The New Volvo XC40 Is an Exercise in Eerily Intuitive Design

The sad truth is that too many people treat their cars like a cross between a garbage bin and a long-forgotten storage locker. Volvo knows this. In making their newest, smallest SUV, a group of Swedish engineers and designers set about studying us. They spent years researching the lives and behaviours of drivers around the world, understanding our filthy habits and how we use our cars on a day-to-day basis. They did a full Margaret Mead, and the result is the radically human-friendly XC40 — the latest in Volvo’s range of entirely new cars and SUVs.

While some car companies still can’t make a decent cupholder that won’t slosh coffee all over the dashboard, Volvo has managed to get that and every other little interior detail just right. They found, for example, that people put takeout food or delicate cargo on the front passenger seat or on the floor, and that it often spills. Their solution was to add a hook that flips out of the glovebox on which you can hang your takeout bags. There are some in the trunk, too, so you’ll never open it to find groceries rolling about. And the designers made it all look good, because, well, they’re Swedish.


Other cars may have more palatial interiors or more techy gizmos, but the XC40 has the best interior architecture we’ve seen in quite some time. It’s simple and airy, and therefore more spacious than you’d expect from a sub-compact SUV, and looks clean because there’s a place to put everything.

It feels as if Ikea went upmarket and made a car. There’s a delightful range of unexpected materials available, including orange carpets and diamond-cut metallic trim.


The luxury SUV market is extremely crowded, but driving the XC40, it quickly became apparent that it deserves to be ranked at the very top of its class. It’s comfortable without being dull, thanks to direct steering and nicely judged damping. It’s quick without being terrible on fuel, because of Volvo’s familiar 2.0-litre turbocharged motor. The sound won’t exactly make you swoon, but there’s a split-second lull and then thwack! The turbo hits its stride and you could be forgiven for wondering if there’s a six-cylinder under the hood. If that’s not your cuppa, Volvo has an all-electric powertrain in the works, too.

The XC40 is a vehicle perfectly fit for its purpose. In other words, Volvo did its homework.


Here’s a breakdown of some of our favourite OCD-friendly hidden features of the XC40:


1. “Lava” carpets.

A welcome break from black.

2. Garbage bin.
Because cup holders aren’t for receipts.

3. Harman Kardon stereo.
Thirteen top-class speakers stay tucked out of sight to keep the design streamlined.

4. Storage drawer.
Move over, glovebox.

5. Card slots.
So you never misplace your parking pass.

6. Bag hook.
Keeping your takeout sushi dinner secured.

7. Charger pad.
Ready to refuel your iPhone X.