We're spending 12 months with this Volvo XC40, which wins two KBB Best Buy Awards for 2019, reviewing the full ownership experience with ongoing updates.


A digital Easter Egg: Turn the XC40’s instrument cluster into a map

by Matt Degen on December 12, 2018

Current Odometer: 6,157 miles
Latest MPG: 22.0 mpg
Lifetime MPG: 22.7 mpg
Maintenance/Service Costs: $0
Time out of Service: 0 days

I love finding nice surprises in cars, and the XC40 is loaded with them. One of the Volvo XC40’s best tricks is the type of feature that other automakers shout about but that Volvo only mentions modestly. In fact, I only discovered it when digging into this compact Volvo SUV’s deep set of features: the ability to transform the XC40’s instrument cluster into a map.

Audi and Volkswagen models also feature this ability – they call it Digital Cockpit and Virtual Cockpit, respectively – but I had no idea that the Volvo has a similar feature. It’s an excellent asset in general because it puts the navigation display directly in your line of sight. Instead of having to glance to the right, where the navigation is normally displayed on the Volvo’s standard 9-inch, vertically oriented touchscreen, you can opt to also have it displayed in the also-standard 12.3-inch display that houses the digital speedometer and tachometer.

I stumbled upon the feature while looking for something else. While driving, I noticed that the title and album artwork of whatever I was listening to would pop up in the dash at the start of each song, then disappear. I wanted the music info to be displayed permanently, so I started digging into the Volvo’s robust settings.

Sure enough, there was the ability to have the audio info permanently displayed in the center stack. But it was another option that intrigued me even more: The selection to have a map displayed. Cool!

How to make the Volvo XC40’s dash turn into a navigation map

To do this yourself, you’ll of course need navigation, which is part of the Multimedia Package that also includes a fantastic sounding Harman Kardon audio system (I’ll cover that in an upcoming post). The package can cost $1,375 on lower trims, or is standard on models such as the R-Design. Here’s how to make in-dash navigation happen in the Volvo:

1.      Go to settings by pressing the little gear icon in upper-left of touchscreen

2.      Press the “My Car” tab at the top.

3.      Press “Displays,” also the top tab.

4.      Press “Driver Display Information.”

5.      Press the “Show Map” setting.

And voila! Your instrument cluster will now show a map housed between the speedometer and tachometer. Note that you can also have the navigation continued to be displayed in the 9-inch center touchscreen as well, which is useful for getting more detail and having the ability to zoom in or out.

And as a bonus, if you’re looking to have the information about your current media of choice displayed in the center screen, such as song and album artwork or radio station, on Step 4 press “Show Current Media.” That will elect to permanently display what’s playing, vs. only briefly as when a new song comes one.


How to disable the Volvo XC40’s start/stop system

by Matt Degen on November 26, 2018

Current Odometer: 5,663 miles
Latest MPG: 21.7 mpg
Lifetime MPG: 23.9 mpg
Maintenance/Service Costs: $0
Time out of Service: 0 days

If you haven’t bought a new car lately and are in the market, there’s no doubt that it will have significantly different features than those in the vehicle you’re currently driving. From standard Bluetooth connectivity to a backup camera and even systems that can automatically apply the brakes to avoid a collision, today’s vehicles feel like a seismic shift from those of just five or ten years ago.

One feature that has the most potential to surprise you is idle start/stop. In brief, it shuts off the engine in situations where you’d otherwise sit idling, such as at stop lights. The idea is that it saves fuel, even for just a moment. But those moments add up in the long-run. Still, if you’ve never owned a car with idle start/stop, it can be an unpleasant surprise to experience it turning off the engine. This is especially true if you grew up in a time where an engine just shutting off was a very bad thing. Restarts can also be aggravating due to their at times rough nature.

As with so many other new cars, the 2019 Volvo XC40 has an idle start/stop feature. But the Volvo’s is among the best out there, not necessarily because its restarts are butter smooth – they’re not -- but because it can be disabled – permanently.

Putting the stop in start/stop

While most new cars with idle start/stop allow you to defeat the system with the press of a button, all too often it’s just for that trip. If you want the system disabled in other new cars, you have to manually disable it every time you start it up. It can be aggravating, especially if you dislike it as much as I do. In addition to never fully getting used to the engine just stopping, I don’t like what it does to climate systems on many cars, going into a sort of eco mode where it curtails the air conditioning, for instance.

With the 2019 Volvo XC40, however, you can set the system to off, and it won’t activate again unless you intentionally do so. Here’s how to do it, in two easy steps:

  1. From the Sensus central touchscreen, swipe right to get to the Vehicle Functions screen
  2. Now tap the Start/Stop icon. When the green line next to it is off, so is the start/stop system

And there you go: You’ve now disabled the Volvo XC40’s start/stop features.

And there’s better news if you’re into Volvos. This workaround isn’t exclusive to the XC40. For the 2019 model year, all Volvos can have their idle start/stop system disabled in this same manner. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case for prior years, but if you’re in the market for a new Volvo, know that you can switch off the start/stop system in this same manner.


