It’s been a big year for the Volvo XC40 since it first came to market. The plucky little Swede – okay, so it might not be entirely Swedish since it’s actually built in Belgium – has taken home countless awards around the globe including being named the 2018 European Car of the Year. It also won our comparison test when we pitted it against the Jaguar E-Pace.
But despite its successes, Volvo has switched up the entire XC40 range for 2019. Gone are all D4 diesel-powered variants, and so is the T5 AWD version of the entry-level Momentum like the one we tested last year. In place of the latter, the Momentum is the detuned T4 petrol engine now driving the front wheels alone, meaning the cost of entry to XC40 ownership now drops to $44,990 – putting it on par with some of the more sophisticated mainstream rivals such as the Mazda CX-5.
However, the big addition to the range is the T4 Inscription variant we have on test here. Priced from $50,990 before options and on-road costs, it may only have the less-powerful petrol engine, but it does sport all-wheel drive as standard and promises the most luxurious experience in the now three-strong range.
Right off the bat, the Inscription sets itself apart from the rest of the range with a more mature presentation while still retaining the same funky bodywork. I personally like the more restrained look of its standard 19-inch alloy wheels and find the golden Luminous Sand paintwork of our tester to be a particularly good colour for it too, although with a design this good, it’s hard to go wrong colour-wise.
While the Momentum looks hip and cool and the R-Design drips with hot hatch-esque swagger, the Inscription looks smart and handsome, and shows just how versatile the XC40’s sheet metal and Volvo’s general design language is. And with that wide grille and ‘Thor’s Hammer’ adaptive LED headlights coming towards you, it clearly couldn’t be anything but a Volvo.
But while the exterior styling is clearly on point, it’s the interior that really shines in this new Inscription variant. Little details such as the illuminated Orrefors crystal shift knob, the driftwood decor trim inlays, and ‘Inscription’ imprint on the headrests all add up to make for one classy interior.
And that’s not to mention just how smart the interior is both in terms of how it looks, and how it’s been designed. The standard Volvo fare can be seen on the dashboard – the fully-digital instrument cluster, 9.0-inch portrait-oriented infotainment system, and the steering wheel design, can all be seen across Volvo’s line-up – while the seat design is pretty standard for Volvo too, meaning they’re close to the best in the biz, but its the amount of clever storage solutions peppered throughout the interior that impresses most in this regard.
From the little bins in the centre console to the hidden storage tray under the driver’s seat, and from the credit card holding slots to the absolutely massive carpeted door pockets, it’s one very intelligently-designed interior space. There’s some practical gadgetry to be found throughout as well, such as the wireless phone charging pad on the centre console or the forward-thinking USB-C charger for the rear seats.
Yet despite how much there is going on, it still feels roomy, airy, and uncluttered in the cabin. Ergonomically, it’s excellent, with plenty of headroom and legroom for the occupants of both rows, and as mentioned, the seating is comfortable and supportive all around.
The quality of the interior is also top-notch, with everything you touch feeling soft, smooth, premium, and properly stuck in place. And even though it’s a sign of building it down to a price, I actually prefer that the easy-to-smudge piano black plastic buttons on the steering wheel have been swapped out for matte plastic instead.
It’s also worth commending the XC40’s boot, as it’s an incredibly well-laid-out space that allows for 460 litres of cargo capacity with the rear seats up and a sizeable 1,336 litres with the rear seats down. Not only does the cargo floor sit perfectly flat with the rear seats when they’ve been folded down – which can be done electronically if you fork out an extra $250 – but it can also be folded up in the middle, creating not only a partition to separate items in the boot, but it also reveals three bag hooks to prevent your things from flying around.
While out on a weekend shopping trip during which I needed to buy a bike pump, some camera gear, and the week’s shopping – a rather varied and particular shopping list, I know – it seemed there was just the perfect spot for everything in the boot where it would sit without moving around and getting damaged. Again, practicality is something the XC40 has in spades.
Under the bonnet of all Inscription models is the T4 petrol engine – a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder unit with 140kW and 300Nm on tap. Hooked up to an eight-speed automatic transmission from Aisin, it comes with all-wheel drive as standard in the Inscription.
While it’s outputs are decent, it’s certainly not quite as quick as the more powerful T5 version of this engine, which is now restricted to the R-Design, as it’s 0-100km/h time of a claimed 8.5 seconds is a whole 2.1 seconds slower.
It is slightly more economical than the T5 engine, however. Brimming the tank either side of driving the same test loop we measured the XC40 T5’s economy on, we measured consumption of 9.5L/100km compared to Volvo’s 7.4L/100km claim – a decent result considering it was still in the tail-end of its break-in period – and a small 0.4L/100km improvement over the T5.
From behind the wheel, there’s do doubting that the T4 petrol mill is just as smooth and refined, with predictable power delivery, a nice wide spread of torque – the full 300Nm is available between 1,400-4,000rpm – and a responsive throttle, but the lower power figures are clearly noticeable.
