February 16, 2018 -- The Volvo XC40 is one of the new breed of SUVs. It is likely to be on show at the Geneva Motor Show, which runs from March 8-18, with press days March 6-7.
Everybody loves SUVs now, and the annual Geneva Car Show will show manufacturers like Volvo, with its new XC40, busily expanding their line-ups penetrating into smaller and cheaper sections of the market.
The show will also parade the latest electric vehicles, as Europe’s manufacturers race to launch the first luxury rivals to the Tesla Model S and Model X. The new all-electric Jaguar I-Pace looks like winning that crown. Meanwhile, manufacturers will be hiding their diesels, as public opinion mounts against them. Debutants include the Range Rover Coupe, Ford Focus, and Mazda MX6.
Last year a record more than 4.5 million Europeans bought an SUV, according to industry analyst JATO Dynamics, almost 20 percent more than the previous year and at the expense of people movers and saloon cars. In the U.S. of course, these Chelsea Tractors, or cute-utes, have been ubiquitous for years. And it seems this infatuation is gaining speed in Europe because of their utility, the high-riding position which many drivers like, plus the ability to go off-road if required.
SUVs – sport utility vehicles – used to be big lumbering machines more like vans than cars, mainly seen on farms and at gymkhanas. Now even small cars have an SUV version. They’re becoming so popular, they might eventually replace cars.
Volvo, the Sweden-based company now owned by Zhejiang Geely Holding of China, has been successfully selling its big XC90 SUV and smaller XC60 and is now introducing the striking looking XC40 into the smaller, premium sector. It must be good because the competition includes the Audi Q3, BMW X1, Mercedes GLA and the new Jaguar E-Pace.
Not surprisingly for Volvo, known for its commitment to safety rather than performance, the XC40 doesn’t pretend to be a hot rod, but offers safety, comfort, refinement and clever packaging as its selling points. Inside, the car has the traditional minimalist style, and an impressive sound system.
The XC40’s looks will make it instantly recognisable, although not everybody will have a positive view. Initially there are no six-cylinder engines available, just three petrol engines and two diesels. And yes you did read that right; Volvo is offering a diesel engine across this range, even though media reports last year suggested the company was ditching this controversial engine option to save the planet. Volvo actually said it wouldn’t offer diesel engines after 2019 with any new models, but will carry on making them for the foreseable future. Not quite the same thing.
The engines range from 150 to 250hp, and all are two-litre four cylinder motors. There will be a plug-in hybrid version later, and an electric-only one eventually. Given Volvo’s expertise and research, maybe a driverless one will be available one day.
Just because it’s called an SUV doesn’t mean you can expect four-wheel drive. Cheaper versions will have front-wheel drive only. High tech equipment includes Oncoming Lane Mitigation, which helps drivers avoid head-on collisions, and some semi-autonomous driving functions.
If you opt for Volvo On Call you can control various functions remotely from your smartphone or smartwatch. You can lock and unlock the doors, and, on automatic versions, start the engine to pre-heat or cool the cabin. It can also automatically alert the emergency services if your car is involved in an accident, and use the car’s GPS to direct them to you.
Prices in the UK start at £27,905 after tax.
The Geneva Car Show opens to the public March 8-18 at the Palexpo Centre. Press days are March 6-7. (Story: Neil Winton)