On what should be described as a typical Wellington day, I landed in Auckland en route to the Volvo Ocean Race pavilion, for the press launch of the new Volvo XC40.

This product would complete the SUV line for Volvo, with the large XC90, midsize XC60 and the new compact XC40.

Once we arrived at the Volvo Ocean Race pavilion in Auckland’s Viaduct we entered what I could only describe as an Ikea building – and by that I mean that is if Ikea were in the business of making flat-pack buildings, this is what it would look like. This amazing-looking glass structure was not here 3 weeks ago, and it won’t be here two weeks from now. The entire building gets packed down and shipped off to the next Volvo Ocean Race stop. That in itself was impressive and must be a mighty feet of logistics. It almost makes sailing those boats around the world look like an easy task.

Inside this building is where we got introduced to the new XC40, or what Volvo called their XS Premium SUV product. Volvo explained that before they started this project, they spent a lot of time gathering information from their customers. How they did this was a mix of focus groups, surveys and surprisingly, at home visitations. What Volvo wanted to really know was how do their current customers and potential new customers live with their cars. What works, what do they like, what do they hate, and what do they wish they had. From this Volvo were able to create and focus on three main design aspects: Expressive Design, Ingenious Storage and Smart Technology.

Once the briefing was completed, we went out in the rain to check out the XC40 on display. Setup in a different Ikea building. This is not your typical compact when you see it lined up with the XC90 and XC60. You could see that the only thing compact about it was the length. The XC40 is the tallest and widest SUV in its class and has the highest ground clearance and largest wheels in its class. It also has the highest seating position in its class. All of this was based on the data Volvo received from their customers: They didn’t want a pokey small SUV – they wanted a shorter version of the big SUV’s.  

The XC40 from my first impression is a great looking SUV, bigger than expected. It has some very striking features when compared to the XC90 and XC60, both of which looked a bit more sedate than the full-of-life XC40. This looked like it would have been a fun car to develop, and I can see Volvo turning a lot of heads with it. As today was just a briefing, there was no test drive. This will come later when we get a chance to do a full review.

The interior was similar to the XC90 and XC60, but this one was a bit more funky and garish. The R-Design had the super-comfy sports seats we all love from the other models. The dash was sleek and sporty, and the carpets are orange. Yes, you heard me, Orange, or what Volvo like to call Lava. And you know what? I liked it. I can see it being a love-hate thing for many people. It was not something I expected from Volvo, and it kept in line with the colour options and funky-fun nature of this XC40.

The boot space was astonishing, 460 litres up to the window line, and 901 litres with the rear seats down. That’s 45 litres more then the XC60 has when the rear seats are down. The XC60 is officially a tardis, small on the outside and big on the inside.

The XC40 is available in New Zealand in 3 trim levels and 3 powertrain options. The base model T4 FWD Momentum starts at $59,990, the Luxury T4 AWD Inscription starts at $67,900 and the Sporty T5 AWD R-Design that starts at $72,900.

The R-Design was the only model on display at the Volvo Ocean Race Pavilion, as it was the only one in the country. The T4 FWD, T4 AWD and T5 AWD are all petrol engines and will be the only engines available for the XC40 in New Zealand. The T4 produces 140kW of power and 300Nm of torque and the T5 produces 182kW of power and 350Nm of torque. There are not many optional extras either, most are bulked into a selection of 4 different packages, which we will cover when we do our full review.

We can’t wait to test the new XC40, as it’s the first visible signs of Volvo’s fun side. They make a lot of great products, but like Ikea furniture, they have clean lines that are both practical and functional.

The XC40 has all of these features too, and a bit of a wild side.

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