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Volvo XC40 vs BMW X1 Review: Comparison

Published On Nov 13, 2018 By Arun for Volvo XC40 2018-2022

The latest compact SUV in the luxury space squares off against the one that started it all

Over the past few years, Volvo has time and again managed to ruffle some feathers in the luxury space. With the XC90 and the XC60, they've proved that luxury and value for money can go hand in hand. And, with the XC40, they’re showing the same intent again.

But, in the small SUV space, there’s more heat than ever. Especially from the BMW X1 that’s been a favourite for quite a while. And why not? In its latest avatar, it doesn’t look like a big hatchback anymore, has a significant power bump and not to mention, it’s got the desirable propeller on the nose.

Question is, does Volvo bring enough to the table to force you to look past the BMW badge? Or is the X1 still the one to pick?


Volvo XC40 vs BMW X1

Park both side by side, and you instantly know it’s the Volvo that’s more old-school in its design. And that’s in spite of it being the newer car. In this case, we think the upright boxy theme actually works in favour of the small Volvo, making it appear visually bigger than it actually is. Also, in true Volvo fashion, the pleats along the side are razor-sharp and minimal. All the quintessential SUV bits have been thrown in for good measure too — including the high-set nose, and dollops of matte-black cladding.

In comparison, the BMW X1 is a mixed bag. While it doesn’t look like a bloated hatchback as it once did, it isn’t exactly outright SUV like the Volvo either. It sits somewhere in the comfortable middle, in the ‘crossover’ space. That said, we do like how it looks. The proportions are nearly spot on, and in terms of size - it’s almost standing on par with the last-gen X3. That tells you that BMW wants to play the size card here.



Volvo XC40





(without mirrors)









While both SUVs sit at the absolute bottom of their lineups, there’s no dearth of wow elements in the design. The Volvo bedazzles you with the ‘Thor’s Hammer’ DRLs and all-LED headlamps, and the trademark waterfall themed taillamps. On the other hand, the BMW has the signature double-barrel projector headlamps and the kidney grille, too. And while the Swede gets a sporty dual-tone paint job and machine-finished wheels for that extra dash of bling, the German, in its MSport trim, gets sportier looking bumpers, as well as sweet-looking exhaust tips.

Before we sign this section off, can we please take a moment and appreciate that gorgeous Estoril Blue shade on the Bimmer? And on that note, we really wish Volvo offers more youthful colour shades for the XC40. Because it certainly has the looks to pull it off.


Volvo XC40

Step inside the cabin and you’d find that the XC40 is typically SUVish here too. The first hint lies in how you sort of walk into the cabin, and not ‘sit inside’ it like in the BMW. Then there’s the dashboard that’s nearly upright and high set. Get comfortable in the driver’s seat and you’d be able to spot the edge of the bonnet too. In the BMW, all of this feels very sedan-like. You feel cocooned by the dash that’s set low and tilted towards you, and you sit quite low too. So, unless you really jack up the height on the seat, you’re not going to spot the front end at all.




Volvo XC40




Knee Room



Seat Base Length



Seat Base Width



Seat Back Height



Head Room



Cabin Width



Volvo XC40

For the rear bench, the Volvo has a near critical problem. The door is too small, and the aperture to get in, is smaller still. You really have to enter the cabin at an angle, and getting out can be an issue, especially for the elderly. On the other hand, the BMW’s door is quite large, and opens almost 90 degrees making getting in and out super easy. Where there’s a hiccup is the actual height of the seat, that’s set low.


If you’re going to be chauffeur driven, you’d appreciate the extra room in the rear bench of the XC40. Volvo has also cleverly stretched out the seat shoulders all the way to the door pads, which themselves are quite thin. This manages to liberate significantly more shoulder room. And, if you had to absolutely travel with five occupants, it’s again the Volvo that does a better job. Not that the BMW’s backseat leaves you short of space. Even though there’s enough of it, just not extraordinary in any manner. It should do just fine to accommodate you and another person at the rear bench easily. The X1’s seat base contours outwards towards the door pads, which means you have some additional space to get comfortable.

