With new architecture and a bolder design, the XC40 previews the shape of things to come.

If you only think of the 2018 XC40 as a smaller version of Volvo’s XC60 and XC90 SUVs, you’re selling this new car short. Sure, there’s a lot of familiarity to the design, but Volvo says the XC40 is more of a 'cousin' to its larger vehicles, not a sibling.

The XC40 'allowed us a chance to be a bit more daring and adventurous,' says Robin Page, Volvo’s senior vice president of design. It’s Volvo’s first entry into the small SUV end of the market and because of this, Page says that the XC40 will provide the 'building blocks' for future small Volvos.

The larger XC60 and XC90 are 'continuations of cars that already exist,' reminds Page. But the XC40 is new territory for Volvo, and 'right for the segment'.

2018 Volvo XC40
2018 Volvo XC40
2018 Volvo XC40
2018 Volvo XC40

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That’s why the mature, smoothed out lines of the company's larger SUVs are instead a bit more pronounced and blocky here on the XC40. Page uses an image of a bulldog puppy to describe the new car’s shape and stance. Designer Ian Kettle, meanwhile, refers to the XC40 as 'a tough little robot', and says his goal was to create a car that doesn’t just look like a scaled-down version of Volvo’s larger SUVs.

Indeed, the XC40 represents a bolder expression of Volvo design: The way the contrasting roof meets the body colour at the back of the car, the way the grille is actually angled forward a bit, even the fact that the licence plate housing is integrated into the lower bumper rather than the rear hatch.

These are all elements that distinguish the XC40 from the larger XC60 and XC90 SUVs, though details like the Thor’s hammer LED running lamps and vertical rear lights are signature Volvo touches that connect the XC40 to its family members.

The interior uses a similar strategy, with Volvo showing its 'daring and adventurous' mindset with a range of never-before-used colours and materials. The XC40 R-Design can be had with contrasting orange accents on the doors and footwells, along with a sort of 3D-looking inlay on the dash. A smaller, redesigned steering wheel and an abundance of LED ambient lighting set the XC40 apart from its cousins, though familiar attributes like the vertical infotainment screen carry over.

Unfortunately, unique-to-XC40 attributes like the black roof, big wheels and orange interior will only be available on R-Design models; the Momentum trim will get a body-color or white roof. 

2018 Volvo XC40
2018 Volvo XC40
2018 Volvo XC40
2018 Volvo XC40

This new design language is only half of the story. Perhaps more important is the Compact Modular Architecture (CMA) platform that underpins the XC40, which will form the basis for all of Volvo’s future small cars. The updated 60- and 90-series cars, meanwhile, ride on the larger Scalable Product Architecture (SPA) platform.

Volvo says its CMA platform is designed to work in conjunction with all of its Drive-E engines, and plug-in hybrid and fully electric versions of the XC40 will arrive in the next couple of years, as well. Don't forget either that Volvo will soon electrify its entire lineup in some form or another.

The new XC40 will be priced from £27,905 when it arrives in the early next year.

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