Scandinavian living: 3 years with the Volvo XC40

Time sure flies by when you’re behind the wheel of a nice car and sitting in the service area as I wait for a service representative to collect our car for its final inspection before our warranty runs out, it sure doesn’t feel like it’s been almost 3 years since my partner first took delivery of her then brand new XC40 T5 Momentum from the local dealership. And for those 3 years, I guess I’m happy to report that our ownership experience for our XC40 has been rather… uneventful. This is probably the most ideal sort of ownership experience one would want when buying a brand new car.

So what have we changed with our stock standard XC40 since collection? Well, other than fixing up the occasional door ding and carpark mishap with the guys at Revol (I can’t recommend them enough) we really wanted to keep our warranty intact, which meant our XC40 hasn’t seen that much in terms of customisation.

The original and really staid looking stock 18 alloys were swapped out for a set of 19s from ERST. Unfortunately, one of the rims now has some ugly kerb marks. Sigh.

Because our earliest batch of XC40s did not come with the cute little fender flags, I bought one from the internets and stuck it on myself. Sadly, this flag has also lost its adhesiveness after 2-3 years and came off under our intense local sun. I have yet to reattach it but it now sits safely on my study table.

We had some servicing vouchers and used them to purchase these OEM mud-flaps. It does look much better with them. I think all XC40s should have these as standard, they also help reduce dirty splash marks on the lower bumpers quite a bit.

And lastly, a sticker from Tsutaya Books Daikanyama. Those who know, know.

So in the past 3 years, what did I like and dislike about our XC40? Well, there’s not much to dislike to be honest but let’s start with what I like (or love) about it.

The styling. Up till today, I still think it looks great even when compared with a newer generation of rivals. The XC40’s chunky design direction worked well 3 years ago and still works for me today. The lines are clean, defined, unfussy and Volvo’s designers did the car a great service by not giving the car unnecessary surfacing cuts so common on other marques. Boxy, but really good. I even got someone to do a custom artwork piece on the XC40, allowing the artist to take some creative liberties of course.

Usability. Nuff said.👆

Our interior space. Not just in terms of how clever it when designing interior storage nor how clean and pleasant the interior is, but also because we were given the option to specify our interior’s trim colour (in addition to pretty much everything else), and as you can see, we went for the beautiful blonde interior option, further giving the already spacious cabin an even lighter atmosphere. It’s a little more difficult to keep clean but we feel it’s worth the effort.

Unfortunately, all local XC40s can now only be bought with rather dull and characterless black interior. A really strange decision considering Volvo’s Scandinavian roots. Not even Amber (tanned/brown)?

Pilot Assist. Volvo’s Level 2 autonomous driving system. Not something one would use on every journey but a great piece of tech to have on certain stretches of speed restricted roads. We’re surprised it’s not standard equipment on more cars currently on sale today. Especially on the more “premium” marques.

360 (top down view) Parking Camera. Can’t live without it once you have it. Again, something we think should be made standard on “premium” market cars.

Ground clearance/AWD sure-footedness. While we’re not about to bring out XC40 off-road anytime soon, it’s good to know that with a wading depth of up to 450mm and AWD, chances of getting stuck when the next local “ponding” event happens are relatively low. In comparison, a Mercedes-Benz GLC can only swim up to 300mm. Suck on that Mercedes.

Fun fact, ERST also makes custom springs to lift the XC40 ride height ever so slightly. It does cost quite a bit.

The T5 engine. 248 horses and 350Nm of torque readily available when needed. Yes, it can move if you REALLLLLYYYYYYY want it to. Though it does get quite noisy when doing so, and the amount of weight it carries with it into corners means it’s no BMW. A lower-powered X1/X2 will run rings around this. Guaranteed. Unfortunately for power-hungry folk, the local dealership is not able to “Polestar” our cars for an added bump in performance, which is sad.

The showroom/servicing experience. This bit is really from our point of view and while we’re sure others might have differing opinions, our own experiences when sending our XC40 to the dealership has been entirely pleasant. 

I think I can be considered somewhat of a BMW fanboy but I have to admit the Volvo dealership has nailed it when it comes to creating a comfortable space to relax in. More so than BMW, more so than Mercedes-Benz, and it’s not just down to the Scandinavian aesthetics either, they even provide small rooms for those who prefer to sit and wait while their cars get worked on. 

