2019 Volvo XC40 T5 Inscription Review: The Most Volvo Of Volvos

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Despite what you might think, the most affordable Volvo, the XC40, is the most Volvo-like of the entire line-up.

I too have had a difficult time understanding what my senses were telling me. I’ve lusted after old Volvo station wagons for decades, once owned a 2004 Volvo XC70 and have driven all of the latest Volvo products since Geely took over at the helm in 2010. The new 2019 Volvo XC40 is the best new Volvo.


This is a Volvo

2019 Volvo XC40 | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

I think it’s necessary to define what makes a Volvo a Volvo here. A Volvo vehicle is not about opulence or excess, it’s about wellbeing, comfort and utility. Volvo, and Geely, are pushing hard to elevate the brand to BMW and Mercedes-Benz levels but in the process our compromising on what I think are core brand values. A Volvo has always been the “thinking man’s” luxury car.

I’ve not yet driven a “90” Series Volvo that I’ve truly enjoyed. Yes, the V90 knocked me to my knees but that was more a result of its catastrophically gorgeous station wagon body than its drive or content. The “60” Series are generally better at being Volvos with proper thumbs-up going to the XC60 and delightful V60 wagon. But finally, it’s the Volvo XC40 that now serves as the Volvo poster-child.


T5 with AWD

2019 Volvo XC40 | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

The base 2019 Momentum Volvo XC40 T4 FWD starts at $39,750 (pricing for 2020 already available). Stepping up to the T5 adds AWD and sees power from the turbocharged 2.0-litre 4-cylinder rise to 248-horsepower (from 187) and 258 lb.-ft. of torque (from 221) and the price adjust to $42,350. My tested Inscription T5 begins at $48,200 and includes a number of unique features including a nicer interpretation of the Crystal gearlever, lovely driftwood inlays and more. With options, my tester rang in at $58,140 which is too much money for the vehicle.

Of the options I would not take are the Premium Plus package (360 degree surround view, Pilot assist) and Exterior styling kit (brushed aluminium accents – nice touch however) and save $5,000. Other options I would retain are the 4C chassis and the Polestar engineering groups.

These final two packages are optional on all T5s (only 4C with the T4) and are exceptional, both in their effects on the XC40 and in pricing.


Two options that cannot be overlooked

2019 Volvo XC40 | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

The $1,000 4C Chassis kit includes adjustable dampers that are controlled via the Comfort, ECO, Dynamic and Off-road drive modes. The Comfort mode is the one that manages to set the 2019 Volvo XC40 apart from all the other Volvo vehicles, and the one that harks back to a time when Volvo was also about cozy cruising.

The Comfort setting allows the dampers to travel at their leisure so long as cabin serenity is unaffected. Their work, along with Volvo’s lovely Compact Modular Architecture (CMA) make for a plush and refined ride not matter the surface’s condition. Switching over to Dynamic does not affect the ride quality as the dampers simply firm up to limit body movements.

If 4C is a must, the same goes for the Polestar Engineered bonus which retails for $1,475. This mild hike in price scoots the T5’s power output in the right direction. Horsepower rises by 5 but it’s torque that benefits from Polestar magic. It shoots up to 295 lb.-ft. all the while maintaining the original 258 lbs at 1,800 rpm. By roughly 3,000 rpm, the XC40’s got a serious move-on.


Great road companion

2019 Volvo XC40 | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

The turbo-4 is a lovely piece as is the standard 8-speed automatic transmission. It is perfectly adapted to the power and adapts to driver demands based on the drive mode. Most importantly, at all times, the Volvo XC40, which drives bigger than it is, feels like a responsible grown-up and in total control with its passengers’ wellbeing in mind and as a priority.

Said passengers are well received by the 2019 Volvo XC40’s lovely cabin. As always, the seats are as premium and supportive as you could expect in a car costing twice the sticker price. Room is abundant for such a small SUV. The boot is rated at only 440 litres but it seems far greater than that. The rear bench is perfectly positioned and design for maximum space for all appendages – you could fit six legs in the second if you needed too.


True Volvo design

2019 Volvo XC40 | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

Now’s the time I’ll bring the completely gorgeous available oxide red leather interior. It’s rich, it’s fantastic- do it. The front seats along with the space provided are all about intimate comfort. As part of the XC40’s luxury feel, the dashboard, like all other modern Volvos is austere at best with a single 9-inch center display that harbors all controls. On a good day, it’ll load and respond well. On other days, not so much. The vehicle also features a lovely 12.3-inch driver display which is flawless.

What I do unequivocally love about all Volvos is their absolute distinct and unique styling. This is one of the pillars in what it is to be a Volvo and, on this point, all modern products from the luxury brand are quite appealing. As I’ve said, I’m a sucker for wagons but out of all the SUVs, the XC40 the most attractive.

Although I do like the BMW X1, the Volvo XC40 would be my first and only choice in the segment. My spec would be a Momentum T5, glacier Silver (because I must have the red leather), 19-inch wheels, 4C and Polestar for $46,700. This is the best all-around compact luxury SUV on the market.


2019 Volvo XC40 Photo Gallery

2019 Volvo XC40 | Photo: Matt St-Pierre
2019 Volvo XC40 | Photo: Matt St-Pierre
2019 Volvo XC40 | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

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