The subcompact category used to be one synonymous with budget brands and it used to be that only the biggest models got all-wheel drive, but today there are acres of right-sized AWD crossovers and SUVs in the luxury space gaining popularity with buyers who live in tight city confines or those who only want to buy as much vehicle as they physically need.

In other words, the luxury subcompact crossover segment is brutally competitive. Rising to the top with our panel of more than 20 professional automotive reviewers to win an AutoTrader Award means impressing them in categories ranging from engineering excellence and driver satisfaction to an appropriate number of tech toys and interior luxury. For 2022, the Volvo XC40 has checked the right boxes in all these areas.

Actually, it has once again checked the correct boxes. The Volvo XC40 took home top honours last year not just in its subcompact luxury class but also as Best Overall SUV, meaning it was considered better for more people than every other SUV available to buy on the market. In fact, it’s so impressive that it has won some form of AutoTrader Award every year since its launch in 2019.

For 2022, the model continues its domination of this red-hot segment, priced within a hair of $40,000 for the entry-level trim. Every new Volvo XC40 sold in Canada features all-wheel drive but engine choices have power outputs ranging from 187 horsepower to 248, not to mention an all-electric variant that heaves out more than 400 all-electric ponies.

Influences of Scandinavian minimalist design are present in the exterior with clean lines playing well with a set of towering tail lamps that have been a brand signature for decades. Its front-end styling shares much with its more expensive siblings, and – whether one opted for it or not – the neighbours may think you’re rocking an electric vehicle thanks to the gasoline-powered car’s hidden tailpipes.

That typically Swedish simplicity also extends to the interior, creating a cabin that is calm and welcoming after a long day at work. Splashes of colour are available in the form of expensive-looking blonde leather upholstery, but even the standard charcoal hue manages to pull off a serious tone without being depressingly dour. Despite its small footprint, there’s sufficient space inside for a quartet of normal-sized adults; this can again be chalked up to the exterior styling choices, which permit good outward sightlines thanks to a tall windshield and high roof.

Freshly baked into the XC40’s infotainment system is the Android Automotive operating system, providing an excellent user experience that deploys Google Maps as its native navigation tool. This means it looks and behaves like a typical smartphone, so it’s user-friendly and intuitive. Its 9-inch touchscreen is portrait-oriented, accepting commands for climate and other functions such as Spotify (another Swedish company, by the way) with ease.

Our AutoTrader experts have heaped praise upon this luxury subcompact SUV over the years. Reviewer Jeff Wilson called it a “very desirable offering” in its segment, noting a “perfect blend of firm support and proper ergonomic shape” while describing seats which can minimize driver strain even after hours behind the wheel. Peter Bleakney said the XC40 offers an “intriguing blend of utility, comfort, and fine driving dynamics,” not to mention a “healthy dose of Nordic chic.” In speaking about the model’s versatility, he mentioned several clever storage solutions including a ski pass-thru (because Sweden) and a nifty under-floor compartment for meatballs or pickled herring. It is also worth mentioning the XC40 beat or tied a Jaguar E-Pace in eight out of nine different categories in a recent AutoTrader comparison test.

The Volvo brand has been synonymous with safety roughly ever since the Vikings set sail from Sölvesborg or wherever they launched their horned ships. For 2022, the XC40 continues to march under this banner – safety, not Vikings – with the Volvo Pilot Assist system, which pairs features such as run-off road protections, automatic braking, and collision avoidance tools with an excellent 360-degree camera setup that provides a clear view around the car. In this metric, it is one of the best-equipped SUVs in the small premium class.

Our jury of more than 20 automotive experts from all over the country considered every single new vehicle available in this segment for Canadians to buy and voted on the best ones based on a dozen different criteria ranging from safety and quality to efficiency and performance. These criteria are weighted with a critical eye to the segment’s intended purpose; for example, luxury features and comfort were more important here than in the mid-size truck category.

Packing handsome styling, a clean and smart interior, plenty of tech, and a dose of Swedish sensibility, the Volvo XC40 is our choice for the Best Luxury Subcompact SUV in the 2022 AutoTrader Awards.