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  • Writer's pictureAlain Kuhn Von Kuhnenfeld

2019 Volvo XC40 Inscription

Updated: Nov 4, 2019

This week we are reviewing the 2019 Volvo XC40 in Inscription trim with the optional Polestar engineered package. On our Facebook and Instagram, we asked which review you would like to see choosing between the Volvo XC40 and the BMW M340i; the winner was the XC40. Our vehicle was assembled at the Ghent plant in Belgium and has an MSRP of $54575 CAD.

Fun Factor: 7

Can it Family: 8

Fuel-Friendly: 6

HWY-warrior: 7

Karaoke Friendly: 8

Baby-friendly: 7

City Cruising: 6

For our long-time readers, you'll remember that we reviewed the XC40 during the winter. The model we reviewed then was the XC40 in the stylish R-Design. This time around, we have the more luxurious Inscription version. Surprisingly the Inscription variant has a couple of exterior features that give it a more aggressive look, such as the quad-exhaust tips. We are not convinced this styling feature really fits the vehicle; it may be a little over the top as it is an urban SUV, and doesn't have the exhaust notes that we would expect with quad-exhaust tips. It also rocks silver plating instead of the black plastic-only plating removing some of its rugged looks and improving on its premium look. Being on 19-inch wheels also made the ride more bearable compared to the R-Design on our pothole-ridden roads. In the variant we tested, this was improved even more with the optional Four-C chassis that corrects road imperfections depending on the drive mode. In comfort drive mode, the chassis handled quite well even on the poorest roads we could find for our test. While in the sport mode, the shock absorption felt harder and sportier. Talking about the sporty aspect of the XC40, it's no slouch! In our real-life test with the 19-inch all-season eco tires, we achieved a test result of 6.95 seconds to 100km/h. Volvo announces a result of 6.4 seconds to 100km/h (6.3 seconds for the Polestar engineered); these results should easily be possible with sportier tires. The engine under the hood of the XC40 T5 is the all-rounder 2.0L turbo engine that is found in all other Volvo products. The non-Polestar engineered variant produces 248hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, however the model we had had 252hp and a max torque figure of 295 lb-ft. The power isn't necessarily noticeable at lower speeds; the difference is mainly noticeable at HWY speeds where the overtaking feels effortless for the engine. Since our last review, the competition has made a couple of overhauls to their line up and the XC40 isn't the fastest compact SUV in its segment. It doesn't mean the XC40's position is compromised in any way; we think the XC40 is more versatile compared to the competition, especially the German competition. The X40 can be driven off-road without having to worry about damaging its exterior, making for a great design functional for everyday life. Where we wish the XC40 improves is how the 8-speed automatic transmission shifts using the 2.0L turbo engine, as the transmission always seems to be holding back the power the engine develops.

Can the XC40 be a family car? No doubt it can, it will even do it better than it's direct competition. The front seats are comfortable, and they offer lots of adjustments; we particularly appreciate the efficient seat heating. The steering wheel also has the heating feature, quite practical for the colder months. The sitting position is high, which allows for excellent visibility, no matter the driver's height. The black fleece liner used in the interior looks less extravagant than the lava orange fleece we had in the R-design. Some people may think its not appropriate for a high-end vehicle, yet, it brings the advantages of reducing the rattling sound of loose objects you may store in the deep door pockets and improves the soundproofing. The rear seats also offer heated seats; they are positioned more upright than what you'll find in the competition; still, our kids didn't complain, nor did any adults sitting in the back complain about it. We think it helps that those seats are well-bolstered.

The rear seats will fit 2 adults, and a child may fit between them. 3 adults is possible; however, it will be a squeeze; on the other hand, it does offer more seating space capacity versus its German rivals the X1, Q3 and GLA. In our test, our 3 kids had enough space without invading each other's space. When it comes to the trunk, here again, it offers more space compared to the competition. You will have no trouble fitting a large stroller, a playpen and other "travelling with baby gear". The trunk is very large and deep. It's organized neatly so that when transporting smaller items, they can be stored underneath the floor or if you have grocery bags, you have a divider with a hook to place your bags. You can view our original review when we showed off this particular feature.

