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April 16, 2023

Review: 2023 Volvo XC40 B5 R-Design

There’s plenty to like with the Volvo XC40. Compared to other premium SUVs out there, it just gets things right. It’s stylish, spacious, well-kitted, and most important of all, safe. However, as the automotive world turns, the Swedish carmaker has given it a nip-and-tuck, and that’s the very vehicle you see here. While the revised design could be the most obvious reason to consider one, it also happens to pack an electrified powertrain in the Philippines for the very first time. Gamechanger? Read on.

Now taking on the “B” nomenclature, the XC40 B5 pairs a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine with Volvo’s mild hybrid technology. Like other mild hybrid setups, this “Petrol Boost” can’t motivate the SUV by electric power alone. Instead, the Integrated Starter Generator (ISG) acts as an electric assist, helping the gasoline engine. In addition, a 48-volt battery powers the electricals, charged up either by the gasoline engine or by recaptured braking energy.

If you’re concerned about peak numbers, the gas-electric combo makes 264 horsepower and 390 Nm—a bump of 17 and 40 respectively versus the ICE-only T5. Despite the added power, the century mark is dispatched at almost the same time—6.4 seconds versus the T5’s 6.5. Having said that, from behind the driver’s seat, the XC40 doesn’t feel particularly fast. It’s masterful in delivering power whenever it’s needed, but it never gives off a strong sense of speed. Sadly, the engine doesn’t sound particularly luxurious either.

Perhaps the biggest issue with the XC40 B5 centers around fuel economy. The old T5 wasn’t particularly frugal, registering 9.52 km/L (average speed of 26 km/h), but the B5 doesn’t do much better at 8.92 km/L. For full transparency, this mileage was done at slower speeds (16 km/h), but even during light weekend traffic, it’s almost impossible to achieve and maintain double digit fuel efficiency readings.

But just when you’re ready to dismiss the rest of the XC40’s dynamic package, its chassis makes up lost ground. Running through the city, the suspension bears you along with superb repose, with supple springing and quiet tires. It takes the sting out of sharp potholes and breezes over ripples and expansion joints. Add a bit of speed and the movement turns floaty, but never to the point where you lose confidence. After that initial tip in, it doesn’t lose any more grace. Everything, down to the steering, is nicely calibrated and this means it can hustle itself down a set of twists.

Without a doubt though, the XC40’s biggest draw is acoustic comfort. It manages to suppress every single exterior noise or racket turning the interior into a well-isolated cocoon. It also enables the occupants to appreciate the now-standard 13-speaker Harman Kardon sound system—one of the better OE speaker systems you can get.

Regarding in-car entertainment and control, the XC40 B5 features a new infotainment system. With a screen size of nine inches, it’s the same as it was before, but the underlying architecture is now powered by Google as opposed to Sensus. Now, this is supposed to offer several advantages such as access to Google Assistant (a voice-activated assistant), a broad offer of native in-car apps thanks to built-in Google Play, and continuous improvement thanks to OTA updates. However, at the moment, most of these features are locked out due to Google’s country restrictions. As a result, it severely neuters the XC40’s ability to flex its tech-laden experience.

Worst of all, there are some questionable decisions that harm the ergonomics. For example, Volvo omitted the instrument cluster dimming switch. It now requires the driver to go through the Settings Menu instead (that’s a total of two menu clicks and a swipe down, if you’re counting). The same goes for the “Swipe Down” shortcuts on the home screen. Functions that used to take one or two steps now require fumbling through menus instead. Some, like the activation or deactivation of the parking sensors are contextual, meaning they’re only accessible when the system’s activated. Volvo could potentially address these problems in a future update, but as of now, the Google system feels like a step back in terms of execution.

Thankfully, the rest of the interior is still close to the pre-refreshed T5, but some features have been given the boot in favor of others. For instance, the integrated child seat boosters and rain-sensing wipers are gone, but replaced by a panoramic sunroof. The 12-inch gauge cluster has been tweaked for easier reading immediately, but now only offers one single view. Despite these changes, it’s still genuinely nice with plush-feeling controls and well-designed cubby holes. The checkerboard machined aluminum trim, sculpted and scooped out of the dashboard is a nice touch, especially when bathed in indirect lighting at night. Function and style go together too, with the XC40’s expansive velour insert on the door panel and rubber-lined arm rest console, cup holders, and utility tray.

