The XC40 – the compact SUV by Volvo Cars

Louiza Atcheba

“The compact SUV designed around you”

Model brand manager

“The XC40 is the first compact SUV from Volvo Cars, and we approached it with a clear aim – understand who the customers would be, how they live and what they want from their car. As with all our cars, we did a lot of research, including 180 hours of in-home interviews with customers in cities including Beijing, Hamburg, London and Los Angeles.

“Our research informed every aspect of the XC40 – it forced us to think in new ways and find solutions to support the customers’ needs. There are many examples, like the ingenious storage solutions. This includes huge door bins and a flexible luggage area, with roomy under-floor storage and a folding floor that doubles as a shopping bag holder. Then there’s our car sharing offer, which came from us understanding how our customers use the latest services and technology and how they might want to share their XC40 with family, friends and colleagues that don’t always have access to a car. One of the things we discovered was that people want an SUV to look and feel like an SUV, so we made sure the XC40 has the commanding presence and high seating position they expect.

“This is a new type of Volvo, yet it remains true to the way we’ve always created our cars – designed around you.”

“A car with an identity all of its own”

Lead exterior designer

“This is a car with a strong character. From day one I referred to it as the ‘Tough Little Robot’. It’s about its stance, surfacing and its sense of playfulness. Of course there are authentic SUV elements such as the proud front grille, raised ground clearance and plastic cladding, yet the exterior design of the XC40 creates an identity all of its own.

“Contemporary product design was a big influence on how we designed the car – looking at the way that lines and surfaces are used in the best consumer electronics and furniture designs. You can see that kind of logical, uncomplicated design in the XC40. For the user it sends out a clear message of someone who’s comfortable with themselves and appreciates a well-designed product that really works.”

Beatrice Simonsson (left) and Conny Blommé (right)

“Storage that’s outside the box”

Group design leader, tunnel console

“The XC40 is about smart solutions – finding ways to make people’s busy lives less complicated. When we did our research we discovered just how much stuff people carry around with them in their cars. One of them even kept a barbecue permanently in their trunk. That led us to create a range of storage features to address the differing needs of our customers.

“The storage bin under the front centre armrest, for instance, is large enough to hold a small handbag, or even a full-size tissue box. And there’s a space beneath the centre touch screen where a mobile phone can be stored and wirelessly charged, which reduces clutter and makes it easy to reach when you need it. You are used to having the phone hidden from view in your car. We wanted to make sure the phone is in sight, and has wireless charging, because that’s more useful.

“We also worked closely with the audio team, who created a new type of audio speaker that’s mounted behind the dashboard. This frees up space for front door pockets that are each large enough to fit a laptop or a handbag, for example. I’d say we thought ‘outside the box’ with this car. Sometimes that’s the only way you can solve a problem.”

“Design that works”

Senior interior design manager

“The best Scandinavian design is often about solving a complex problem in a way that makes things look easy. The interior design of the XC40 is a good example. There are some really ingenious solutions, such as the way the top of the door panel wraps around to form the doorpull and side armrest. It might seem simple but it was a challenge to achieve it. It also required some creative thinking to craft air vents that fit harmoniously alongside our centre touch screen, yet which are effective and easy to use. The end result is something that is beautiful yet functional. That’s good Scandinavian design. Design that works.”

Andreas Ropel (left) and Elsa Eugensson (right)

“Smart technology”

Attribute leader, digital user experience

“I created my own smart house. Everything is connected. The lights, doors, heating. I control it all from an app on my phone, or even using Siri. Smart technology is useful and intuitive – it supports you without overwhelming you. In the XC40 you can control most things through the centre touch screen, or through voice control. Customers are now expecting their car to offer the same kind of functionality they get with all their consumer electronic devices. That’s why technology in the XC40 is as easy to use as your phone.

“Being smart also means offering the right features – not too many, or too few. The XC40 is available with the things that people want, such as enhanced connectivity via wi-fi, Bluetooth, Spotify and seamless smartphone integration. Our top-of-the-range Harman Kardon Premium Sound audio system was developed with the renowned audio brand. It really brings your favourite music to life.”