The fuel economy is its Achilles heel comapred to other vehiclues in this segment; in the city, we averaged 11.6L per 100km, while on the HWY, we averaged 8.3L per 100km and averaged 10.1L over a 350km distance with 50/50 split for HWY and city driving. Our test was done while outside temperatures oscillated between +21 and +29 with the use of air conditioning. We found that even with the windows open, the interior of the vehicle does get warm very fast, faster than some other black vehicles we tested in similar climates. Volvo announces a fuel consumption of 10.3L City, 7.5L HWY, 9.0L Combined.

On the HWY, the XC40 drives quite elegantly, especially in comfort mode with the Four-C chassis upgrade of our vehicle. Even with its box shape, the body roll around corners is smoothed out to make it a refined experience around twisty roads. Under heavy acceleration, the transmission hesitates to downshift before the full power of the engine is put down to all four wheels. The XC40 isn't slow at all; it just feels hesitant while driving on the HWY at HWY speeds and wish to overtake. It does take 1-2 seconds when putting your foot to the pedal before the transmission, and the engine reacts to the command. We've also noticed an improvement with the pilot assist; this is Volvo's semi-autonomous driving system that functions in conjunction with the cruise control. It now takes corners with agility and will brake less abruptly when traffic slows down.

The audio system in the XC40 is good, not as good as in other Volvo cars; the Harman Kardon system sounded a little echoey. We tried to play with the adjustments and never found the sweet spot to make the music playback sound comparable to other cars that have a similar branded sound system. We think the echoey sound comes from the placement of the air-ventilated woofer as it's mounted behind the dashboard, and the programming may not take into consideration the delay for the other speakers to play the sound versus the front bass speakers. The advantage of this type of setup is that it removes the need for front door speakers and give more space in the door. The Sensus infotainment is either loved or hated by automotive journalists; there are no buttons; all commands are operated through that system. Ventilation features and heated seats can only be adjusted on the screen. The system has shown to be functional over the years. We liked the system, once you get familiar with it, it's intuitive and can be set up in the same way as with a tablet where frequently used features appear in priority. All the settings can be found by swiping left, and for features like self-parking, you swipe right.

Now for the car seat installation, the doors open quite wide, making it easy to install a car seat. Once the car seat is placed, the ISOFIX ports can be easily found on the sides of the back seats hidden under a plastic cover. The covers are practical because the ports can be hidden and don't get so dirty when not being used. The car seat can be quickly latched; it's even possible to install it in the middle and have 2 kids sitting on each side, maximizing space this way. As for young children gaining access to the car themselves, they will need help to open the door; then, they can access the car themselves. As for kids getting out of the car themselves, they will require help, the door handle isn't shaped in a way for kids to open it easily when sitting in the car, nor does the movement come naturally. As parents, we don't see this as much of an issue; we feel more secure knowing our youngest can't just escape.

Finally, how does the XC40 drive in the city? The ride quality is good, and it evens out potholes and road imperfections nicely. The fuel consumption for a vehicle that will be used mainly in the city is quite high; this is bound to change as Volvo recently announced the XC40 Recharge. We can't wait to get our hands on one to review in our real-life test. One thing we wished is for the Twin-Engine Plug-in hybrid version to also be available in North America for those that are not 100% sure to switch to electric immediately or don't have access to fully build out infrastracture. Currently, Volvo only plans to bring the Recharge version to our shores. The Volvo XC40 also offers self-parking options that work efficiently with a click of a button. Overall the XC40 is a nice vehicle do drive in the city and has pretty good visibility. Volvo also has the City Safety as a standard feature to avoid an accident by reducing the speed of the vehicle up to speeds of 50km/h slower. In the case of a pedestrian, the XC40 can reduce the speed by up to 45km/h.

Why would we buy the Volvo XC40 and what we liked about it: Larger well thought interior space and especially for this segment, has a large number of security features standard, stylish interior & exterior, an electric version will be available shortly.

Why we wouldn't buy the Volvo XC40 and what we didn't like about it: The way the transmission changes gears, high premium fuel consumption, no plugin hybrid version available for the North American market.

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