Volvo’s facelifted XC40 compact SUV arrived in South Africa to a welcome reception. Now, the brand’s acclaimed local sales leader has been treated to a midlife nip and tuck to keep looking as vivacious as ever. 

Aimed at the young upwardly mobile market, the Volvo XC40 is one of Volvo South Africa’s most endearing products. With its original introduction in 2018, motoring scribes and SUV buyers alike couldn’t get enough of the quirky Swede. Yet, even the most progressive design will need an update at some point. Following the Volvo XC40’s mild midlife facelift, we simply had to lay our hands on one to discover if it still carries itself in the distinctive manner that initially garnered it so much popularity.

Considering the adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, we’re pleased to see that the XC40 has remained largely unchanged on the outside. Design evolution rather than revolution will always follow well-designed and engineered vehicles. 

Instantly recognisable as a Volvo product, the XC40 exemplifies the unmistakable Scandinavian design language popularised by then Senior Vice President of Volvo design, Thomas Ingenlath.


Upfront, the car sports the traditional Volvo grille flanked by the iconic Thor’s Hammer adaptive headlight design. The rest of the car is defined by athletic lines that lead to the rear, where its slimline LED taillights identify the XC40 from a distance. 

Just as a pinch of salt may enhance an otherwise perfect meal, the 18” wheels and a panoramic roof complete the car’s contemporary look. In addition to the two-tone paint scheme of our test unit, there are plenty of other trendy colours that play to the car’s design strengths.


As is the case with most mid-cycle facelifts, most changes are discernible in the interior, where you will spend the most time. The wood trims of the pre-facelift have been replaced with piano black and aluminium trim finishes. Leather treatment to the seats is now standard. Volvo has shuffled around the specs list, removing some standard features and replacing them with features that were optional before. Examples include keyless entry, ambient lighting, dual-zone climate control, a wireless charging pad, and an electrically operated tailgate that are now standard. The heated wipers and steering wheel now are optional extras.

The cabin retains much of notable features with which we fell in love the first time, including the intuitive 9” Volvo Sensus Connect infotainment system that comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard, together with a premium Harman Kardon sound system. As with the previous model, the crystal shift knob provides yet another conversation starter in the cabin.

The XC40’s cabin is well executed, exuding quality and luxury, similar to its larger XC60 and XC90 siblings. 

In typical Volvo fashion, the XC40 comes with a host of safety features and a 5-star Euro NCAP safety rating. Active safety features include ABS, lane-keep assist, tyre pressure monitoring, traction and stability control, adaptive cruise control, a 360-degree parking camera, park distance control, blind-spot monitoring, parking sensors, and rear-cross-traffic alert. Numerous passive safety features are highlighted by six airbags.

Under the Hood

Our XC40 T4 test unit arrived in resplendent Crystal White Pearl, boasting Volvo’s universal 2.0-litre petrol unit that produces 140 kW and 300 Nm of torque. Power is sent to the front wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission.

Volvo claims that the T4 derivative can sprint from standstill to 100km/h in 8.4 seconds, topping out at a top speed of 180 km/h. In everyday driving situations the T4 is as comfortable as it is spritely, and always a pleasure to drive.

The absence of steering-mounted gear paddles seems to be a deliberate omission in line with the car’s relaxed personality. Fevered driving is not this car’s forte. Instead, you will soon find your pace as you relax into a calm drive, cosseted in the plush leather-clad seats. 

Even without the Adaptive Suspension system (which is no longer available), the well-balanced suspension soaks up bumps with grace, while ensuring that the car retains good stability during cornering. The steering is light and responsive, lending the car an agile personality that can be enhanced by selecting one of three engine modes – Eco, Comfort, and Sport.


After spending a week with the XC40 T4, we’re happy to confirm that this Scandinavian has lost none of its appeal, while it most certainly has been enhanced with just the right amount of visual appeal. A reassuring feeling of safety comes with driving a Volvo, which is comforting for anyone on South African roads. Starting at R728,700, the XC40 offers a compelling option within the crossover market.


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