Scenario 1: If your car drifts out of its lane, the steering wheel sends a signal to alert you. If you don’t react, the car automatically steers back into the lane.
Scenario 2: If your car detects you’re about to leave the road unintentionally, it can provide steering inputs to help guide you back on track.
Scenario 3: If there are other vehicles, pedestrians or cyclists ahead and you don’t slow down, a tech will apply brakes automatically.
The recently launched Volvo XC40 (mild hybrid) gets these and more advanced features.
What is the XC40?
It is Volvo’s entry-level SUV, which has gotten a mild-hybrid update (it saves fuel and reduces tailpipe emissions by recovering energy from the brakes and storing it in a 48V battery, which then assists in driving). The result is more refined acceleration and better fuel efficiency. It competes against Audi Q3, Mercedes-Benz GLA and BMW X1.
It is powered by a 1969cc petrol engine (197 horsepower; 300 Nm).
How is the cabin?
It’s a small SUV, so space is limited, but in luxury it scores five stars—chrome, leather, plastic, fabric … everything inside the cabin looks good and feels robust. It has an iPad-like touchscreen, and there aren’t any ‘button’ controls for AC or climate control. The screen is responsive, and it doesn’t have ‘glare’.
How does it drive?
The cabin is ‘extra quiet’ and vibration-free, and the engine’s power delivery is very good, especially in outright acceleration. The suspension ensures minimal vibrations enter the cabin, but only on good, well-paved roads—on bad roads the ride turns harsh. There are a lot of semi-autonomous driving features (the most prominent of which is automatic braking), but these taking some getting used to.
The mild hybrid technology improves fuel efficiency, but just about. Driving across Delhi, the car returned me just 14 km/litre.
Is it a good buy?
Let’s look at competitors.
The X1 is priced Rs 41.5 lakh onwards.
The GLA is priced Rs 44.9 lakh onwards.
The Q3 is priced Rs 44.89 lakh onwards.
The XC40 mild hybrid (Rs 43.2 lakh festive season special price) is marginally better value for money if you appreciate the technologies on offer (semi-autonomous driving and mild hybrid), but it’s not as engaging to drive as the X1 is, and the GLA apparently has better brand value.
But the biggest competitor to the XC40 mild hybrid is within the family, i.e. the XC40 Recharge—the electric car priced just Rs 10 lakh more. It has a 78 kWh battery pack, WLTP* range of 418 km, and its two electric motors together develop 408 horsepower and a whopping 660 Nm of torque. The XC40 Recharge is also insanely fast—not only it will overwhelm you, it can also make some occupants nervous.
For Rs 10 lakh more than the XC40 mild hybrid, the XC40 Recharge is a generation ahead. The only problem is its range, which isn’t good enough for long intercity trips. If you can learn to live with an electric car (eventually you will have to), go for that. A mild hybrid is a stop-gap measure.
*Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure, a laboratory test claimed to be very close to real-world conditions.
Power: 197 horsepower
Torque: 300 Nm
Transmission: 8-speed FWD
Air purifier: With PM 2.5 sensor
Connectivity: Android Auto; Apple CarPlay (with wire)
Sound: Harman Kardon (600W, 14 speakers)
Price: Rs 45.9 lakh (ex-showroom) Rs 43.2 lakh (festive season special price)