Gone are the “good old days” of sedans and wagons ruling the marketplace – which might seem like bad news for a brand like Volvo, which was built on those and those alone.
Thankfully, the Swedish firm has found success branching out to building sport utilities while remaining true to its roots. And Volvo’s smallest SUV might very well be its best – and indeed the best one you can buy today, according to autoTRADER.ca’s team of more than 20 experts – with the XC40 earning the 2020 autoTRADER.ca Best Overall SUV honour.
For this year’s awards, a jury of more than 20 automotive experts from across the country considered and evaluated every new vehicle on the market, narrowing them down to five finalists in 19 different categories. From there, the votes were tallied and the winners were determined based on 12 criteria covering everything from value to innovation and overall excellence.
Finally, the 2020 autoTRADER.ca Best Overall SUV honour was bestowed upon the top vote-getter from any qualified SUV category winner.
Like a piece of mid-century modern furniture for the road, the XC40 is superbly stylish inside and out, featuring a nice mix of materials while sticking to a simplistic aesthetic. How it manages to stand out stylistically in the process is an impressive feat. (Though admittedly, it’s the available contrast-coloured roof that really helps the XC40 look different than others out there.)
Inside, the XC40 is a modern space filled with a smattering of signature shapes and finishes, and some cool carpeted door panels that look and feel unique – all part of the Volvo experience. Interior upholstery ranges from black cloth in base models to a velvety nubuck in the R-Design and a host of leather choices, including a beautiful, almost oxblood shade of red. The space inside is also thoughtful, with plenty of places to stick stuff like cellphones.
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Packaging is a little peculiar, sticking with the premium brand trend of endless – if a little convoluted – individualization. The base model, for example, can be had with the choice of two turbo engines, while the cloth seats can be swapped for leather ones. The R-Design, meanwhile, only comes with the more powerful of the pair of engines, but there’s no optional upholstery; nubuck or bust for this mid-grade model. Likewise, the top trim is only available with the more powerful motor, but the full set of leather options are on the menu.
Outside, the R-Design gets a black roof regardless of colour choice, making for a nice contrast. Choosing a trim on either side of the R-Design brings with it a body-matched roof, but the base can be bought with a contrast package that paints the roof, mirror caps and wheels white.
An electronically controlled suspension can be added to any version of the XC40, as can a performance software package, while an upgraded Harman Kardon sound system and satellite navigation can be tacked onto the base and R-Design models.
It all makes for something of a confusing shopping experience that can drive the XC40’s reasonable starting price of $39,750 ($41,765 with freight and fees) into the $60,000 range without abandoning the base trim. That’s a lot of cash for a little crossover, and nips at the heels of the much larger XC90.
It’s a little pricier than even its German adversaries, but is worth just about every penny. A big, vertically mounted nine-inch touchscreen sits atop the centre stack and is as easy to use as any other infotainment system on the market. It also has Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility, while standard and available active safety features – think lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control and the like – allow for outstanding ease of use.
Either turbo engine generates more than enough output to motivate the XC40 (187 hp and 221 lb-ft of torque; 248 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque), while the standard drive-mode selector and all-wheel drive ensure it all gets to the road in a usable manner. Its maneuverability is also commendable, the XC40’s diminutive dimensions making it ideally suited for driving around town.
What the smallest Volvo lacks in exterior footprint it more than makes up for with commendable interior space. Leg- and headroom are excellent in either front or rear quarters, allowing four adults to fit comfortably inside – an uncommon characteristic in a crossover this size. Max cargo room is also impressive, with 586 L behind the back seats and 1,336 L with them folded.
All told, the Volvo XC40 was an easy winner of the 2020 autoTRADER.ca Best Overall SUV, impressing the judges thanks to its clever and attractive interior, delightful drive and overall ease of use. It might be a little on the costly side, but the XC40 does more than enough right to make it worth the price of admission.