A new look. With the 2020 Volvo XC40, the brand tackles one of the hottest segments on the market: the luxury compact crossover. But they have a secret weapon: a new, thoroughly Scandinavian take on upscale styling.

The new XC40 is a departure for Volvo. It borrows from the larger XC60 and XC90, but the bold contrast roof and creased hood lend youthful energy absent from the rest of the lineup. In our opinion, it looks great.

The color choices for the XC40 range from conventional to brash, but an upright shape and thoughtful character lines mean that it wears either one well. The interior can be just as striking, especially with the Lava Orange carpets ripped straight from the 70s. It looks better than you’d expect.

The XC40 has one other clue to its modernity: a new payment model. Volvo will offer the car on a subscription model, charging $700 a month for a hassle-free ownership experience. That includes 15,000 miles a year, insurance, maintenance, and an upgrade every 24 months. Whether the Netflix generation will be interested, remains to be seen.

Impressive ergonomics. For a compact crossover, the XC40 manages its space well. The front seats are spacious in their own right, but scalloped backs mean that rear-seat passengers have room to stretch. The second row is slightly narrower than we’d like, but it’s fine for two.

With 20.7 cubic feet of cargo space, the XC40 keeps up nicely with most compact crossovers. That includes direct luxury competitors like the Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class.

Interior storage is just as thoughtful, with useful nooks and crannies throughout. Door pockets are deep, the glovebox gets bag hangers, and the console has a small bin for litter. Everything is in the right place and feels premium.

The lone annoyance is a shifter that eschews traditional knobs in favor of a sculpted bumper, which is nice to look at but not particularly nice to use.

2020 Volvo XC40

Performance to match. The XC40 comes with your choice of two powertrains. The base T4 engine is only available with front-wheel drive, while the T5 upgrade gets all-wheel drive.

If you can afford it, the T5 is worth the cost. It makes the XC40 one of the quickest in its class, with plentiful torque arriving early in the rev range. Performance is smooth and refined, and the cabin is impressively quiet.

The base Momentum trim handles well enough, but corner carvers will want the R-Design trim. It stiffens up the handling without compromising ride quality, which is a neat trick.

All the performance goodness does come at a slight cost in fuel economy. At an EPA-estimated 27 miles per gallon combined (25 mpg with all-wheel drive), the XC40 is only average for a compact crossover. Given its virtues, that’s a compromise we’re not too sorry to make.

Modern in a good way. The XC40 gets a generous 9-inch touchscreen like many of its fellows, but Volvo chooses portrait orientation. The system is one of our favorites, with full smartphone compatibility, quick responses, and an intuitive interface.

Volvo has a long track record of safe cars, and the XC40 is no exception. The 2020 XC40 earned a Top Safety Pick Plus award from the IIHS, and it comes with a standard suite of active safety tech. Thick pillars mean that outward visibility isn’t quite perfect, but available blind-spot monitoring softens the impact.

In the highest Inscription trim, the XC40 gets leather upholstery and driftwood trim that looks classy and distinctively Scandinavian. But the XC40 is just as lovely in base form, where it’s good value against more expensive German and British competition.

Final thoughts. Volvo seems to be on a roll lately, and we find the XC40 hard to dislike. Of course, there are a few things to improve, like an oddball shifter and a wider second row.

Overall, however, the XC40 is as fun to use as it is to look at. Especially with the all-wheel-drive powertrain, it’s a standout even in a highly competitive class. Subscription model or no, the luxury establishment should take notice.

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