What you see here is unmistakably a Volvo. That’s how well the company’s new design language has been etched into our collective 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 colour 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 differentiation is a sign that Volvo knows its audience, and its competition – the very popular 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 introduces SPA’s compact counterpart, the Compact Modular Architecture (CMA), which, apart from being designed 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 shared with other brands owned by Volvo’s Chinese parent company, 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 2.0-litre diesel with 190hp and a 2.0-litre petrol with 250hp, with a Haldex AWD system as standard 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.
Volvo has said that trim levels on the XC40 are not just about adding equipment, but about personalisation too. For instance, each trim comes with a preset colour 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 luxurious 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.
THE 40 SERIES
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.
HANDLE WITH CARE
More revolutionary than the XC40 itself is the way Volvo plans to sell it in some markets. It wants to bring the ‘subscription’ model of consumption, popularised by the likes of Netflix and Apple Music, to car ownership, and it’s called Care by Volvo. The idea is, rather than purchasing a car with a single amount, you pay Volvo an annual subscription fee. This not only lets you lease the car itself, but also includes servicing, maintenance and insurance too. This business model throws car ownership on its head, because it means you can simply swap your car for a newer, better model after a short while, with only a slight modification to your subscription fee. Volvo says the programme also lets you try new models, say, for a week, as they come out, and opens up the possibility of shared ownership, where multiple users drive the car and split the costs evenly. Could this be how we buy our cars in the future?