Class + Clever = Cool

TAKING aim at rivals like the BMW X1, Audi Q3 and Range Rover Evoque, Volvo has not entered the compact SUV arena lightly.

The SUV and its compact crossover cohort have dominated the European market for a while now and to stand a chance against such popular competitors, the XC40 was going to have to be something special.

(Picture by Peter Frankland, 24802733)

But the Swedish giant does luxury as well as it does utility and its XC40 boasts a more streamlined, Guernsey-friendly footprint than many SUVs on the market – and so I was raring to see what it was capable of.

With chiselled lines, a sporty physique and authoritative 18in. alloy wheels, it has immediate kerb appeal. The muscular two-tone body is studded with angular LED lights and a sleek roof rack. The passenger windows appear relatively small at first glance, but once inside you realise they serve to make the interior feel private and luxurious.

(Picture by Peter Frankland, 24802718)

Volvo has made some pretty bold design choices, from the oblong air vents to some quirky trim options, but in my book, they almost all pay off. The vehicle is designed to drink in as much of the precious little light the Swedes get – with slim pillars, widescreen front windows and a panoramic sunroof giving excellent visibility. And for the evening cruise when the sun goes down, there’s mood-enhancing LED lighting.

With sculpted seats in soft nappa leather, multiple charging points and roomy storage compartments, we’re talking the first-class lounge of compact SUVs. And that’s before we even get onto the tech. With what appears to be a page out of Tesla’s book, the dashboard’s focal point is a tablet-style 9in. touchscreen, navigated intuitively with a scroll, swipe and a tap.

(Picture by Peter Frankland, 24802753)

From here you can meddle with a myriad of fancy features including audio, satnav, smartphone mirroring, parking and lane assist, automatic collision braking and a truly outstanding 360° camera that renders parking bumps and the infamous ‘Guernsey granite kiss’ concerns of the past.

How did it fair on the roads? The steering was light and responsive which, combined with rapid acceleration and nimble handling, meant I felt like a child with a new toy, one which got more impressive by the minute. I was cradled gently even at moderate speeds as the suspension took care of every bump on the rockier routes.

The engine is quiet, dropping into silence thanks to stop-start technology, but gets satisfyingly throaty when you flex your right foot. As I manoeuvred the numerous road closures of St Martin’s, satnav directions appeared on both the tablet and conveniently at direct eye level via a crystal clear, full-colour dash display, which also houses things like speed limit warnings and full vehicle diagnostics with dazzling graphics. A 14-speaker-strong Harman/Kardon hi-fi system infused my drive with astoundingly crisp sound that made my favourite songs sound better than ever.

(Picture by Peter Frankland, 24802755)

Breaking compact SUV conventions, a glorified shopping trolley this is not. The XC40 is meticulously designed to make life easier and more enjoyable and you can do some pretty clever things like pre-heat or cool the car before you get in and even sync it with your calendar to find the best route and parking for your appointments. Cool, eh?

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