Let’s address that key fob flub

by Matt Degen on November 7, 2018

Current Odometer: 4,948 miles
Latest MPG: 19.3 mpg
Lifetime MPG: 21.6 mpg
Maintenance/Service Costs: $0
Time out of Service: 0 days

So far I’ve found one aggravating yet easily fixable flaw in our 2019 Volvo XC40 long-term test vehicle. And to be honest, it’s not even in the XC40. It’s the key. Yes, that fob that allows entry to the car and something you’ll use every time you want to lock it.

What could possibly be wrong with the key, you might ask? Like that of other new Volvos, it’s a little monolithic thing that conveys power and cuteness at once. But the devil’s in the details. And what devils me about this one are the lock and unlock buttons.

Go ahead, take a look at those buttons. Can you see which one’s which? Yeah, me neither. That’s because the buttons are tiny, and even worse, they are black on black. That’s the kind of sin that would make typographers go nuts.

Keyless entry helps one side of the equation

Now this isn’t a big deal when it comes to unlocking the Volvo XC40. That’s because this vehicle has keyless entry (part of the Premium Package or a $575 standalone option). True to its name, you don’t need the key in your hand to enter the vehicle. As long as the fob is nearby – say in a pocket or purse – the XC40 unlocks when you place your hand on the little indent in the door handle. But it’s a different story for locking the vehicle. We all do this when we park our car in a public place or merely outside our home. And that’s where, every time, I still have to squint to see which button is which.

Adding some insult to this admittedly minor injury is that the XC40 has an automatic locking feature, but that too could be improved. According the owner’s manual – a digital version that can be read via the center screen, by the way – “If the car is unlocked with the remote control key (which disarms the alarm) but none of the doors or the tailgate is opened within two minutes, then the alarm is automatically re-armed. The car is relocked at the same time.”

Two suggestions

If I could make a suggestion, it would be to allow the driver to configure the car to automatically lock even after you exit the vehicle, not just if you unlock the car but don’t get in. There are multiple ways to configure other aspects of the Volvo XC40’s lock/unlock functions, including audible alerts that it locked, and whether it automatically unlocks just the driver’s door or all doors. All these can be found and adjusted within this Volvo SUV’s extensive list of vehicle settings.

Then there’s my other, main suggestion: Choose a different combination than black on black for that key fob.


Here’s how the Volvo XC40 will keep your pickles and champagne safe

by Matt Degen on October 24, 2018

Current Odometer: 4,758 miles
Latest MPG: 19.7 mpg
Lifetime MPG: 22.2 mpg
Maintenance/Service Costs: $0
Time out of Service: 0 days

Sometimes some of the most ingenious automotive features are also the simplest. The type of thing where you use it and think, “Why don’t all cars have this?” The new 2019 Volvo XC40 is filled with such traits.

One of my favorites, and one that I use almost every time I drive our newest long-term test vehicle, is its foldable rear cargo divider. It works like this: You pull a little handle, and suddenly the flat load floor lifts. From there, it lodges it in place in two built-in indents on the sides. And just like that, you split the XC40’s commendable 57.5 cubic feet of cargo space into two areas separated by a sturdy, crosswise divider.

Why is this significant? Well, if you’ve ever gone grocery shopping and then put said groceries in the back of you SUV, you already know. Without being secured, groceries tend to roll around, causing havoc to fruit and risking soda in your face when opening that bottle.

Worse is the possibility of jars rolling out when raising the tailgate. In other vehicles I’ve lost a jar of pickles and a bottle of champagne from the combination of gravity and my overexuberant driving – not to mention other vehicles’ design that don’t have a cargo lip to keep things from rolling out. The XC40’s rear divider solves such woes by keeping goods in place. And yes, it also has a cargo lip to prevent next week’s meal from splatting onto the asphalt.

But wait, there’s more! The divider has three built-in hooks that allow you to hang bags or otherwise strap stuff in place. It’s ingenious, and shows the level of detail Volvo’s engineers have gone to in making the XC40 one of the most useful subcompact luxury SUVs available. Even in the down, flat position, this cargo tray has a secret: It creates a hidden space underneath for stuff.

Just buy the Premium Package

The XC40’s rear cargo divider isn’t standard, but comes as part of the Premium Package. This package is an extra $1,400, but it’s highly recommendable, and brings a lot more than just a trick-folding cargo divider. The divider is actually the least of the package’s features.

That extra $1,400 also buys you Pilot Assist, which allows the XC40 to semi-autonomously drive and steer itself (look for an update on this significant feature in a later post), hands-free tailgate operation (all the better when your hands are full), power front passenger seat, dual-zone climate control, universal garage remote, inductive phone charger, and power-operated rear headrests.

So, yeah, that’s $1,400 well spent. Not to mention all the money you’ll save from unbroken pickle jars and champagne bottles.


Preliminary fill-ups come with range surprise

by Matt Degen on October 17, 2018

Current Odometer: 4,640 miles
Latest MPG: 19.9 mpg
Lifetime MPG: 22.2 mpg
Maintenance/Service Costs: $0
Time out of Service: 0 days

We’ve filled up our long-term 2019 XC40 a few times now with gasoline, and I’ve noted something odd each time: the estimated fuel range.

