(Contributing Editor: Susan Frissell)

Swedish Fish are a colorful fun candy goodwill ambassador from a land whose rugged landscape is less than colorful but begs adventurous exploration. Examining the piscine shape, then biting into starch gummy texture rewarded by a fruity sweet rather than a pickled herring flavor is a youthful pleasure.

With no kettle of boiling fish and potatoes upscent and a colorful Lava Orange cabin in sight, Roadblazing.com was set to feast on the all new 2019 Volvo XC40 cute ute sports activity vehicle from the Swedish carmaker.

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WHAT: 2019 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R-Design subcompact sport activity vehicle, on the Swedish automaker’s Scalable Product Architecture.

Standard Power (T5): transverse intercooled turbocharged 2.0L DOHC 16V DI gas I-4 = 250 hp/ 258 lb-ft @ 1500 rpm + 8-spd. torque converter planetary transmission w/ shift paddles +  Haldex IV all-wheel drive.

Front-wheel drive exclusive XC40 T4 = detuned 187 hp/ 221 lb-ft powerplant

(A) STYLING (DIFFERENCE): At least a galaxy away from the last sensuously stodgy 40-series sub-compact sedan offered in the U.S.

Cues in Baby Bear’s genes inherited from Mama Bear XC60 and Papa Bear XC90 Low slung hood pours over into fender, w/ wider split twin side valleys;  Defined muscle = pronounced mid fascia and fully scooped coke bottle door cheatline;  R-Design rugged = Darkened grate version of wide hexagonal grille matching contrasting  dark roof, pillars, full lower body cladding; Inboard arrow shaped slim wrap-around LED headlamps; “Thor’s Hammer” alternating white DRLs/ amber flashers;

 Dark contrast roof spills partly into C-pillar, delineated by exagerrated Hoffmeister kink,

 Deep liftgate adopts cheatline Kammback bulge;  Trademark long “S” LED tail-lamps follow from the roof spoiler down to the mid tailgate cheatline, wrapping into the rear quarters;  Slightly beveled part dark clad svelte bumper cover carries license plate in octagonal bezel; Sizeable hockey stick shaped lower corner reflectors; are followed, by twin chrome tetrahedral exhaust outlets.

Summed-up: Lithest of Volvo SUVs also looks meanest.

WHY: Whole lotta’ personality and ute from a compact Volvo

WHEN: On-Sale (in the U.S.) since late Spring 2018

WHERE: Volvo new vehicle dealers

WHERE MADE: Ghent, Belgium

WHERE TO: standard (in U.S.) Haldex all-wheel drive, e-varies front/ rear traction from 90/ 10% – lockable at maximum 50/50%, rear e-clutch differential limits the slip; Selectable and Driver customizable Off-Road modes aided by ABS descent control; 8″ clearance = Inclement weather beater & light off-roader;

HOW ROADWORTHY: Long pedal travel to reach meat of waste gate driven variable scroll intercooled turbocharged boost is tantamount to “turbo lag;” Thereafter the 8-speed Aisin automatic seems bent on smooth B-lines to the higher (read most efficient) gears.

-1 Joystick toggle center console transmission position shifter frustrates attempts at quick getaways from Park: Not that remembering to depress the separate console flush mount P button when parking is any easier. Such efforts generate a stern “Depress brake pedal before shifting,” warning in the gauge cluster.

Quick Haldex IV grants some understeer , then intervening with a maximum 90% torque split the rear open differential with ABS vectoring; Fish Splashing: powerplant noises = guppy mating calls

Compliance = just this side of acceptable for a luxury cute ute;  Slightly stiffer R-Design damping & immense 20″-inch wheels emphasize more road imperfections; High center of gravity + short wheelbase emit greater sense of sway, while inert steering feel hampers turn-in sharpeness; The stiff structure can’t be faulted;

Utterly reliable Pilot Assist 2 semi-autonomous Level 2 driving, offers competent lane control even on freeway bends; Brake pedal effort seems wooden but slows impressively; -1 Low speed steering squeak

HOW FAR: 24 combined miles per gallon; 430 highway miles

HOW BIG/ LITTLE: 5 Occupant 2+3 seating

For Comparison’s Sake:

