By Seán Creedon

The Volvo XC40 was named European Car of the Year earlier this year. Unlike our neighbours from across the Irish sea, we Irish are great Europeans, so no surprise when the XC40 was recently named Continental Irish Car of the Year for 2019.

Volvo has a reputation for building some fine solid family cars. In recent years the Swedish company, which is now owned by a Chinese group, has made a successful switch to SUV’s with the XC90 and XC60. Now we have the baby of their SUV’s the XC40.

Externally it looks very classy and is probably chunky enough to tackle some off road work. But in reality, in Ireland the roughest road it’s likely to travel on will probably be a narrow boreen where the grass is growing in the middle of the road.

If there is one word that defines Volvo then it is safety. All versions of the XC40 come with City Safety as standard. I remember having a demonstration of City Safe many years ago and the car will break automatically if a pedestrian walks out in front of you in slow-moving traffic.

The system can also detect cyclists, pedestrians and large animals, alerting the driver and braking. There is also road sign recognition, so you always know what the speed limit is on the road you are driving on and also a lane keeping aid.

The new Volvo XC40.

There is also a lot of comfort with heated seats and heated steering wheel. It was cold last week and I certainly appreciated the heated steering wheel when the temperature dropped. What luxuries we can enjoy nowadays.

The huge infotainment screen on the dash is very impressive. And you don’t have to take your eye off the road if you want to change radio stations as there is a stalk at the side of the steering wheel which allows you to change stations and adjust volume.

There is huge boot and while a ‘well’ is provider for a spare wheel, only a repair kit is provided. So once again the advice is to haggle for a spare if buying new.

During the week, I drove both the manual and automatic versions of the XC40. The automatic had a gorgeous crystal gear lever. I had never seen anything like it before in a car and it reminded me of something from ‘Star Wars.’ The crystal gear lever was hand-made in Sweden, not Waterford!

It was a pleasure to drive and all my family loved the comfort and high-seating positions that the XC40 offers. The only negative to report is that I did find that it was a bit thirsty, especially in urban driving.

The entry level price is a reasonable €36,450, but then there are so many extra which will push up the price. The automatic version I drove, which had with a plethora of extras, will cost you €52,243. I would need another 500 words to list all the extras available.

I always say you don’t have to opt for all the extras; journalists get highly spec’d cars to drive so that reviewers can inform the public about the extras that are available. And I suppose the old maxim is true, if you have to ask the price of all the extras, then you cannot afford them.