After refilling the fuel tank, the Volvo XC40 has computed a total distance of between 240 and 260 miles. The first time I filled it up, the XC40 showed the former number of 240 miles, and I thought it might be my mistake. Maybe I didn’t fill the tank all the way, I thought, blaming myself.

The next fill-up I made sure the XC40’s 14.2-gallon tank was absolutely topped, but the XC40 displayed the same range. This figure is at odds the EPA’s estimated total range of 369 miles.

But upon driving the XC40 on a roughly 60-mile trip from south Orange County to Los Angeles, the XC40’s range display got even weirder. It suddenly started climbing, rising well beyond the indicated 240-mile range to over 300. Perhaps the vehicle was getting a sense of my driving behavior and estimating the range on that. For example, aggressive and less fuel-efficient driving would lead to a shorter range, while more efficient, steady-state highway driving like the kind I was doing to LAX would yield a higher range.

Still, later on as the Volvo's trip odometer ticked up to 229 miles, the “low-fuel” light went on, with an indicated range of 30 miles left. I’m hoping the vehicle is still getting a sense of the KBB editors’ driving behaviors after these first few fill-ups, and that it will normalize (and raise over time). Also not helping matters is that the majority of our driving thus far has been in the city and in lots of mpg-killing stop-and-go traffic. We’re eager to see how the XC40 fares on some longer trips with more steady-state driving. We’ll keep you posted.

Two other things to note while I’m talking about gasoline.

One is that this XC40 T5 all-wheel drive’s turbocharged engine likes to drink premium unleaded gasoline, so factor that into your total cost of ownership if considering this vehicle (the lower-power T4 front-drive models, however, are ok with standard unleaded according to the EPA).

The other thing is that this Volvo benefits from a capless fill tank. That means you never have to unscrew a gasoline cap, risk getting what I call “gas hand” (stinky gasoline hands), nor ever have to worry about clicking the cap back in place. With these kinds of systems, all you have to do is stick the nozzle in and pump. Easy peasy.

2019 Volvo XC40 joins KBB fleet of long-term test vehicles
by Matt Degen on September 7, 2018


  • Price: $44,315
  • Powertrain: 248-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged I4
  • EPA city/highway fuel economy: 23 city/30 highway


I'll admit to being smitten by the new Volvo XC40 since the first time I drove it. That was in February, ahead of the official on-sale date for Volvo’s newest and smallest SUV. In the months since I’ve had other chances to drive the new XC40, and it has always impressed with its bold design, tidy size, useful and larger-than-expected interior, sophisticated safety features and willing, turbocharged engine.

Those encounters were akin to automotive flings, however. Now comes the real test in this relationship: The 2019 Volvo XC40 is the latest vehicle to join our fleet of long-term test cars. Over the next year, we’ll go beyond the honeymoon phase and see what it’s like to be married to this small Volvo crossover.

Ours is the T5 all-wheel-drive model in the base, Momentum trim. The T5 designates the more powerful 4-cylinder engine offering, which produces 248 horsepower and is connected to an 8-speed automatic transmission. (XC40 T4 models are front-drive and use a 187-horsepower version of the same engine.) This Volvo XC40 is dressed in the distinctive Amazon Blue exterior color, and further stands out with a white contrast roof – a mere $300 option that makes quite a statement.

In base form, this Volvo XC40 Momentum T5 model would retail for just over $36,000, and even at that price includes an impressive array of standard features. Highlights include all-wheel drive, leather interior, power driver’s seat, power tailgate, a 12.3-inch digital dash and 9-inch digital touchscreen, and automatic climate control. Furthermore, all XC40 models have an impressive suite of active safety and driver-assist features that include lane-keeping assist, automatic emergency braking, and road-sign recognition.

Lots of great options

Further upgraded with options and packages, our test model lands at $44,315. Among the extras are the Premium Package ($1,400) that bundles adaptive cruise control, the Pilot Assist semi-autonomous driving system, hands-free tailgate, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry, and wireless charging pad. Our model is also fitted with the Vision Package ($1,100) that includes blind-spot monitoring, reverse automatic braking, power retractable side mirrors, and auto-dimming mirrors. On top of that are the Advanced Package ($995) with a surround-view camera system and cornering LED headlights, the Multimedia Package ($1,375) that bundles navigation and a 13-speaker Harman/Kardon premium audio system, panoramic moonroof ($1,200), and heated front seats and steering wheel ($750). For an additional $800, 19-inch wheels round out the list of major options.

This is quite a bit of kit for sure, especially for a subcompact luxury SUV. But that’s the thing with this burgeoning segment that also includes rivals like the Audi Q3, BMW X1, Mercedes-Benz GLA and the forthcoming Lexus UX: Just as the compact luxury crossovers before it, the players in this further-downsized market prove that just because a vehicle is small, it can still boast outsized features.

We look forward to getting to know the many aspects and overall behavior of the 2019 XC40. Over the coming year we’ll share our impressions of this new Volvo to help you determine if this is a vehicle that you, too, want to pursue for a serious relationship.

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