  • 106.4″-inch Wheelbase: 1.3″ > BMW X1, 3.0″ < Cadillac XT4
  • Maximum cargo capacity: 18% < BMW X1, 8% < Infiniti QX30
  • 2nd Row legroom: 3.4″ > Cadillac XT4, 1.0″ < Jaguar E-Pace, 0.9″ < BMW X1

HOW USEFUL: 60/40% split sliding 2nd Row cushions;  2nd Row reclining & flat fold seat backs; Remote 2nd Row power seatback release; 2nd Row center pass through;

Cargo area 12V outlet;  Power liftgate;   Folding & tethering cargo floor; Sub-cargo floor storage; +1 Ample bottom center stack wireless device bin;  Sub-front seat storage;  Deep, carpet-lined front + rear door pockets;  2nd Row side pockets; -1 Low end of class cargo capacity; -1 Thick rear pillars and small backlight make optional surround view cameras nearly imperative; Tow Rating: 5000 lbs.

1 No overhead console retracting sunglass bin; -1 Distant reach to & smaller glove box;

HOW SAFE: 7 airbags; Surround camera view; sonar front & rear Park Distance Control, Blind spot, rear cross traffic & lane departure warning, Auto parking brake hold; City Safety pedestrian avoidance; Auto high beam headlamps; Power 2nd Row door child locks

Partial Autonomous Driving: Pilot Assist 2; Full-adaptive cruise control; Lane Keep Assist, Forward Collision avoidance braking; Active Park Assist; +1 Permits 23 seconds of hands/ foot free driving.

Park Assist Pilot: Parallel and back-in perpendicular parking seems space locating challenged.

HOW PEOPLE FRIENDLY: Supportive, 8-way power driver/ 4-way power front passenger seats, manual knee extenders, 2-setting driver’s memory; Power windows w/ full express x 4; 2-Zone auto climate control w/ auto front seat, steering wheel heating; 2nd Row privacy glass; Power retracting rear headrests; Door puddle lamps x 4; Panoramic power moon-roof;

Cool Gizmo(s): 12.3″-inch LCD Digital Driver Display w/ configurable LCD twin gauges Waterproof center console retracting cover trash bin;

Details Done Right:  Lava orange carper extends to door panels;  Aluminum steering wheel, vent, door handle, display bezels & rotary knobs;   “Cutting Edge” hyphen aluminum dash & door inlays;  Contrast stitched, perforated Nappa leather + nubuck seating; Dashboard & door panel & footwell ambient LEDs; Hood mount hanging Swedish flag.

Nearly Non-Descript: -1 Ordinary plastic keyless push start & drive modes switches replace XC90 hammered metal barrels; Un-lined center armest storage bin & glovebox; Uneven glovebox door gap.

HOW “APP” -LICABLE: 9″ vertical tablet, pane-swipe, touch LCD infotainment screen, Touch script text entry; Rotary audio volume dial, selection, defroster & Home screen switches ; Voice recognition command hands-free communications w/ SMS, MMS, Email; 3-D HDD GPS navigation; Subscription based Sirius XM radio & TravelLink; Android Auto + Apple CarPlay; Sensus Connected Apps = Pandora, Google Destination, Weather, Park & Pay, Spotify, TuneIn, Yelp, Glympse, Voice record; Qi Wireless Charging; 12V x 3; USB x 1.

Audibly: 13 speaker, 600 W Harman Kardon Q-Logic = boomy bass notes bias

By Subscription: SiriusXM ( 90 days incl.);  4G LTE by Verizon;

HOW MUCH: $45,935 = as tested 2019 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R-Design; $800/ mo. Care By Volvo subscription ownership

WHAT’S MISSING:  Conventional gated transmission position selector; heated rear seats

ANY COMPETITION: BMW X1: +1 engine response, handling, cabin IT; Cadillac XT4: +1 2nd Row space; Infiniti QX50: +1 Sublime cabin design; Jaguar E-Pace: +1 Cachet, available diesel; Lexus NX 300; +1 Syrupy ride

FINAL WORD: Lingonberry tangy, luxury urban handsome ute