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Volvo XC40 delivers sporty, affordable SUV

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With the launch of its new XC40 sport-utility, Volvo delivers a premium-level SUV that is now the smallest and sportiest version in the stable. It makes a lot of sense for the Swedish auto manufacturer to expand its lineup of utility vehicles – truth is, there’s never been a better time to have as many variations as possible.

The diminutive XC40 widens Volvo’s appeal as the brand embraces expanding the entire vehicle lineup. This is a brand that must compete with the likes of Mercedes, Audi and BMW – and compete it does with the new XC40. In terms of distinction, it wins that battle hands down.

Distinct Exterior

There’s no mistaking the XC40 as anything other than a Volvo. All the signature design cues are there, from the wide stance to the vertical taillights, and the grille’s unique crossbar.

This is a sporty and more “laid-back” SUV than anything Volvo has produced. I like the standard 18-inch, five-spoke silver alloy wheels and the youthful high-gloss piano black grille.

A small Swedish flag is visible sticking out of the driver’s side door. While it is an odd design item, “odd” is often part of Volvo’s calling card – and I like it. Many observers will be interested to know the XC40 is Volvo’s least expensive SUV. Big brothers XC90 and XC60 provide plenty of larger spaces, but the XC40 hits the sweet spot that is growing in popularity across the globe.

The base trim, called the XC Momentum, is a well-equipped starter level. Offering five drive modes and the expected Volvo-level of safety and technical features, this modest sized SUV manages to take the equipment level to the highest point in this premium class. Standard features include forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, and lane-keeping assist that helps redirect the vehicle when it drifts out of its lane.

Going upscale to the R-Design (a $2,500 upgrade), provides 19-inch double-spoke matte black wheels, sport-oriented grille, distinctive decor inlays, three-spoke steering wheel with perforated leather, and Nubuck leather upholstery.

Cabin

Volvo has always built high-quality cabins and the XC40 is no exception. A large, attractive control system lacks intuitive use (though it looks cool). This tablet-sized operating interface handles audio, climate and phone functions. I never really got the hang of this system after a week driving the XC40. The shifter uses a quick-tap method that, once mastered, delivers easy use – but it takes time to get used to.

Occupants sit high in comfort and with sufficient legroom and headroom. Interior space is measured at 20.7 cubic feet with the rear seats up, 47.2 cubic feet with the seats down.

The console has an open bin and a small removable waste container, door pockets, a bag holder on the glove box, and partially hidden cellphone perch are small, worthwhile conveniences. Look for a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster; a 9.0-inch touchscreen with Sensus Connect with SiriusXM satellite radio, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto.

Drive

The XC40 feels solid on the road, a whopping 3,756 pounds for such a small vehicle, but it proved to be nimble for handling. The 2.0-liter turbocharged engine delivers a robust 187 horsepower that is mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission. Acceleration is fun for the segment, achieving the standard 0-to-60-mph in 6.2 seconds.

Overall, the new Volvo XC40 is everything Volvo has proven to be, from quality craftsmanship in the cabin, making safety a priority to exceptional drive characteristics, it’s all here in a small-ish SUV that fun to drive at a base price of $35,700.

This auto review was researched and written by SteinPro Content Services and provided to the Sun-Times for publication