Swedish car maker Volvo is slowly but surely gaining a strong footing in India. In a market dominated by German luxury car giants, the right kind of products have helped Volvo make its presence felt in ways more than one. Two of  its most popular cars in India are SUVs, so naturally the company is bullish on the XC 40 which promises to ensures bigger volumes in a SUV loving market like India. The segment is already full of cars like the BMW X1, Mercedes GLA and Audi Q3 but Volvo’s hopes are pinning on two things, first that there’s no clear leader who dominates the segment and second that the XC40 is more feature rich than all these SUVs.

Looks

The XC 40 is first SUV from Volvo to be based on the new compact modular architecture. That is also why it looks distinct from other SUVs based on scalable product architecture. This is more edgy and boxy when compared to the XC 60 or XC 90 which are curvier. There’s a lot of black used on the car which includes the grille as well as the roof. This is on the R-design variant which for the time being  is the only variant the SUV will be launched in India. The Thor shaped LED headlamps certainly cannot be missed, though they’re designed slightly differently here. On the profile the standout feature is the upward sloping window line and how nicely it merges onto the C-pillar. The rear is pretty attractive too with a big spoiler making its presence felt along with twin chrome exhaust pipes. The LED tail lamps are vertical and remind of other cars from the brand.  The tailgate is electronically operated and can also be opened by swinging your leg underneath the car which adds to the practicality.

Interiors

The 9-inch infotainment screen seen on other cars from Volvo is seen here as well. It incorporates almost all the functions and that has drastically reduced the need of having more physical buttons inside the cabin. The touch screen system is a part of the sensus system from Volvo. It is compatible with both Apple car play and Android auto and the car also gets a Harman Kardon sound system that performs well. But that’s not all as the XC 40 also gets wireless charging facility along with a nice panoramic sunroof. Then there’s the virtual instrument cluster, heated seats and 2 zone climate control. The white colour car we got comes with excessive use of orange on the doors and floors while the car also gets metal pedals. Storage options are present in plenty on the front row. On the second row the leg space is good but one could do with some more thigh support. Boot space stands at 460 liters and the second row can be folded down in a 60:40 format that too at a touch of a button. The XC 40 also comes with parking/park out feature another useful touch for a market like India.

Engine

We drove the XC 40 on the lovely Outer Ring road in Hyderabad. Like many other Volvos in India,  the SUV will be devoid of a petrol engine option at least for the time being. What the car gets is a 2.0 liter D4 diesel engine that gives 190 bhp of maximum power and 400 Nm of peak torque. The D4 is a toned down version of the popular D5 mill and also delivers lesser power. But this is a machine that is much lighter than bigger SUVs from Volvo so this engine is more than able to carry the load while providing good drive dynamics. The engine is quick off the blocks and in low range and mid range it performs exceptionally well. Refinement levels too are impressive. A great thing is that the XC 40 comes with all wheel drive as standard, something that every car in the segment cannot boast of. The 4th generation of the Haldex all-wheel drive system ensures that torque on demand reaches all the wheels when required.

Ride & Handling

There are as many as  five driving modes on offer and with the change in these modes changes settings of the engine, gearbox and steering wheel change. The comfort mode ensures that the XC 40 glides over undulating surfaces to give an assuring ride. Handling characteristics are decent though there’s a bit of a body roll owing to SUV dimensions. Another thing that contributes to a great ride is the impressive NVH levels on the XC 40 despite this being a diesel.  A ground clearance of 210 mm does no harm to the cause of the XC 40. This is significantly more than some if its rivals and highest in the segment by some margin. Even in this Volvo safety features are present in plenty. These include lane keeping aid, blind spot warning, adaptive cruise control, pilot assist and emergency braking. The car also gets hill descent control along multiple airbags and traction control.

Verdict

The Volvo XC 60 is a well rounded off package that along with an impressive design offers good ergonomics and a brilliant drive. In a segment where there’s no clear leader the XC 40 fills in the shortcomings of it’s would be rivals. But all this will come at a price that could go above Rs. 40 lakhs making it one of the most expensive in the segment.  4 July is when we’ll get to know the cost and the impact it will have over sales of Volvo’s volume player in the market.

Shams Naqvi is an anchor/producer for the News X motor show Living Cars

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