtown and uptown.
The XC40 hasn’t shed its Volvo roots, but there’s a raffish adolescence about it that doesn’t exist in the patrician XC60 or XC90, let alone the S60 and S90 sedans. We give the XC40 a 7 out of 10 for styling.
The available bold colors may well have come from the Dodge Challenger’s paint palette, but the XC40 wears them well. Its boxy and upright proportions can pull off such eye-catching hues.
If you think the XC40 looks different than other Volvos but can’t put a finger on it, the answer is in the details. The grille is concave here, versus convex on the bigger models. The LED headlights intersect the hood line differently than elsewhere in the lineup. There are more horizontal elements to suggest a larger width than is truly the case—important, as the XC40 is just 174 inches long and 73 inches wide.
Inside, the horizontal themes continue, interrupted by an upright rectangular 9.0-inch touchscreen. The available $100 Lava Orange carpet is gloriously oh-so-’70s; just make sure it’s something you can live with before you order it. Volvo has also done a good job blending style with substance with hidden cubbies, clever storage, and even a little litter receptacle in the front center console, all of which adds a hefty dose of practicality to the XC40’s innards.
2020 Volvo XC40
The 2020 XC40 has a smooth-as-jazz automatic and a composed ride.
The XC40 rides atop a new platform for Volvo, one that’s destined to underpin future models. Our initial impressions with this one—it’s quick, nimble, and tidy acceleration and handling—have us excited to see what’s to come. We give it a 6 out of 10.
The 2020 XC40 can be fitted with one of two powertrains. The base model is what Volvo calls T4. It’s a 2.0-liter turbo-4 making 187 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of torque. It’s front-wheel drive and rocks the same 8-speed automatic as found in the bigger, optional T5. We haven’t driven it yet, so we can’t say much about it. We’ll update this space once we get some seat time.
We have, however, driven the more powerful T5, and it’s a real charmer. This 2.0-liter turbo-4 puts out 248 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, and in this roughly 3,600-pound crossover it’s quite the motivator. The torque comes on early, so you don’t have to wring out the engine to get the power—it’s all low-hanging fruit, there for the taking. It pushes the XC40 to 60 mph in 6.2 seconds, a figure that’s near the top of the class.
We think it’s also one of the most refined in its class as well. There’s no uncouth sounds emanating from under the hood, and nor is there excessive wind, road, or engine noise. It is hushed to an impressive degree.
The 8-speed only further endorses this impression. Our one gripe with it: the shifter. In a word, it’s maddening. Rather than use the now-old-school dogleg, or a contemporary rotary dial, this is an odd little BMW-esque apparatus that demands two downward clicks to go from park to drive. If you only click it down once, you end up in neutral; you’ll find yourself stepping on the gas and only getting engine noise without any forward motion. You’ll likely get used to this over time, but in our stint with the XC40 we found it frustrating every time we went to shift the thing.
The T5 comes standard with all-wheel drive. The system is from Borg-Warner and can send up to 50 percent of the torque to the rear pair of wheels. Just don’t think you can go traipsing down Jeep trails.
If you want handling chops, get the R-Design. This trim brings hardware enhancements not found on the Momentum or Inscription trims, including stiffer springs and beefier roll bars. It does a good job of mixing sport and comfort and doesn’t compromise the ride quality.
2020 Volvo XC40
Comfort & Quality
The XC40 makes good use of its small footprint.
Compared to rivals such as the BMW X1 or Mercedes GLA, the XC40 holds its own in comfort, and quality. For these reasons we give it a 7 out of 10.
Up front is where things are most comfortable. The seats are soft and supportive, and they promise all-day support were you to venture cross-country. Heated seats are optional, though, which is a disappointment from the brand that had them standard way back in the ‘80s.
To make more room for rear passengers, Volvo uses scalloped front seats. The trick works—our 6-foot 3-inch editor could sit in the back even once he had adjusted the front seat to his liking. However, the cabin isn’t quite wide enough for three to sit abreast in the second row; put three persons of any build back there and shoulders will be rubbing.