Service-wise, we truly have no complaints, their staff have been friendly and professional whenever we are at the service centre/dealership and issues we address do (as least we think so) get looked at.

And now, what do I NOT like about our XC40.

Fuel consumption isn’t great. Rack up those petrol station points because these 248 horses can get a little thirsty! Volvo claims a combined cycle of 9litres/100km (11.11km/litre), which isn’t that great already. For us, over 3 years, our combined cycle is now averaging around 10.5litres/100km (9.5km/litre), this is with mostly relatively calm city driving, the occasional “eco” mode and very rare instances of “enthusiastic” driving.

While we did manage to match Volvo’s 9litres/100km (and even besting it to an 8.8-8.9litre/100km) for a few weeks, it wasn’t easy maintaining this figure and we had to almost always pay attention to our driving even in “eco” mode.

Engine noise. As mentioned earlier, this turbocharged 2-litre unit doesn’t make a very pleasant sound. Almost agricultural when compared to those from BMW. The air-con unit is also especially loud from the outside with a really loud fan blower. (W124 style)

The XC40’s width. Not something I dislike in functionality but damn those door dings never stop appearing. Especially along the wheel arches. We can’t go a week after fixing the dings before another shows up, even our rubber window trim has a scuff mark, the XC40 is a mega ding magnet. It’s insane.

Paint quality. A little nit-picky here but paint quality isn’t that great with different shades of white showing between the metal and plastic bits. Not a deal-breaker but something I’d thought you should know.

No interior lights for back-seat passengers. This was really dumb. But it happened, the earliest batch of XC40 Momentum cars did NOT come with cabin lights for the rear passengers. At least our has a glass-roof.

UI konks out. Happens very rarely but it does happen. It automatically reboots itself though but before that happens, you’re left with 2 totally blank screens.

And that’s…. About it I guess. There’s really not much to dislike about this car and while it might seem biased, we still can’t think of any other car we’d rather have in this segment, that’s around a similar price point.

The GLB? Looks great and has a colourful snazzy interior, but its lifeless, lacklustre engine and very basic features are somewhat of a letdown given its premium price point. No air-con vents for backseat passengers, no in-car navigation, no glass-roof, no autonomous cruise control and while it’s a generation ahead of the XC40, it doesn’t bring with it anything meaningfully innovative other than a smarter voice-controlled assistant. The BMW X1 and X2 are unfortunately both running on slightly older platforms in dire need of updating (some say coming in 2022) and the X3 while excellent and about to be face-lifted is unfortunately in another size/price segment altogether.

So… It’s perfect? Well, no. I wish it was but while we encountered no major issues leaving us stranded (we did run out of fuel once necessitating rescue but that’s another story), we did have to deal with a number of small things needing to be addressed.

Front windscreen. While not exactly a warranty issue but an insurance one, our XC40 suffered a cracked windscreen barely a month into ownership, it was fixed under insurance but the kind folk at the dealership waived our excess which was a really nice gesture.

Rear hatch latch/handle. A common fault across the entire range of XC40s, the story goes that the plastic screws used to attach the plastic handle is torqued on with too much force at the factory and over a short period of time, will eventually snap. It happened on ours as well, we just lived with it with some tape and had it fixed during a service.

Start/stop battery died. A separate battery from the main one powering the rest of the car’s electrical systems, this one is solely for the Start/stop system, which means it stops functioning once the battery has flatlined. While most people wouldn’t mind it, it’s still something we had replaced under warranty since I LIKE the Start/stop feature.

Headlight malfunction. Again replaced under warranty, one of our headlight units malfunctioned and the entire unit was replaced.

Sport-key. Volvo has a smaller key dubbed the “Sport key” but the stupidity of its design is you cannot replace nor charge the battery in this key, so once the battery runs out (in about 2 years), you’re gonna need a brand new one. And you’re gonna need to get it coded at the dealership, for an entire day, with all your other keys. It’s a bit of a hassle, but at least it was covered.

Front suspension top mounts, engine mounts. Nothing exceptionally vexing on these bits but glad that they were covered.

Outside of the warranty, we also did have to pay for some wear/tear items during routine servicing, brake discs and pads, wiper blades as well as a new set of tyres.

So after those relatively uneventful years, what’s next? Well, as I mentioned earlier, we still can’t think of anything that can replace the XC40 even after 3 years so it looks like we’ll be headed for more uneventful years of XC40 motoring!

We’re not complaining. Yet.

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