Long-term test introduction: Volvo XC40 T4 Inscription
JOHANNESBURG - Since its debut back in 2018, the Volvo XC40 has impressed us with its combination of style, comfort and practicality, and the argument in its favour grew even stronger this year with the introduction of the T4 variant.
Slotting between the three-cylinder T3 entry model and the sportier all-wheel-drive T5, the Volvo XC40 T4 strikes a really compelling balance between price, performance and refinement.
Priced from R675 500 (or R728 300 in fancier Inscription guise as per our test car), the T4 costs just R40 000 more than the T3, but R68 000 less than the T5. Like the former, it remains front-wheel driven, through an eight-speed automatic gearbox.
Well balanced is how we would describe the drivetrain package on offer here. With 140kW on tap, versus the T3’s 110kW output and T5’s 185kW, it offers truly effortless performance, but it’s not trying to be a robot racer or a hot hatch on stilts. With 350Nm available from 1 800rpm, there’s no shortage of low-down torque.
There are four driving modes to choose from - Comfort, Eco, Off-Road and Dynamic - but unlike many other performance cars, it doesn’t get all revvy and overbearing in the sportiest configuration, just a little sharper.
Having spent a few days with the T3 version last month, the arrival of our T4 long-term test car brought an opportunity to compare the two. In terms of overall performance, the T3 is perfectly adequate. It’s got enough power to overtake comfortably and it’s unlikely that the average user is really going to need more. However, while the T3’s three-cylinder engine sounds a little thrummy at times, the T4 adds that extra sense of refinement as well as an additional reserve of power in case you ever need it. At this level, I’d say the T4 is worth the extra 40 grand, although the T3 is still a very good deal in its own right.
The T3 is also a little lighter on fuel, according to official figures (6.7 l/100km combined versus 7.5). We will take a closer look at the T4’s consumption in the next update.
Regardless of what version of the Volvo XC40 you choose at the end of the day, the compact crossover package still offers an enticing blend of style and surprising practicality.
What I really love about the XC40 is its chunky design that doesn’t quite fit the traditional ‘trying-too-hard’ SUV mould. It’s not too high off the ground either, which is a bonus for road-holding. The XC40 has a really solid feel on the open road and it handles very well for a vehicle of this type. Furthermore, the ride is comfortable on most surfaces, although our car’s optional (R17 750) 19-inch alloys - which look amazing, by the way - do impart a bit of firmness over large speed bumps and rougher surfaces, but it’s not uncomfortable.
Speaking of rough surfaces, you won’t find any of those in the cabin. Although the overall cockpit design is starting to show its age slightly, there’s really no faulting the trims and finishes inside. It’s special touches like the Orrefors crystal glass gear selector that make the XC40 feel special inside. The driftwood dashboard trim in our Inscription model looks uber classy, but if you want something sportier you might want to opt for the R-Design with its ‘Cutting Edge’ aluminium trim. I’ve always thought R-Design would be my trim grade of choice, but I'm definitely warming to the elegant charms of our Inscription model.
Standard features include LED headlights, Inscription grille with high gloss black and chrome trim and 18” Black Diamond Cut wheels. Cabin amenities include front and rear park assist, a powered tailgate, dual-zone climate control, wireless phone charging, leather upholstery and a high-performance infotainment system with satnav, among other items.
In terms of driver assistance systems, Lane Keeping Aid and Oncoming Lane Mitigation are part of the deal, but you will have to pay extra for things like the Driver Assistance semi-autonomous driving system (R19 750), Park Assist Pilot (R26 350) and 360-degree camera (R17 950).
The Volvo XC40 is also more practical than you might have imagined. Although it doesn’t look particularly big on the outside, it is actually surprisingly roomy inside. Rear passengers have space to stretch their legs and the 460-litre split-level boot should have no trouble swallowing your holiday luggage. Volvo has paid attention to everyday usability, resulting in some nifty features like a hook that folds out of the cubbyhole to hang packets on, and a small removable rubbish bin.
Ergonomically the vehicle’s portrait-oriented infotainment system does take a bit of getting used to, however, with most functions including ventilation controlled via the 22.8cm portrait-oriented touchscreen, but there are at least short cuts to the climate page and from there it is fairly easy to work out. Unlike most cars that have a central menu screen, the Volvo system has multiple screen views that you swipe between as you would on a tablet, and it takes a bit of getting used to.
The system also includes a decent sound system and navigation as standard, and it boasts Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity.
The Volvo XC40 T4 Inscription has been a pleasure to live with so far. It’s comfortable, luxurious, adequately fast and as nimble as one could expect from an SUV package in this league. We’re looking forward to getting to know it a little better, so watch this space for more updates in the coming months.
Volvo XC40 T4 Inscription
Engine: 2.0-litre, 4-cyl, turbopetrol
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Drive: Front-wheel drive
Power: 140kW @ 5 000rpm
Torque: 300Nm @ 1 700-4 000rpm
Fuel use: 7.5 l/100km (claimed)
Warranty: 5-year/100 000km
Maintenance plan: 5-year/100 000km
Price: R728 300