Whenever I picture inner-city life, whether locally in Auckland or further afield in say New York or London, I always get a sense of a people living a fast-paced, ever moving and ever-evolving lifestyle. In my mind, it’s all restaurants, takeaways and bars, being seen in all the right places and with all the latest gizmos. I get the same sense of pace when I think of compact-sized SUVs. The backdrop is narrow city streets or alleys, glamorous people with lattes and yoga mats. I guess you can tell I live in the burbs.
Of course, life (and SUVs for that matter) cannot be typecast that way anymore, regardless of where we live and what we drive, our lives are now almost invariably multifaceted. That being said, I did have certain preconceived ideas when I picked up the Volvo XC40 to review.
Overseas and maybe just a little locally too, the Volvo XC40 has been portrayed as a city vehicle that has no desire to get out there to see what’s beyond the city walls. It’s stylish and ‘cute’, easy to manoeuvre and nippy underfoot, so I guess no real surprise why. I had been given the top of the line T5 AWD R-Design to play with, in brilliant white with contrasting ‘black stone’ roof.
It’s quite the looker with an R-Design front grille, ‘Thor’s Hammer’ daytime running lights, dual integrated tailpipes, powered tailgate, panoramic sunroof, gloss black door mirror caps and 20-inch alloy wheels.
Under its rather defined bonnet sits a 2.0L turbocharged petrol engine married to an eight-speed Geartronic automatic box. It produces 182kW of power and torque is up to 350nm. It will nip between traffic lights at a 0-100km/h time of 6.5 seconds (of course. halve those numbers for the city streets) and all with a fuel economy of 7.1 l/100km.
Being a Volvo, the XC40 comes loaded with safety and driver supports systems, seriously loads of them and my vehicle had added Driver Support Pack which included 360-degree parking camera, adaptive cruise control, Pilot Assist and Park Assist Pilot. City folk shouldn’t have to park the SUV themselves, regardless of how compact it is.
Something that’s not so safe however, is the lava interior option fitted to my SUV (although it does have a great ‘enviro credit’ lean). The carpet is strikingly bright the moment you open the door but is also made from 97% recycled PET plastic bottles (the ones that city folk use at gyms and yoga classes), so becomes a talking point in more than one way. The rest of the interior is very comfy and upmarket, R-Design fine nappa perforated leather/nubuck textile seats, R-Design perforated leather-clad steering wheel with very tactile gearshift paddles and in my case (with the Lifestyle Pack) a Harman Kardon sound system.
Driving around Auckland city centre in the compact SUV was as easy as advertised. Sensus navigation is intuitive and clearly displayed in 9-inch touchscreen glory. Phone connection to the infotainment system was equally simple (it will even wireless charge for the hipper of you out there) and both Apple and Android options are catered for. It did beep a lot when nearing other vehicles or hazards, it’s comforting I guess, but also a little neurotic and I feel I would be forced to ignore or disable some of them if I owned it. However, it was taking the XC40 out of the city centre that I really preferred.
Changing the drive mode to sport, made for a more responsive and exciting drive. Like me, I feel it enjoyed the freedom of the open roads, it even roared a little. I took the family (there’s only three of us) on a drive from east to west coasts (that sound like a much bigger feat than it actually was) which included some tight coastal roads and ended with an ice cream for all (not the Volvo, though).
The XC40 is spritely and good looking. Its compact size makes it great for the town, yet its drivetrain and chassis makes it fun to drive beyond the city boundaries. I enjoyed the SUV so much that I treated the family to a takeaway curry, I just had to feel like a city dweller once again and use the hook attached to the glove box for that exact purpose.
Words: Dave Mcleod