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April 8, 2019

Interior design and technology – Volvo XC40

The XC40 marks a number of firsts for Volvo. It’s the carmaker’s first ever compact SUV and the first model to be built on the carmaker’s CMA (Compact Modular Architecture) platform. Its chunky lines, concave grille and sculpted doors give it certain amount of street swagger too. But what of the interior of this premium small SUV? Continuing QUBE/just-auto's review of interior design and technology trends, we take a closer look.

The XC40 marks a number of firsts for Volvo. It’s the carmaker’s first ever compact SUV and the first model to be built on the carmaker’s CMA (Compact Modular Architecture) platform. Its chunky lines, concave grille and sculpted doors give it a certain amount of street swagger too. But what of the interior of this premium small SUV? Continuing QUBE/just-auto’s review of interior design and technology trends, we take a closer look.

Assembled in Ghent, Belgium, this site also builds the V40 and V40 Cross Country hatchbacks as well as the S60 sedan, and will produce the V60 five-door, mid-size estate revealed in February this year.

Volvo Cars’ sales momentum remained strong in 2019 after the company posted an 11.3% growth in global sales for the first two months of the year, compared with the same period last year. The company sold a total of 93,863 cars in January and February. The sales growth in the first two months was led by the strong performance of Volvo’s SUV range, spearheaded by the XC60, with the XC40 and XC90 in close pursuit. In February 2019, the XC60 was the top-selling model, with sales reaching 12,630 cars (2018: 10,308), followed by the XC40, with total sales at 8,176 cars (2018: 1,580 units), and the Volvo XC90 at 5,752 cars (2018: 6,607 units). 

Slotting into Volvo’s SUV range beneath the five-seat mid-size XC60 and seven-seat XC90, the XC40 is also the first of Volvo’s new-generation 40 series models. Its rivals include the Audi Q3, BMW X1 and Mercedes-Benz GLA.

The XC40 is available in two- and all-wheel-drive form, and with a manual or automatic gearbox. There is a choice of three petrol engines (T3, T4 and T5) and two diesel (D3 and D4). The anticipated sales split for the XC40’s engines are: T4 AWD 30%; T3 FWD 20%; D4 AWD 20%; D3 FWD 15%; T5 AWD 10%; D3 AWD 5%.

In the UK, the XC40 is offered in three trims – entry-level Momentum, dynamic R-Design and top-notch Inscription, each also available in highly specified Pro form. The anticipated sales split for the XC40 trim levels are: Momentum 20%; Momentum Pro 10%; R-Design 30%; R-Design Pro 15%; Inscription 15%; Inscription Pro 10%. Our press review came in the form of a tank-like D3 AWD Inscription Pro.

Cockpit and displays

We have often found that the steering wheel controls on Volvo models are particularly intuitive. The XC40 is no exception. The left-hand spoke offers control of driving-function related systems such as speed limiter, adaptive cruise control and Pilot Assist. The right-hand spoke accesses all the infotainment features, including audio, phone and navigation.

The instrument cluster springs to life as you slip inside, displaying all the usual and critical driver information. Built-in light sensors control the brightness of the display that adjusts to exterior lighting conditions. The iPad style nine-inch touchscreen conveys the non-critical information. In making the distinction, Volvo calls this the ‘now and whenever’ approach, reflecting the importance of the information that is displayed according to where it is visible. While we appreciate the clutter-free dash, the temperature control can only be adjusted using a vertical slider on the touchscreen thereby making it fiddly to operate while driving.

The portrait-layout touchscreen is flanked by a pair of vertical chrome air vents. These have a silver central section – for directing the flow of air – that appears to ‘float’ in the middle of the vent. This is adjusted via a diamond-cut rotary control knob, which is also seen in Volvo’s new 60 and 90 series cars. Our press review Inscription trim level also featured some classy hand-finished Drift Wood interior inlays.

Other welcome creature comforts found during our early spring drive included heated front seats and windscreen, active headlights and even an illuminated glass gear knob. The frameless auto-dimming interior rearview mirror was another nice touch. Volvo’s pride in its homeland is further shown in a tiny fabric Swedish flag stitched into the side of the driver’s seat.

Storage

Designed primarily for city dwellers, Volvo has gone to some lengths to research how this target group store their belongings in their cars. Customers were also asked how they would like to see the interiors of their cars improved.

“As we spoke to people about how and where they store the things they carry with them daily, it was quite clear that most of today’s cars are falling short in this area. Phones slide around in the mid-console, takeaway bags are at constant risk of falling over and people fumble behind the wheel as they try to get service cards out of their wallets. We set out to solve these and many other issues we encountered,” says Louiza Atcheba, Model Brand Manager for the 40 Series at Volvo Cars.

By moving speakers from the front doors and developing an air-ventilated dashboard-mounted sub-woofer (see ‘sound system’ section below), enough storage space was created in the door compartments for a laptop, a tablet and a water bottle.

“When we designed the tunnel the focus was not only on creating a nice design, but also to ensure that cup-holders can be used as cup-holders and that the design itself provides areas for coins, cards or charging cables. Another focus area was to make a usable space for your phone which offers wireless charging as well as USB ports,” said Conny Ewe Blommé, Senior Design Manager at Volvo Cars.

Directly ahead of the gear lever is a wireless charging pad for mobile phones. This area also houses the USB and 12v sockets.

The glovebox features a fold-out hook which can be used for takeaways or small shopping bags, and there are slots for service and credit cards in the dashboard by the steering wheel, ensuring they are readily available when needed.

