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VOLVO XC40 LAUNCHED ON LOCAL SOIL

Volvo’s first premium compact SUV, the XC40 recently made landfall and jaws dropped in SA. BERNIE HELLBERG was there to sample the 2018 European COTY winner.

Volvo Car has been hard at work over the last few years, crafting a series of world-beating vehicles that has global appeal, with the financial backing from Chinese automotive powerhouse, Geely.

As Sweden’s only remaining car producer, Volvo seemed on the brink of collapse, being handed from suitor to suitor in a game of corporate pass-along that nearly collapsed the brand altogether.

But, the XC90 changed all that when it debuted in 2014, breaking down barriers and smashing records for Volvo everywhere. In South Africa too, it snagged the title of 2016 WesBank South African Car of the Year, winning over any critic the brand may have had left over.

XC90 LITE?

From the first glimpse of the new XC40 it is clear that the little premium SUV is familial to the XC90, but with its own unmistakable charm. Clean, Swedish lines and bold angles, the expressive exterior is fresh, almost revolutionary, contemporary, but also instantly classic.

Volvo’s unique T-shaped LED lighting signature dubbed “Thor’s Hammer” is carried over from other recent Volvo models. Optional high-level LED lights are also available and feature bending lights for better visibility while cornering.

The bespoke interior inherits all of Volvo’s latest design elements, including the 9” Sensus Connect touchscreen and digital instrument cluster. New design elements like the optional contrasting black or white roof, white mirror caps and wheels, Oxide Red leather and ‘Lava’ carpets, which are made from 100% recycled materials, will allow XC40 customers the freedom to express a more individualistic style.

Besides being sexy outside and in, the XC40 is also a maven of practicality. Smart features like a removable rubbish bin, a cubby hole hook, a dedicated smartphone storage area with wireless (inductive) charging, and a multi-adaptable boot floor transform a typically cluttered and sometimes messy car interior into a place of serenity and organised efficiency. It’s Swedish minimalism and functionality at its best, combined with sensibility perfectly-suited to busy South African lifestyles.

XC40 TRIM UP

Volvo model ranges mostly carry similar names – denoting engine derivative, gearbox type and trim level – and the XC40 is no exception. Launched locally with a choice of two trim levels – sporty R-Design and elegant Momentum – and two engines D4 diesel and T5 petrol – the interim range should satisfy most needs until the all-wheel-drive and top-of-the-range Inscription derivatives arrive later in 2018. A T3 front-wheel-drive entry-level version is also expected by the third quarter of 2018.

Naturally, the range-topping R-Design derivatives carry higher levels of standard trim than is the case lower down the model line-up. Don’t think, however, specification levels are stingy lower down the order since the entire XC40 range is surprisingly well-equipped.

On the safety front, for example, the XC40 includes City Safe as standard. This system senses potential collisions, even when it is dark, and can activate the brakes automatically should you not react in time. City Safety provides three levels of intervention; warning, brake support and full autonomous braking, and uses a combination of instruments and sensors to constantly monitor surrounding conditions.

Optional safety kit includes IntelliSafe assist with Adaptive Cruise Control, Pilot Assist and Lane Keeping Aid (R19,250). BLIS (Blind Spot Information System) with Cross Traffic Alert and collision warning (R6,600) is a must in urban environments, as are the various parking assistance systems front and rear, at a combined cost of R19,400.
Several cosmetic options can also be added to your XC40, including items such as a sports steering wheel with perforated leather (R1,600), premium Harman/Kardon sound (R10,750), smartphone integration with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (R4,100), and the previously mentioned inductive charging system for R2,700.

Beyond the car itself, the XC40 also introduces the new Care by Volvo subscription model, whereby customers can subscribe to a car rather than buy it, for a fixed monthly fee, which includes service, maintenance, insurance and other added value benefits. Care by Volvo is under consideration for introduction in South Africa with a planned date of mid-2019.

LAST WORD

Although the human race has survived for millennia without the need for compact crossovers, the current onslaught of compact premium SUV’s is forecast to grow because, to many buyers, the premium badge, design, and high seating position of these small luxury crossovers are far more important considerations than their non-premium transverse-engine, front-wheel-drive-based powertrains, and their compact accommodations. It’s true for the BMW X2 and Jaguar E-PACE, and now for arguably the suavest of the lot, the XC40 too. Grab one before they’re all gone.

Report by BERNIE HELLBERG | Images © VOLVO CAR SOUTH AFRICA

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