Volvo’s XC40 hits back with better under-thigh support. But, there are two hiccups. Those who are of larger build, will find the rear bench to be a bit too upright. An adjustable recline for the rear bench back would’ve made the backseat experience that much more comfortable. The second annoyance is because of the headroom on offer. If you’re around or over 6 feet tall, you’d want a little more room for your head.



Volvo XC40

Shoulder Room



Head Room



Seat Base Length



Seat Base Width



Seat Back Height



Knee Room



In terms of space for your luggage, it’s the BMW that’s the clear winner. In fact the boot of the X1 is as big as the XC40’s elder sibling - the XC60! So, you see where Volvo has squeezed out that extra kneeroom from. The upside here is that the XC40 has a clever boot floor that folds up freeing up some extra mm of height for your luggage.



Volvo XC40

Boot space

505 litres

460 litres

Which one delivers on the sense of luxury, you ask? Well, both of them do, in their own unique ways. In the BMW, it’s the familiarity of the design that does the trick for us. We’ve seen this interior in so many high-end BMWs that the brain automatically assumes it’s premium. Thankfully, the feeling is backed up by actual good-quality equipment in the sure-clicking buttons, weighted door handles and the soft dash.

Volvo’s XC40 delivers on the premium factor too, but, it does that by bombarding you with a host of tech (which we’ll get to in the next section). In terms of quality, most of the cabin feels pretty rich. There are some not-so-luxurious feeling bits and bobs here and there, though. The switches on the steering, for example, could’ve had a damped feel, and the dashboard could’ve had a softer material laid on top.


Volvo XC40

With the XC40, Volvo is making every other entry-level luxury SUV feel exactly that - entry level. What the Swedes have managed to cram into the small SUV, especially when you consider the price point at which it’s offered, is phenomenal. BMW has to play catch up in this department, and we see it struggling to. Badly.

Before we get to that, let’s get the common bits out of the way first. As you’d expect, both cars get leather upholstery, a powered driver’s seat with memory, leather-wrapped steering wheel as well as push-button start. The oomph factor is kicked up a notch by bits like the panoramic sunroof, dual-zone climate control, all-LED headlamps and a touchscreen infotainment system.


When you go through the list, you’d think that’s plenty of features, right. And that’s where you’re wrong. Because Volvo is just getting warmed up here. The XC40 additionally offers an LCD instrument cluster, heated front and rear seats as well as a Harman Kardon audio system. There are smaller features that really round off the experience too, such as Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, front parking sensors, and an electric tailgate. What swings this round heavily in the favour of the Volvo, is the fact that the BMW misses out on small (but significant features) such as passive keyless entry, and even cruise control.

Volvo XC40

The Volvo does not only offers cruise control, but brings adaptive cruise control to the party. With the onboard radar, the XC40 is also able to tell you if you’re straying out of lane. Based on navigation data, it will also tell you if you’re exceeding the prescribed speed limit. And finally, if you can’t be bothered, the little Swede will also park itself. Howzzat?

Engine and Performance


On paper, both these SUVs here are neck and neck. Both make 190PS of power, and the same 400Nm of torque as well. So, you’d expect them to drive pretty much the same right? Well, not really. If you want something you want to belt, and generally drive like a loon most of the time, the BMW should appeal to the ‘hoonigan’ inside you.

BMW’s 2.0-litre four pot revs up much quicker, and is happier to dump all of that 400Nm down nice and early. Actually, quite a lot of credit for this has to go to that s-l-i-c-k 8-speed Aisin gearbox. It doesn’t blink before dropping a gear, and sometimes even two to get you going quickly. And to make its sporty credentials absolutely clear, the X1 M Sport will also let you launch the car. Keep the pedal buried into the mat, and you have a small SUV that does 0-100kmph in under 8 seconds.

Volvo XC40

Compare that to the Volvo’s time, and you see that the XC40 is nearly a full second slower. If you choose not to use launch control on the BMW, that gap is narrower at around half a second. What really acts as the proverbial fly in the otherwise smooth ointment, is the 8-speed gearbox. It's sourced from Aisin here too, but is evidently tuned to take it easy. It’d appreciate it if you didn’t go pedal to the metal on a whim, and rather dialled in acceleration in a linear, gradual manner.

