Volvo revolutionises ownership model as it rolls out compact SUV

XC40 is a premium crossover but new subscription service is the big talking point

President and chief executive of Volvo, Hakan Samuelsson, poses near the new XC40 model. Photograph: Stefano Rellandini/Reuters

President and chief executive of Volvo, Hakan Samuelsson, poses near the new XC40 model. Photograph: Stefano Rellandini/Reuters

 

Milan was the location chosen by Volvo to reveal the XC40 compact SUV today. The five seat car, built on the new compact modular architecture (CMA) is being marketed as a premium urban SUV designed for city living. Paradoxically, in urban areas there is no need for SUVs to get about, but you only have to look at the rapid growth in the sector to see buyers can’t get enough of these fashion driven machines.

Milan may be the home to Leonardo’s last supper and the La Scala Opera House, but for potential XC40 buyers its perhaps better known for its contribution to fashion and of course Milan fashion week. The style conscious Italian city may be buzzing with buyers selecting their spring-summer 2018 stock but we were more interested in car frames than frocks. Volvo has converted its Milan design showroom to a pop up shop venue called ‘80 Hours Milan’ that is showcasing Scandinavian design during fashion week. Being on trend and having fashionable good looks are high priorities for potential premium SUV buyers and Volvo today is a far cry from the one where boxy was good. Volvo has quite rightly received a lot of critical acclaim for its new found design and styling, so the XC40 look right at home among the design trendsetters.

Expanding range

The XC40 slots in to the Zhejiang Geely Holding-owned brand range as its smallest SUV. Volvo’s XC range now features three impressive machines with the 40, 60 and 90 series. Is XC40 just a mini-me of its siblings? On first sight, sort of. But as there is less metal for exterior designers to play with it is harder to design an exterior that can be truly sculpted. In fact it is far less a scaled down version of its bigger siblings than its key rivals from Audi or BMW.

Volvo says it has used a new design language with its XC40 made up from blocks. Volvo stresses the car has a youthful design and it certainly sits squat on the road and features a wider rear than the front to add to the sporty motif. Most of the models revealed to us in Milan had the additional party trick of contrasting coloured roofs. The black roof combination really helped reduce the car’s bulk and drew our eyes to other places where you might not look with an XC60 or 90. Colours and materials used have been revised and the interior is fresh and features plenty of smart storage areas.

The Swedish brand has a very noble attitude towards the safety of its customers. The sincerity of Volvo’s most recent mission statement that no one is serious injured or killed in one of its vehicles comes from its core values. Volvo stresses that with the new XC40 customers will benefit from its decades of data collection from real world collision and its years of pioneering safety innovation. Volvo’s circle of life philosophy is an easy buy-in and quite reassuring, especially for families with young kids. Håkan Samuelsson, president and chief executive said “The new XC40 will offer the best possible safety standards combined with an easy-to-use interface and convenient connected services.”

Some of the technological highlights available with the XC40 include pilot assist semi autonomous driving (up to 130km/h), run-off road protection that is like an advanced lane keeping assistant, cross traffic alert with brake support is handy for those who like to park nose-in, auto brake, a 360 degree camera and the latest generation of city safety auto emergency braking that recognises other vehicles but also cyclists and pedestrians.

A smartphone app allows you remotely send navigation instructions to the car before you get into it. Volvo research has shown that parking is considered one of the more mundane yet stressful tasks and has developed parking services to help find and pay for parking and also park the car. This collection of driver aids is comprehensive and intended to make driving less stressful. Malin Ekholm, Vice President at Volvo cars safety centre said “With the XC40, we aim to reduce the so-called cognitive load on the driver. While our safety and driver assistance systems actively identify and mitigate potential conflicts, you as a driver can relax more and therefor enjoy city driving.”

The XC40 will come with Volvo’s connected Sensus infotainment system that is centred around a large dash mounted touch screen display that has a portrait orientation. The system’s display, used in the S90, XC90 and XC60 takes a little bit of study to master before becoming a familiar friend. A new feature that could be very useful should you forget your key is the digital key. Using a smartphone you can use a one off code or digital key to access and start your Volvo Via a smartphone.

New ownership model

Volvo used the event to launch its revolutionary Care by Volvo car ownership subscription service. It is a fresh take on car leasing with just one flat €699 monthly fee and no age restrictions etc. users sign up for 24 months, after which the car is replaced and they can also can tailor other services and offerings from there.

Due in Ireland by the end of 2018 Volvo says it is the signals the end of deposits, price negotiation and local price differences with its monthly flat fee. Volvo hasn’t started a bank but uses existing financial suppliers in each market and negotiates the flat rate.

I asked the man behind the scheme how insurance would be worked out as Ireland in particular was a nightmare for younger drivers. Thomas Anderson said that Volvo would negotiate with the insurers directly to get a good deal and that this was part of the whole package.

From today the service goes live in the larger European markets and in the UK it is live within the confines of the M25 for now. Also depending on location, Volvo will offer a range of concierge services such as servicing and pick up, fuelling, cleaning and ecommerce delivery to the car. The care by Volvo package can be ordered on line where available.

The XC40 is being launched before Volvo’s famous cut off date of 2019 when it has committed to ending its production cars solely powered by internal combustion engines. This means that as long as the XC40 is being built there will be parts and full factory support for your diesel or petrol model. Volvo’s digital key technology, as part of Care by Volvo, will be available in Ireland later next year. Momentum, Momentum Pro, R Design and R Design Pro are the grades and you can tell the R Design by its contrasting black roof.

The Volvo XC40 arrives in Ireland at the end of the year for January deliveries. Prices start from €47,450 for the D4 AWD automatic. More engine variants will follow in May 2018. The Volvo XC40 appears to tick all the boxes and some I didn’t know I existed.