Where the T5 can truly hang with hot hatches – it’s not far off the pace of an i30 N as far as acceleration is concerned – the T4’s tune clearly has more relaxed driving in mind. And while that does make more sense in a classier and more luxurious variant such as the Inscription, I can’t help but wish that it still had that surprising amount of punch to it to create a real sleeper.
The way the eight-speed auto shifts is in a smoother but slightly slower way than you’d want from something with real sporting aspirations, but similarly, it does suit the Inscription’s intentions. You can catch it out occasionally – usually if you try to pedal it in too low a gear, causing it to require some thought before downshifting to the correct ratio – but it remains predictable and direct in normal driving.
That’s not to say it’s a dull drivetrain, however, as if you do ask it to perform it will make a valiant attempt in trying to step up to the task. Chuck it into Dynamic mode and it’ll bang gears and spool up the turbo just like you’d expect, and while not lightning fast, it’s certainly entertaining enough.
It makes a surprisingly good noise too, with plenty of induction noise and turbo whistle, a throaty tone from those dual exhausts and some particularly entertaining and loud brrps on upshifts all to be heard.
Its chassis dynamics are also commendable, as while there is some minor body roll to be detected, as you’d likely expect, it remains composed even when nearing the limit. The standard fit Pirelli P Zero tyres really do help it cling to the road nicely, too.
The tiller is nice and responsive, although perhaps a little light for some with the steering in its Comfort setting, but it does make it a real doddle to drive in traffic and carparks. It weights up nicely when requested, however, and compliments the feel of the suspension in its respective settings. Ride quality is also very good, with it absorbing mid-corner bumps and particularly sharp hits with ease, never shaking around you as the driver or any of your passengers, and masking most of the potholes and other road imperfections you’d find around town.
It’s also worth noting that our tester was fitted with the optional Technology Pack which is a real must-have as it not only adds adaptive cruise control, but also Volvo’s Pilot Assist semi-autonomous driving functionality, which will control the wheel for the driver on straighter roads. While it would be even more commendable if it was standard, the fact this advanced technology is available on a car at this price point is a real stand-out, even for the additional $2,500 spend.
It’s a seriously good all-rounder, the Inscription, and even if it is lacking a little in terms of outright power, the way it rides and handles and the driver aids that it offers goes a long way to account for it. You can colour me impressed.
Design & Comfort
Performance & Handling
Equipment & Features
- Clever interior design and packaging
- Inscription’s classy new look and feel
- Smooth and refined driving experience
- Inscription not available with the more athletic and less restrained T5 engine
- Some options should really be standard
The updates to the XC40 range for 2019 have been well worth it as the introduction of the T4 Inscription shows, as almost everything we already liked about the XC40 is still there, while the great value-for-money proposition it already offered is now even greater.
While it’s a shame that the new Inscription variant isn’t available with the muscular T5 engine, we like the smooth and relaxed nature of the T4 unit that compliments its classy and sophisticated overall presentation.
That’s why for most people, the middling T4 Inscription is going to be the best bet, and it’s the real sweet spot in the middle of the XC40 range.
2019 Volvo XC40 T4 Inscription pricing and specs
|Price (excluding on-road costs):||From: $50,990
As tested: $56,920
|Warranty:||3 years/unlimited km|
|Warranty Customer Assistance:||3 years roadside|
|Service Intervals:||12 months/15,000km|
|Country of Origin:||Sweden (Built in Belgium)|
|Engine:||2.0-litre turbocharged direct injection four-cylinder petrol:
140kW @ 4,700rpm, 300Nm @ 1,400-4,000rpm
|Power-to-Weight Ratio (W/kg):||82.1|
|0-100km/h (seconds):||Claimed: 8.5|
|Combined Fuel Consumption (L/100km):||Claimed: 7.4/Tested: 9.5|
|Fuel Capacity (L):||54|
|Body:||5-door SUV, 5 seats|
|Safety:||5-star ANCAP, 7 airbags, ABS, BA, EBD, ESC, ISOFIX
City Safety suite including: Pedestrian, vehicle, large animal and cyclist detection; and Intersection Collision and Oncoming Mitigation with Brake and Steering Support
Intellisafe Assist suite including: Adaptive Cruise Control including Pilot Assist (optional), Driver Alert, Lane Keeping Aid, Adjustable Speed Limiter, and Oncoming Lane Mitigation
Intellisafe Surround suite including: Blind Spot Information with Cross Traffic Alert, Front and Rear Collision Warning with mitigation support, Run-off Road Mitigation, Hill Start Assist, Hill Descent Control, Park Assist Pilot (optional), 360-degree camera (optional), Emergency Brake Assist, Emergency Brake Light, and Intelligent Drive Information System
|Boot Space (min/max) (L):||460/1,336|
|Turning Circle Between Kerbs:||11.4|
|Kerb Weight (kg):||1,705|
|Towing Capacity (kg):||Braked: 2,100/Unbraked: 750|
|Entertainment:||9.0-inch colour touchscreen, AM/FM/DAB+, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, USB, AUX, iPod
600W Harman Kardon Premium Sound System with 14 speakers including air-ventilated subwoofer