The seats themselves are terrific with the leather/nubuck seats feeling all grippy and supportive. The driving position is unabashedly SUV-like—tall and commanding. Visibility is great thanks to the slim A-pillars, well-placed door mirrors, and large greenhouse. The rear legroom and headroom are fine too, with the outboard seats offering almost the same level of support as the front seats. Meanwhile, the cargo hold is cavernous and can swallow a full-sized stand fan with the rear seats up. The cargo floor isn’t completely flat, but it does a clever origami fold that divides the rear section into two. A T-type spare is found underneath the lower parcel shelf.

As with all other Volvos, the XC40 is laden with safety tech. It’s boring to list all of it, but it must be said that aside from preventing a possible frontal collision with other vehicles (including bicycles), pedestrians, and large animals, it even helps distracted drivers from veering off the road. Credit is due to Volvo’s Intellisafe system for working as it should, while also being smooth and highly functional. Compared to the herky-jerky nature of some of these systems, this one instills confidence, which is how safety systems should work. New for the T5 to B5 transformation is a 360-degree camera. It puts the portrait-oriented screen to good use, but it would have been even better to offer a split-view function.

Many values and virtues of the Volvo brand happen to correspond with what makes an SUV great, and with that, the XC40 manages to serve up a nicely distinctive package. Instead of goading you into vigorous cornering, it imparts a sense of calmness and serenity. Plus, it offers generous passenger space along with top-notch interior quality and materials—things you’ve come to expect in a premium SUV. Saddled only by a hybrid powertrain that falls short of its efficiency promise, the XC40 is a strong contender thanks to its ability to make every commute, no matter how mundane a truly pleasurable experience.

2023 Volvo XC40 B5 R Design

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Bottom Line
Pros Well-designed inside and out; supple, comfortable, and refined.
Cons Not as fuel efficient as you think; infotainment features are severely lacking.
TL;DR It serves up a nicely distinctive package that makes every commute pleasurable.
Year Introduced 2019 (Refreshed: 2023)
Warranty 5 years / Unlimited Mileage
The Basics
Body Type Compact SUV
Seating 5
Engine / Drive F/AWD
Under the Hood
Displacement (liters) 2.0
Aspiration Turbocharged
Fuel Delivery Direct Injection
Layout / # of Cylinders Inline-4
BHP @ rpm 247 @ 5,500 (264, combined)
Nm @ rpm 350 @ 1,800-4,800 (390, combined)
Fuel / Min. Octane Gasoline / ~95
Transmission 8AT
Cruise Control Yes, Adaptive
Fuel Economy (km/L) @ Ave. Speed (km/h) 8.92 km/L @ 16 km/h
(fueled with Petron XCS)
Dimensions and Weights
Length (mm) 4,425
Width (mm) 1,863
Height (mm) 1,652
Wheelbase (mm) 2,702
Curb Weight (kg) 1,675
Suspension and Tires
Front Suspension Independent, MacPherson Strut
Rear Suspension Independent, Multi-Link
Front Brakes Vented Disc
Rear Brakes Disc
Parking Brake Electric, w/ Auto Hold
Tires Michelin e-Primacy 235/50R19 V (f & r)
Wheels Alloy
Safety Features
Airbags 9
Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS) Yes, with EBD
Traction / Stability Control Yes
Parking Sensors Yes, Front & Rear
Parking Camera Yes, 360-degree
Front Seatbelts 3-pt ELR w/ pre-tensioners x 2
Rear Seatbelts 3-pt ELR w/ pre-tensioners x 3
ISOFIX Child Seat Anchor Yes
Other Safety Features Hill Start Assist
Hill Descent Control
City Safety (Collision Avoidance & Mitigation)
Lane Keeping Assist
Driver Alert Control
Blindspot Information System w/ Steer Assist
Cross-Traffic Alert
Run-off Mitigation
Exterior Features
Headlights LED, Active, w/ Cornering Lights
Fog Lamps Yes, Front and Rear (LED)
Light Operation Auto On/Off
Wiper Operation Variable Intermittment
Tailgate Power
Interior Features
Steering Wheel Adjust Tilt/Telescopic
Steering Wheel Material Leather
Seating Adjustment (driver) Electric, 10-way, w/ Memory
Seating Adjustment (front passenger) Electric, 10-way
Seating Surface Leather/Nubuck
2nd Row 60/40 Split-Fold, w/ Arm Rest
3rd Row None
Sunroof Yes
Multi-Information Display Yes
Convenience Features
Power Steering Yes
Power Door Locks Yes
Power Windows Yes
Power Mirrors Yes, w/ Fold, Auto-Dimming
Rear View Mirror Auto-Dimming
Proximity Key Yes
Climate Control Dual, w/ Rear Vents
Audio System Stereo
USB Type C
Smartphone Connectivity Apple CarPlay
Android Auto
# of Speakers 13, Harman Kardon
Steering Controls Yes

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