First Drive: Volvo’s all new small SUV aiming to be volume grosser

After introducing Volvo's flagship sports utility vehicle, the XC90 in the country a couple of years ago, the Swedish luxury carmaker is in a rush to expand its market share in the fiercely competitive luxury car market in the country.

It believes that the all new small SUV, the Volvo XC40, which has all what it takes to be a volume grosser, will drive sales in Asia’s third biggest car market.

The growing 40,000 plus Indian luxury car market dominated by German luxury car maker Mercedes Benz and BMW, and Audi, Jaguar Land Rover is one of the key markets for Volvo. That is why within five months of its international media launch in Barcelona, Spain, the all new Volvo XC40 is slated to be launched in the Indian market on July 4 to woo the rich and famous and the successful business men and women in the country.

The all new imported compact SUV XC40 is funky, stylish and feature-rich which will take head on against the likes of the BMW X1, Audi Q3 and Mercedes-Benz GLA.

The Swedish brand believes with reason that the new model will expand the luxury car market in India to a whole new segment of buyers and therefore, it would be a volume grosser. The parent company has allotted an initial number of 200 imported units only for the Indian market, which would be sold out before the launch date with a down payment of Rs 5 lakh.

This SUV is the first model ever to be based on Volvo’s Compact Modular Architecture or CMA. Think of it as Volvo’s Scalable Product Architecture (SPA) platform developed and manufactured by Volvo Cars, enabling similar levels of technology and safety but on a smaller and more cost-effective scale. So it shares the engine, gearbox, infotainment, safety kit etc etc with cars like its elder siblings the XC90, XC60 and S90 which are based on SPA.

The attractive XC40 is undoubtedly longer, wider and taller than the Audi Q3, and has a longer wheelbase too, but it is shorter than the BMW X1 in terms of length and wheelbase.

The signature front grille with the massive ‘iron logo’ in the centre, is smaller with horizontal slats and so are the headlamps with the Thor’s hammer LED DRLs. Body cladding is more pronounced and the 18-inch wheels wrapped in 235/55 Pirelli rubber are just stunning. Of course, there’s also an option of 20-inch wheels too. The upward sloping window line at the rear is truly distinctive. The rear tail-lamps are unmistakably Volvo and the dual chrome mufflers rounds up an exciting package.

Interestingly, this new Volvo model will be available only in a single fully loaded variant called R-Design which gets radar-based safety features like blind spot assist, lane keeping assist, autonomous braking, and adaptive cruise control. Which means the XC40 gets the full safety package, including detection for animals, pedestrians and cyclists, automatic braking and collision avoidance up to speeds of 60 kmph, on-lane mitigation, run-off road mitigation, adaptive cruise control, pilot assist, blind spot information, cross-traffic alert and rear traffic collision warning and so on.

The first batch of the Volvo XC40 that will hit the roads will get standard features such as active headlamps, pilot assist, electric tailgate, Harmon Kardon sound system and wireless mobile charging as well and yes this is true for the first batch of cars to hit Indian roads as well.

The new car offers multiple driving modes such as the Comfort, Dynamic, Eco, Off-road and Individual. Depending on the mode that you select, the dynamics of the car such as the suspension, steering response, engine response and the torque on-offer on the AWD system are altered.

The R-Design trim of the XC40 will offer a stiffer chassis, thicker anti-roll bars and stiffer suspension which makes spirited driving a better experience than the regular XC40 variants.

It also has the clever kit like auto park-in and park-out, which helps steer the vehicle in and out of a parking. The 9-inch touchscreen controls all the functions of the car and features Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. The audio experience is enhanced by Harman Kardon. There is also a clear virtual instrument cluster that displays maps, so that the driver does not need to look away to the left.

Features like an electric tailgate, driving modes, auto LED headlamps, panoramic sunroof, four heated seats, dual zone climate control, front and rear parking sensors, reversing camera, are all standard on the XC40 R-Design.

Driving the new XC40 in Hyderabad’s outer ring road (ORR) was a pleasant experience both on the traffic-free, six lane Expressway as also in some of the city's congested and at times chaotic traffic. It is smooth, refined and reasonably quiet.

The D4's is definitely a delight in either condition as power delivery is linear and performance is sprightly at all times. Acceleration is quick and getting to triple digit speeds and staying well above the 100 kmph mark is no mean feat for the motor. The eight speed Aisin automatic transmission is reasonably quick to swap ratios as well.

The SUV is powered by a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder diesel engine that makes 190hp and 400Nm, an outputs similar to the BMW’s X1. Undoubtedly, power delivery is quick and the delay before the turbo spools up is minimal. The engine feels energetic and because of its strong mid-range performance, it builds speeds briskly. It is an out and out city slicker. The performance is great as the power delivery is relaxed and whether it is commuting, cruising or making quick overtakes, the XC40 has exactly enough.

The new SUV also stays planted at high speeds and does not lose composure even when going fast over undulated surfaces. Undoubtedly, the XC40 is a Volvo brand known to make some of the safest cars in the world and the XC40 feels rock solid due to some of the highest levels of engineering and the ultra-high tensile steel used in important areas of the frame.

What makes the drive experience very smooth is the eight-speed automatic gearbox that shifts ratios seamlessly. There are paddleshifters too, for manual control over the gears.

Driving on the highway, its stability in a straight line is great, its steering is smooth and light and gives just the right amount of feedback as the car builds speeds. While the brakes are sharp and there is a function on the infotainment screen to make the pedal feel a bit crisper, which is particularly useful when driving fast.

Should I buy one?

The Volvo XC40 comes with a neat little package. It offers good combination of features, performance and oodles of attitude as well. It is the model that Volvo expects to drive its volumes in a SUV crazy country like India. We expect it to be priced below Rs 43 lakh in India. It boasts of radar-based safety feature list unlike its rivals in the country. Its engine is refined, smooth, making the XC40 nice and energetic to drive. This new Volvo is sleek, attractive, youthful and freshest model in its segment. Undoubtedly, it is a car which will pull your heart strings and prejudice your mind to buy it.