Bob Arora: At The Wheel

Anyone who reads this column will know I really do like Volvos. Having had the privilege of meeting the designers, it’s really interesting to get their thoughts on design and how they envisage the brand moving. I’m sure most people know Volvo is renowned for safety; the company has invested heavily in this and the next big push is towards autonomous driving.

These safety features are really handy, but as I explained in my Porsche Cayenne review last month, these amazing systems can be fooled.

One feature that is really handy, is the automatic braking. It’s so easy to be distracted when driving and as most crashes happen at low speeds, this feature is great, and it should help in reducing insurance premiums.

In recent years, Volvo, has been really successfully selling the brand’s two SUVs, and with seemingly insatiable love for SUVs it makes sense for Volvo to introduce a smaller one and aimed at a bigger target market.

I was lucky enough to be invited to the launch of the XC40, but before I even got the chance to drive the car, it was obvious just what a great job the designers had done. It’s not just a smaller version of the hugely successful XC60 but a brand new car in its own right. It’s easy to see the brand identity with the headlights and the brake lights, but aside from that, the designers have come up with something special. I loved the different coloured roof and pillars – the dark red car at the launch, with the black roof, pillars and huge wheels really looked the business.

Entry XC40s have manual gearboxes and are front wheel drive. The XC40 is priced from £27,610 – £40,070 and it’s available with either 3-petrol or 2-diesel engines. I personally believe that the pick of the bunch is going to be the D4, which comes with four-wheel drive and an automatic gearbox.

The D4 has a top speed of 133mph and it gets to 62mph in 7.9 seconds but the best bit is the car’s economy, which comes in at 56mpg. The engine is a bit noisy at tick-over and it also sounds quite harsh under acceleration.

If you opt for the big wheels, you’ll definitely hear a bit of road noise, but for me, the look of the wheels way outweighs any noise!

I personally love the R-Design models, the sporty body kit and big wheels along with the different coloured roof just make this car the pick of the range for me. All cars come with satellite navigation, climate control, LED headlights, auto-braking and rear parking sensors as standard, but you can opt for the optional cameras.

The seating position is really high, so forward visibility is excellent and the seats are really comfortable, so long journeys won’t be an issue at all.

The dash is dominated by a touch screen that controls everything, from the satellite navigation to the heating controls. The speedo and rev counter are digital, the dials great quality – it’s not quite the quality of the Mercedes S Class but that’s three times more expensive!

There is loads of storage in this car and Volvo has moved the speakers to the top of the door, which leaves plenty of room for  storage at the bottom. The optional Harmon Kardon speakers are amazing, the main one being behind the dash. The materials are really good quality and very soft to touch. The pan roof is another great feature that makes the car very light and airy indeed. There is plenty of room in the rear for passengers and the boot is a decent size, it holds 460 litres of luggage, and there is a clever divider that also acts as a bag holder. This is great, as it stops bags flying around the boot when, if like me, you can have a bit of a lead foot! It also has no load lip, so putting anything into the boot is really easy and you shouldn’t scratch the bumper, which can sometimes happen.

The car rolls a bit on corners, but that’s to be expected from a SUV. There are air bags all over the car, so I’m sure it’ll get a really good NCAP crash rating. One feature I loved  was the pilot assist. This keeps the car in between lanes which was really handy on the motorway. The clever feature monitors the car if you are drifting out of your lane, and it corrects you automatically. The radar cruise control is another great feature – it slows and accelerates the car according to the traffic.

The main rivals for this car are the BMW X1, VW Tiguan and the Jaguar E Pace, but I’d buy the Volvo all day long. It’s the best looking car in its class, I would choose the R-Design, with big wheels and an impressive contrasting roof!

Car supplied by Mill Volvo Newcastle