Clever storage abounds in the XC40. It has deep door pockets, bag hangers on the glove box, and other little slots and nooks scattered throughout. There’s even a trash bin in the console. All of these storage spaces are sprinkled into an interior that punches a class above its price point in terms of quality and substance. No doubt about it, this is a premium space.
With 20.7 cubic feet of storage space behind the rear seats and 47 cubes with those seats folded, the XC40 is plenty roomy for all sorts of cargo. Volvo offers cargo organizers that trim out the space well.
2020 Volvo XC40
The 2020 XC40 lives up to the Volvo reputation for safety.
The XC40 has top crash-safety scores and great standard safety gear and good optional equipment. It's a 9 for safety, with only one point withheld for sub-par outward vision, which is common among crossovers.
The IIHS called the XC40 a Top Safety Pick after it aced the independent agency's crash tests, and earned a "Superior" rating for its automatic emergency braking system. The XC40 is a Top Safety Pick when equipped with headlights that are included in the Advanced package, all other headlights rated as "Poor" by the IIHS.
Federal testers gave it a five-star score, including five stars in front- and side-impact crash protection, but gave the XC40 a four-star score, which is common among crossovers.
Every XC40 gets standard automatic emergency braking with forward-collision warnings and active lane control.
Options include the Pilot Assist package, which adds adaptive cruise control that can automatically follow other cars in stop-and-go traffic and also can turn itself off automatically.
Better headlights and a surround-view camera system are available, and blind-spot monitors and rear cross-traffic alerts can be added to base models. That last bit of tech is particularly helpful, as the thick pillars can significantly hinder outward visibility.
2020 Volvo XC40
The smallest Volvo remains a big value.
The 2020 XC40 has a competitive base price and plenty of features, including good infotainment. It also offers a novel subscription service and strong warranty coverage. We give it an 8 out of 10 for features.
With a starting price of $35,340—or a monthly subscription price of $700—the base XC40 Momentum comes well-equipped with LED headlights, 18-inch wheels, cloth upholstery, a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster, Bluetooth connectivity, and a power-adjustable driver’s seat. Options include a package with blind-spot monitors, keyless ignition, and wireless smartphone charging; another package has a power front passenger seat, and yet another has Pilot Assist and a surround-view camera system. All-wheel drive is available on all versions.
The standard infotainment system is the same setup on all the three trims: a 9.0-inch touchscreen that includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Volvo’s system is quick to respond and intuitive to use, putting it towards the top of our list of favorite in-car infotainment systems.
Moving up from the Momentum, buyers can go in one of two directions: the sportier R-Design or luxurious Inscription. Both are closely priced but differ in their attitude.
The $40,945 R-Design is the enthusiast’s choice. Besides its sportier look—thanks to glossy-black trim and 19-inch wheels—it adds suspension enhancements for a stiffer ride and improved roadholding. Additional standard features over the Momentum include a power passenger seat, dual-zone climate control, navigation, leather-with-suede upholstery, a panoramic roof, and a motion-activated tailgate. This is the trim where you can buy that funky Lava Orange carpet, and we say do it.
The $41,445 Inscription comes with many of the same standard convenience features as the R-Design, but skips the stiffer hardware and instead brings real wood trim, more elegant 19-inch wheels, premium leather upholstery, and of course the expected dollop of chrome exterior trim. Notable options include heated seats and steering wheel, adaptive dampers, and Harmon Kardon audio and navigation.
All XC40 crossovers come with a 4-year/50,000-mile warranty.
2020 Volvo XC40
Good fuel economy–but not great–lands the XC40 solidly mid-pack within its class.
Every XC40 gets a turbo-4 and 8-speed automatic of some sort, and its economy is average—so logically, it gets a 5 out of 10.
Base front-drive models with the 187-hp T4 powertrain get EPA ratings of 23 mpg city, 33 highway, 27 combined. The uprated 248-hp T5 comes with all-wheel drive but still returns 23/30/25 mpg.
An electric XC40 Recharge is in the works, and should arrive in the 2021 model year.