More standard features. The 2021 Volvo XC40 comes with more standard equipment. LED headlights, LED fog lights, power-folding and auto-dimming exterior mirrors, two rear Type-C USB ports, and leather upholstery are all standard. Additionally, the XC40 adds a bunch of standard safety features, including blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive headlights, and automatic high beams.
Now that the base Momentum trim comes with more standard features than before, it represents the best value option in the lineup. Even with a few optional packages, a well-equipped XC40 can be had for less than $40,000. That’s a great price for the class and brings several upscale features for the segment.
All of the XC40’s trims, besides the R-Design, which adds a few sport elements over other trims, feel like good value. Even the range-topping Inscription trim makes you feel like you’re getting a lot for your money. It also comes with a host of opulent features, including a crystal gearshift knob, genuine wood inlays, and chrome exterior trim.
A leader in safety. Unlike a lot of other luxury options in the subcompact class, the XC40 is packed with a variety of standard safety features. Nearly every safety feature under the sun is standard, besides adaptive cruise control and a surround-view camera, which are available on higher trim levels.
In crash-testing conducted by the NHTSA, the XC40 earned a five-star overall safety rating. The IIHS hasn’t tested the 2021 model. Last year, it earned a Top Safety Pick award, failing to earn the coveted Top Safety Pick Plus designation because of its standard headlights. With newly standard adaptive LED headlights, the XC40’s score should improve from last year.
Even with a Top Safety Pick award, the XC40 is one of just two luxury subcompact crossover SUVs in the class, along with the Lexus UX, to earn one of the IIHS’ awards. That makes it one of the safest vehicles in the class.
Uniquely styled. Funky, modern, and distinct, the XC40 manages to stand out in a cramped segment for all of the right reasons. Volvo decided not to make smaller versions of the XC60 and XC90, giving the XC40 a look that’s entirely its own. A two-tone paint job, C-shaped taillights, sharp C-pillar design, and small dimensions all make the XC40 look like a high-end robot.
On the inside, the XC40 is just as unique. The simplistic design ditches a button-heavy approach thanks to a vertically-oriented 9-inch touchscreen. With crisp, clean lines, it feels airy and spacious when it comes to head room, though the rear seats are narrow, making it difficult to seat three comfortably. The front bucket seats, in typical Volvo fashion, offer some of the most comfort and support in the class.
Consumers don’t buy a subcompact crossover to get the most cargo capacity, but the XC40 offers less space than the majority of other options in the class. There’s 20.7 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats and a total of 47.2 cubic feet with the rear seats folded. While those figures are below average for the segment, an available fold-up cargo floor that brings a convenient place to store goodies, cargo hooks, an available storage bin under the driver’s seat, and a trunk divider all help consumers make the most of the XC40’s interior.
Splurge for the T5 powertrain. Objectively, there’s nothing wrong with the XC40’s base T4 powertrain. Volvo continues to stick with offering turbocharged four-cylinder engines in its small vehicles, and it’s a similar case with the XC40. Both are turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engines, though the more powerful version is well worth the upgrade.
With 187 horsepower, the majority of consumers won’t have much to complain about with the base engine. Its only true fault is not having a lot of grunt when passing on the highway. Additionally, the T4 powertrain is only offered with front-wheel drive.
For $2,000 more, we recommend the T5 powertrain, which comes with all-wheel drive. While the engine is the same in both powertrains, the T5 is rated at 248 horsepower. The extra grunt and the addition of all-wheel drive make the T5 easy to recommend.
Final thoughts. The 2021 Volvo XC40 proves that standing out can be a good thing. Between its unique design, peppy powertrains, minimalistic layout, and safety-first approach, Volvo’s subcompact is one of the better choices in the class.
We only have minor gripes with the XC40. The gear shifter is a bit odd to use, the second row could be wider, and we’d love to see a larger cargo area. None of these negatives would stop us from recommending it, though.
If you’re looking for a sharper-handling crossover, the BMW X1 is the way to go. It doesn’t have the same stylish design or comfortable seats, but the BMW has a larger cargo area and comes with a more powerful standard engine. The all-new Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class is another subcompact crossover that’s worth looking at. It has more cutting-edge tech features than the XC40, a more powerful standard engine, and can hold more cargo.
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