Published on April 18th, 2019 | by Subhash Nair


Volvo XC40 T5 Review: No Compromise Compact Luxury

Back in October 2018, Volvo Car Malaysia released their most important car to date. Now, it’s not the largest (nor is it the smallest) car they sell, but it’s significant in other ways.

For one, it’s the most compact crossover/SUV in their lineup. Think about how many established premium marques have been pushing into this territory with new nameplates. BMW’s X2. Mercedes-Benz with their GLA. Lexus with the UX. Jaguar with the E-Pace. Just a generation of vehicles ago, none of these names existed. Today, and in the years to come, these are the names that will draw the largest revenue streams. They’ll be easier to get loans for, more accessible to lease and still be able to carry the brand values that customers look for in developed markets.

But the XC40 is particularly important to Volvo Car Malaysia for a number of other reasons. Not only is it a chance for the brand to show how much more value it can deliver to customers, but it’s also:

  1. the first time they’re building a car on the Compact Modular Architecture (CMA)
  2. the most affordable Volvo they’ve made to date
  3. better equipped than its closest German rivals

But if you’re a prospective buyer, you’ll be less obsessed with its importance and more interested in what it’s like as a car. So here’s my report.


With 252hp and 350Nm of torque, the XC40 T5 is very fast. 0-100km/h is dispatched in just 6.4 seconds. Not quite sports car territory, but quick enough that you won’t be left wanting.

Like the rest of Volvo’s Drive-E engines, the 2-litre ‘T5’ in here, while capable, prefers to be moved along at a walking pace. One feels a sense of guilt when extracting the engine’s full power. Almost like the modern Swedish Gods of environmental mindfulness are tutting at you from above. It’s an engine whose purpose is efficiency, so asking it to sing results in some awkward tunes. The 8-speed automatic gearbox, like the engine, feels better when used at a more reasonable pace. It’s an Aisin part, so long-term reliability was perhaps what it was engineered and geared for.

That being said, the rest of the XC40’s setup is particularly impressive for a Volvo. The suspension, brakes, and chassis are all CLASS-LEADING. And I don’t use those words lightly. There’s nothing that feels compromised in the XC40’s behaviour. The steering is reasonably communicative, you don’t really feel the weight of the car, the nose doesn’t dive under heavy braking, and it’s still quiet and comfortable enough to carry the Volvo badge.

It has all-wheel drive. Some may think this adds value, but to me it’s the one thing Volvo Cars Malaysia could have dropped to save on cost (and weight). Its presence might be appreciated by some, but this reviewer doesn’t see its relevance in an urban crossover.

Performance, overall I have to give it very high marks. In this category of car, manufacturers have to make compromises. Whatever compromises Volvo has made in the XC40, the customers won’t be able to perceive it. Amazing stuff.

Design – Exterior

When designing a ‘family look’ for cars, some manufacturers tend to keep things too familiar. We’re all familiar by now with the Russian doll effect of recent generations of Benz, BMW and Audi vehicles. Volvo tread a slightly different path than their German counterparts.

The analogy recounted to us by Volvo’s designers was that of a collection of shoes. Imagine a brand that creates a wide variety of shoes. You’d have loafers, sneakers, oxfords, running shoes, etc. Volvo’s portfolio is designed in that manner.

They tailor their designs to fit a particular customer and use-case. The XC40 at its core is more urban-casual wear, but the R-Design kit adds a little athleticism to the look. So maybe it’s the Sketchers of the lot? I’m no footwear enthusiast, perhaps you can help me out in the comments.

I think the XC40 is a great looking vehicle. Absolutely stunning, confident and expensive looking from every angle. The two-tone exterior colour scheme was a bold choice by Volvo but it works so well.

The R-Design elements like the front grille, D-pillar and lower body trim pieces all add up to give it a truly unique and mildly aggressive look. The 19″ alloys seal the look perfectly. It’s worth noting that some of these parts are optional. You can even spec it up to 20″ or 21″ wheels if you want.

The XC40, in my opinion, looks best in Fusion Red Metallic, Crystal White Pearl or Bursting Blue Metallic. There’s a grey option too, for those who prefer a more subdued look.

Design – Interior

Inside is where the party really starts. R-Design seats in a mix of different premium materials, including suede-like Nubuck leather. Contrast stitching and piping is present too, as well as a charcoal headliner to complete the sophisticated look.

Unlike many of the -60 and -90 Series cars, the XC40 omits the ‘twist-to-start’ knob for a more conventional push to start button. It still gets a rather wide, vertically aligned touchscreen and many other modern Volvo elements.

What I like best (besides the functionality, which we elaborate on next) is how unpretentious the interior is. Premium cars today are inevitably going to have lots of plastic in the cabin. Instead of styling it like something it is not (as we’ve seen on the MINI Countryman), Volvo keeps things simple and clean.

Curves and lines are not made to represent other things that exist in nature. They are designed to serve whatever purpose they were made for. There’s something to appreciate in that approach. It’s the difference between letting a professional design something to the best of his/her capability and being ‘marketed’ a ‘premium’ design.


The sheer functionality of the XC40 is another one of its strong points. Instead of writing too much about it, here’s a list of what we could find.

  • Qi wireless charger
  • 2 USB Type A and 12V charger port in front with cable routing
  • 2 card slots for driver
  • Miniature card/phone slot in the centre storage
  • Multi-tiered glove box
  • Central bin with internally tiered bin floor and elastic netting
  • Large door pockets, speakers have been moved up
  • Rear seat shallow storage bins on either side of the rear bench
  • USB-type C for rear passengers
  • Flat folding rear seats
  • 12V socket in the boot
  • Spare tyre compartment
  • Underfloor storage (can be used for boot cover)
  • Boot floor divider

Here are some photos and our Sights & Sounds video to give you some context.


There are only a few things to be said about value. First of all, it’s a premium car, so you can’t expect a sub-RM200,000 price tag. That seems to be the unspoken rule.

Next, it’s the priciest of its competitors, but it’s also be best equipped. Nothing comes close to the spec and feature set that Volvo are offering here. And when you’re in the market for premium, too often manufacturers get away with ‘kosong‘ spec cars. The spectacle of a premium badge is not misused by Volvo. Got to respect them for that.

Finally, there are the alternatives. RM256K is a lot of money. It’s enough money to get you into a (previous gen) 3-Series or C-Class. Both of those are fine alternatives. But the XC40’s audience is one that looks for a certain lifestyle element that those two vehicles may not be able to provide.

And while the XC40 is a ‘compact’ crossover, it’s really a lot more comfortable than those two. Compact executive sedans tend to feel a lot smaller than they look. If you want one car that fills more uses, the XC40 gets my vote.

Volvo XC40 T5 R-Design Specifications

Engine: Inline 4, direct injection, turbocharged, petrol
Capacity: 1969cc
Gearbox: 8-speed Conventional Automatic
Max power: 252hp @ 5500rpm
Max torque: 350Nm @ 1800rpm
Top Speed: 230km/h
0-100 km/h: 6.4 seconds
Price: RM255,888

About the Author

Written work on @subhashtag on instagram. Autophiles Malaysia on Youtube.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to Top ↑