The driver’s seat is available with a storage space beneath its base that is large enough for a compact tablet, while the area beneath the central armrest is a removable, washable bin.

Moving further back, boot space is 460 litres with the rear seats up and 1,336 litres with the rear seats down. The boot itself has large, straight-sided walls, while a flat floor with no luggage lip helps make loading easy. Pressing a button on either side of the luggage area flips forward the rear seats and headrests, creating a long, level load area.

In the luggage area, the parcel shelf can be removed and stowed beneath the luggage compartment floor, while a flexible floor is available that lets you neatly separate your luggage. As with an increasing number of models in this segment, the XC40 is offered with a power-operated tailgate, hands-free opening and closing, which allows you to operate the tailgate simply by waving your foot beneath the rear bumper.

“A lot we have done with the XC40 is based on extensive consumer insight. With the XC40, we declare the end of clutter, making sure that everything is within arms-reach but also out of sight. It’s about clearing the clutter so you can clear your mind,” concludes Atcheba.

Voice activation

The voice-activated control system works in tandem with the touchscreen. We used it to operate functions such as changing the cabin temperature, inputting an address in the sat-nav or changing the media. It generally worked fine although a little hit and miss. Another feature fitted to all XC40s is a built-in car modem which turns it into a WiFi hotspot, enabling happy passengers to connect up to eight mobile devices to the internet via the car.

Sound system 

A Harman Kardon sound system is available in the XC40. The set-up includes 13 speakers, surround sound digital processing and a total system output of 600 watts. It also introduces a world first in car audio technology: an air-ventilated sub-woofer mounted in the dashboard. This provides low-frequency ‘bass’ sound without the need for a traditional large sub-woofer taking up space within the car’s cabin. It also means the large speakers have been removed from the front doors, resulting in door panel storage with no sacrifice in sound quality. The system also allows you to optimise the sound settings for specific occupants or for everyone on board, and you can even adjust the level of surround sound to suit your preference.

Connectivity

The XC40 uses the same Sensus touchscreen control system as Volvo’s other new-generation models, which reduces the number of buttons required to operate various functions. Its portrait design displays information in a tiered order. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone mirroring can be added. A number of cloud-based apps are also available, including TuneIn, Yelp, Google Local Search and Spotify.

As part of Volvo’s Sensus tech, In-car delivery is a service that allows online orders to be delivered directly to the boot of any Volvo. Using the carmaker’s On Call service, In-car delivery allows single-time access for depositing items such as groceries or dry-cleaning in the boot of a parked car. It essentially turns a car into a preferred delivery address. A destination can directly be sent to the car’s sat-nav so it’s all ready to go when you get into the car. The XC40 also comes with a car-sharing feature. This means owners can share their car with family and friends without having to hand over the key.

Advanced driver assistance systems

As we would expect with Volvo, the XC40 comes bristling with advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), including the carmaker’s City Safety suite of safety aids. This uses a radar and camera unit to scan the area in front of the car and identify any objects it detects. It will detect vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists and even large animals, and warn the driver if a collision is likely. If they fail to react, it will automatically apply maximum braking force to avoid the collision entirely or limit its severity.

Other ADAS technologies include Oncoming Lane Mitigation, which is designed to prevent head-on collisions. If the XC40 inadvertently moves out of its lane into the path of an oncoming vehicle, the system alerts you to the potential danger by automatically providing steering assistance to guide you safely back into your lane.

Other standard-fit safety features are Run-off Road Mitigation and Run-off Road Protection, which help prevent the car running off the road and protect the car’s occupants should this be unavoidable. Run-off Road Mitigation uses the car’s camera to monitor the position of the car in relation to road makings. If the car gets too close to the edge of the road, the system automatically applies the steering to help keep it on course.

If the car does leave the road, Run-off Road Protection tightens the front seat belts to keep the occupants in position, while a specially designed section in the front seat frames collapses to cushion the vertical forces that can occur in these accidents, helping to reduce spinal injuries.

Parking is made easier thanks to the 360-degree surround-view parking camera and Park Assist Pilot automatic parking system.

The XC40 introduces Volvo’s Pilot Assist semi-autonomous drive technology to the compact SUV class. Available across the XC40 range, Pilot Assist is a driver-support system that combines a forward-facing camera and radar to detect your lane and any vehicles in front. It then assists with the steering (up to 80mph) to keep the car within its lane, and works with the adaptive cruise control to keep at the desired cruising speed or at a safe distance from any vehicle in front. Pilot Assist can automatically accelerate and brake with the flow of traffic, right down to a standstill. The system is optimised for motorway driving and requires you to have your hands on the steering wheel at all times.

On the road

Inside, its interior inlays, clutter-free cockpit and crystal gear lever give it a certain Swedish charm. The plethora of places to store and hang bits and pieces also makes for a practical cabin. Road noise inside our press review was kept to a minimum while out and about. It also felt steady and comfortable on long journeys with just a small amount of vibration through the steering wheel and pedals. Ride quality was also good thanks to suspension parts from Tenneco. Last October, Tenneco revealed it is supplying the XC40 with its CVSAe adaptive suspension technology from its Monroe Intelligent Suspension portfolio. Tenneco supplies the CVSAe suspension technology for the carmaker from its plant in Ermua, Spain. On balance, the XC40 comes with a generous list of standard equipment, clever safety technology and an intuitive infotainment system. The net result of all this interior and acoustical development makes it a good place to spend time.

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