2020 Volvo XC40 T5 Review - Style, Substance, Etcetera

Chris Tonn
by Chris Tonn
Fast Facts

2020 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD Momentum

2.0-liter turbocharged four (248 hp @ 5500 rpm, 258 lb/ft @ 1800 rpm)
8-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel drive
22 city / 30 highway / 25 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)
27.8 (observed mileage, MPG)
10.7 city / 7.7 highway / 9.4 combined (NRCan Rating, L/100km)
Base Price: $36,695 US / $41,765 CAD
As Tested: $47,765 US/ $55,145 CAD
Prices include $995 destination charge in the United States and $2015 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can't be directly compared.

I’m almost certain there is an unwritten code for automotive reviewers that TTAC has generally avoided, if not openly mocked. You’ve seen the fruits of this code on newsstands, where every other month either a Camaro or a Mustang asks the other, in bold print, to STEP OUTSIDE. Another example is the inevitable requirement for someone reviewing a Volvo to somehow reference the awful Dudley Moore flick Crazy People and the “boxy-but-good” tagline.

We won’t talk about the faux Jaguar ad here. This is a family joint. For more discussion, select “private mode” on your browser of choice and look for TTAC After Dark.

Seems the good folks in Gothenburg were affected by the lighthearted fictional criticism, as since the late 1990s Volvo has been applying styling to its previously staid machines. The current-generation models are all stunners, from the largest wagons (swoon) to the smallest crossover, like this 2020 Volvo XC40 T5.

But is the beauty more than skin deep?

This is indeed the second XC40 I’ve reviewed in the past year or so. The first, in more budget-friendly front-drive T4 flavor, impressed me with excellent highway manners and fuel economy for its class. This all-wheel drive model in the Momentum trim has both more power and more plush.

Yeah, it’s clear that I dig the styling of the XC40. Inside and out, it’s as handsome as a crossover can get. I could live without the flat black plastic cladding on the lower surfaces of the vehicle, but that’s seemingly a requirement for the class. I love the detail on the LED headlamp that Volvo refers to as Thor’s Hammer – it’s at once playful and functional.

The red leather – Volvo calls it Oxide Red – is unusual these days, though growing up in the Eighties I recall many cars with velour in a shade my dad curiously referred to as “Whorehouse Red.” My wife isn’t a fan, but I love the splash of color that keeps everything from looking dull. I’d buy the XC40 for these seats alone, as they feel nearly perfect for me and my rear.

Rear seats are equally as comfortable, with plenty of leg and headroom even for me “sitting behind myself,” with the front seat adjusted for my 6’4” frame. This is still a compact crossover, but I could easily haul four adults of my size in plenty of comfort.

I love driving the XC40. No, it’s not a sports car, but it’s not supposed to be. It’s a small, agile crossover that’s easy to maneuver in tight city streets. If you’ve ever tried to park in the narrow cobblestoned-and-potholed alleys of Columbus’ German Village, you’ll appreciate a compact vehicle that gives excellent visibility; it’s also exceptionally stable and reassuring on long highway journeys. Expansion joints on the highway aren’t noticeable – the Volvo gives a quiet, jar-free ride.

[Get Volvo XC40 pricing here!]

I’m not sure I could justify the eleven thousand dollars’ worth of options tacked onto my tester. Easy trims to cut the cost would be the $645 metallic paint (though the choices would be limited to non-metallic black or white, while the extra-bucks paint offers grey, red, and silver), the $1,100 leather, the $1,475 panoramic moonroof, and the $1,000 20-inch alloy wheels.

My budget XC40 T5 would be in non-metallic black, with the blond textile seating, $600 convenience package (power passenger seat and automatic climate control), $750 heated front seats and steering wheel (Ohio weather sucks), and the $1,900 premium package, as it includes a keyless entry system, blind spot information system, parking assist, and wireless charging. I’d waffle a bit on the $1,750 Advanced Package – adaptive cruise control is a marvelous feature, but I’ve driven most of my life without it.

That gets me most of the way to my test car for $39,195 delivered — a compelling package for the price. Forty thousand isn’t cheap – I still blanch at the thought of a monthly payment over three hundred dollars! — but considering what you get from both mainstream and luxury competition in this segment, the Volvo is priced reasonably.

It may no longer be boxy, but it’s still quite good.

[Images: © 2020 Chris Tonn/TTAC]

Chris Tonn
Chris Tonn

Some enthusiasts say they were born with gasoline in their veins. Chris Tonn, on the other hand, had rust flakes in his eyes nearly since birth. Living in salty Ohio and being hopelessly addicted to vintage British and Japanese steel will do that to you. His work has appeared in eBay Motors, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars, Reader's Digest, AutoGuide, Family Handyman, and Jalopnik. He is a member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, and he's currently looking for the safety glasses he just set down somewhere.

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  • Dave M. Dave M. on Feb 20, 2020

    Point 1: Nothing wrong with boxes. Boxy designs (Scion xB, Honda Element, Kia Soul, and now the Telluride) have always sold well. Point 2: Sorry, but if you consider yourself a luxury or near-luxury brand, blind spot, (p)leather, adaptive cruise control, and cross-traffic alert are entry-level items for any vehicle starting above $30k. Make Nappa-quality leather, pano roof, wood trim, ventilated seats and assistive steering options if you must.

  • Baggins Baggins on Feb 24, 2020

    Hummer - it's cachet. Cache =/ Cachet. Look it up.

  • 28-Cars-Later "Here's why" edition_cnn_com/2018/06/13/health/falling-iq-scores-study-intl/index.html
  • 28-Cars-Later Seriously, $85. GM Delta I is burning hot garbage to the point where the 1990 Saturn Z-body is leagues better. My mother inherited an '07 Ion with 30Kish otc which was destroyed in 2014 by a tipsy driver with a suspended license (driver's license enforcement is a joke in Pennsyltucky). Insurance paid out $6,400 when it was only worth about $5,800 IIRC, but sure 10 year later the "hipo" Delta I can fetch how much?
  • Buickman styling does not overcome powertrain, follow the money. labor/materials.
  • VoGhost It's funny, until CDK raises their prices to cover the cost. And then the stealerships do even more stealing because they're certainly not taking the hit - why do you think they make all those political donations? So who pays in the end?
  • VoGhost I was talking today to a guy who pulled up in an '86 Camry. Said it ran like a top, got 30 mpg, the AC was ice cold and everywhere he goes, people ask to buy it. He seemed happy.