MILAN, Italy — Style has long been a key component of the automotive world, from the perspective of both industry and customer, but the connection to the world of haute couture has tended to be a tenuous one for most automakers. As such, Volvo’s decision to debut its new XC40 compact crossover during Milan’s Fashion Week initially raised an eyebrow, especially given the automaker’s Swedish roots. However, given the work currently performed by Volvo’s designers, it’s not a bad time or place for the surging Swede to drop its newest hotness.
“Similar but different” is how I’d sum up the design of the new 2018 Volvo XC40 and its connection to stablemates like the XC90 and our 2016 Design of the Year, the S90. For the XC40, Volvo’s designers combined the stately sophistication of its larger offerings with a youthful, modern spark characterized by a black or white contrasting roof. Think chic Stockholm apartment rather than upscale suburban home.
Up front, the XC40 boasts a new recessed variant of the corporate grille. From the side, especially in red, it resembles a Mazda CX-5. And in the back, the plate recess moves below the tailgate, giving it a more cohesive shape. Anchoring the XC40’s design is a bit of plastic cladding at the bottom of the sheetmetal, which gives the small SUV a rugged touch not unlike the one received by the V90 Cross Country.
In all, it’s an attractive vehicle, especially with the contrasting roof in place. You won’t have to go all the way to the top of the line to get it, either, as it’ll come standard on the Momentum (white) and R-Sport (black) trims that will be available at launch; in fact, you’ll need to skip the range-topping Inscription trim when it arrives as it will come exclusively with a body-color roof.
The XC40 is built on Volvo’s new Compact Modular Architecture (CMA), the first production vehicle to use it. It’s 106.3-inch wheelbase is almost identical to that of the aforementioned CX-5, but its 174.2-inch overall length gives up almost a full five inches while it’s 73.3-inch width and 65.1-inch height are standard-issue for the compact crossover segment.
That “similar but different” theme carries over into the XC40’s cabin, where you’ll find Volvo’s 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster and 9.0-inch infotainment screen. The “different” part comes into play with details like the speakers, which have been removed from the door panels to make room for additional storage space, even on cars fitted with the optional 13-speaker Harman/Kardon system.
Two powertrain configurations will be offered at launch for both trims—the front-drive T4 and all-wheel-drive T5. In the XC60 T5, the 2.0-liter turbo-four is good for 250 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, so expect the T4’s output to come in around 200 for both. A hybrid will be launched later, likely for 2019.
The 2018 Volvo XC40 Momentum will come rolling on 19-inch wheels, while the XC40 R-Sport will be riding on 20s. Pricing starts at $33,200 for a Momentum T4 and $35,200 for a Momentum T5.