Road Test


Volvo XC40





43.37 metres

40.32 metres

20-80kmph (kickdown)



Should you choose to do that anyway, you’re met with a lag before the gearbox downshifts. You’ll also pick on the slightly delayed upshifts near the redline. Sure, switching it to Dynamic mode makes the throttle and gearbox slightly snappier. But, even then, it’s no match for what the BMW is packing.

It’s clear then; if you want performance, you pick the X1. The XC40 is better suited to calm cruises and comfortable city drives. And if you drive it in a relaxed manner, the Volvo is happy to return 13.56kmpl, compared to the BMW’s 12.02kmpl. There’s no separating the two in terms of highway efficiency, though, since both sit comfortably at under 2000rpm at 100kmph, in eighth gear. Unsurprisingly, both returned similar fuel economy on the highway - a smidge above 20kmpl a piece.

Fuel Efficiency


Volvo XC40







Also Read: Volvo XC40 Gets New Petrol And Diesel Engines Globally

Ride and Handling

Volvo XC40 vs BMW X1

It’s not just straight line pulls where the Bimmer impresses. Bring it to a set of winding roads, and it quickly reminds you why they’re widely regarded as driver’s cars. That steering simply comes alive around the bendy bits of road, and with that engine constantly at your service, you’d have a wide grin on your face as you belt it from one corner to the other. You also feel the xDrive working hard, sending most of the power to the rear wheel as you gas through the corners.

In the Volvo too, there’s some fun to be had. The steering is quick, and direct too. But, it simply needs more weight, especially when the speeds build up. If you chuck it in hard into a corner, you’re left guessing where the front wheels are. Also, we found the ESC kicking in a bit early on the Volvo, which cut off power from the rear wheels since it’d slip a bit. This meant more power to the front, which ends up amplifying understeer.

Volvo XC40 vs BMW X1

But, on the calm drive back - you’d want to be in the XC40. And that’s because it manages to dispatch non-existent roads significantly better than the X1. Also, the cabin remains composed irrespective of the speed you’re at. In the BMW, you’d be rocking side-to-side at low speeds. Hit a bump at triple-digit speeds and the rebound from the suspension hits back harder, tossing you about again. As much as that stiff setup is delightful on winding roads, it feels like it could have more give for everyday driving. This is an SUV, after all.

Wait, we almost forgot. What if you decide to take your baby luxo-barge off-road? Well, both come equipped with all-wheel drive and feature hill descent control, but it’s only the XC40 that features a dedicated off-road mode. And it’s the Volvo that seems more at ease trotting about off-road. The added ground clearance (211mm vs 165mm), the high seating position and the electronics, all come together nicely to deliver a hassle-free experience.


Kit to keep you safe is equally impressive on both vehicles. Both feature six airbags, anti-lock brakes, and electronic stability control. Like we mentioned earlier, the Volvo goes one higher and offers radar-based lane keeping assist, as well as adaptive cruise control.

Euro-spec versions of both vehicles have scored a full five stars in the crash test conducted by Euro NCAP.


Volvo XC40 vs BMW X1

BMW’s X1 is thoroughly desirable. It’s an attention magnet, feels solidly built inside out and offers a true premium experience in terms of touch and feel. To top things off, it will charm you with the way it drives. It’s definitely the one to pick if driving pleasure ranks above anything else on your list. That said, you’d be shelling out more money, and missing out on quite a few creature comforts too.

Because with the XC40, Volvo has proven that entry-level luxury SUVs are so much more than the badge on the nose. You and I need to see proper tech in exchange for the money we’re shelling out, and the Volvo delivers on that in spades. Dial in the fact that it offers more room, is more comfortable to use on a daily basis and costs less than the X1, the XC40 almost becomes a no-brainer decision.

Also Read: Volvo XC40 vs BMW X1: Variants Comparison


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