Auto motor und sport magazine put the new Volvo XC40, the Car of the Year 2018, against the german triade Audi Q3, BMW X1 and Mercedes GLA. All gasoline, all-wheel drive, all with chances to win?
The idea of a premium compact SUV is not new, but is just so successful that all premium manufacturers want to be in this segment. So the new Volvo XC40 meets the established competition: Audi Q3, BMW X1 and Mercedes GLA. Let’s see who is the best.
BMW invented the premium compact segment in 2008 with the first generation X1 with a rear wheel drive derivated 4wd while Volvo is the newcomer. The new XC40 is familiar, stylish, unusual and refined. Perhaps Volvo’s greatest strength has always been not to re-invent everything, but to refine it. In addition, the Volvo maintain its tradition focused on safety.
Audi – maturity of performance
Launched in 2011, Q3 is the oldest in this test but the age shows also its maturity. Finishing and material quality shows a solidity that ranks among the most careful of the class.
The interior space is not the biggest but the boot volume is large enough. Only BMW X1 has a larger boot. In the rear, the cushion is too short, the backrest too steep and the access is not so comfortable due to the narrow doors.
The driver has a good seating position but the climate switches are positioned too low, while the early MMI system has some ergonomic issues. But the sparse of the assistance equipment shows the age of Q3.
But the driving is still very actual. The two liter turbo has a strong pulling power, is cultivated, homogeneous while the S tronic double clutch gearbox pass quickly and accurately through the seven gears. At 9.3 l / 100 km the Q3 consumption is at the level of X1 and GLA. He surpasses them in terms of suspension comfort. Despite a firm setting of suspension, the adaptive suspension offers a very good compromise. But the handling is not the best.
Despite the precise, and good feedback steering, the Audi is not so very agile because it understeers early. But always remains safe and the 4wd system gives an impeccable traction and very good grip.
BMW – a practical car
The new BMW X1 is totally different from the first generation. It is built on the new UKL modular platform and not on the former 3 Serie platform. So, the engine is in transversal position and until the Haldex clutch send the power to the rear, it drives with front wheels.
The new X1 offers an intelligent and variable interior with the 40/20/40% rear backrest which has also variable inclination on different angles, 13 cm sliding rear seats and folding backrest of the front passenger seat. Even is not bigger than its rivals, it offers a big interior space in the rear and also in front. But is surprising for BMW that driving position is too high and the hard sports seats available as option are too small. Ergonomics is the best because the iDrive system is the most intuitive.
The two liter turbo has a lot of temperament but is noisy. It is on the second place in terms of performance thanks also to the eight speed automatic gearbox. In BMW models with transverse engines works Aisin gearbox and not ZF. The Aisin gearbox fits better with the early torque capability of diesel engines than with the petrol engines. But the automatic gearbox change gears almost as fast as a double clutch gearbox.
X1 offers a good handling, while the steering is very precise but very sensitive which mean that the X1 needs constant steering corrections. This is also due to the too tight chassis set-up. Even in the comfort level of the adjustable damping suspension (optional), the X1 humps over bumps. It brakes superbly, but offers a few assistance systems and the car is expensive if you choose some extras which cost a lot.
Mercedes – power of rest
The Mercedes GLA does not care about the basic virtues of the SUV – high seating, variability, roominess – but these missings never hurt his success. The boot is small and the rear backrest is too steep and does not offer the comfort you expect. Also, the Comand multimedia system which is not in its latest iteration, creates sometime confusion. On the other hand, as the second oldest model, the GLA brings along the second-best assistance equipment, weighs the least and drives, well, it drives the most beautifully.
This starts with the comfortable seats with a good lateral support. With a steering with the variable assistance, it curves around bends agile, safe and precise. And very good handling comes without a too rigid suspension.
With adaptive dampers (option), the Mercedes GLA gives a supple, smooth ride, while the traction is always good. Compared with its high-profile rivals, the GLA profits of the low weight. Despite the smallest power in the test, it offers the best performance, while the consumption in test is as low as in X1 and Q3, with 9.2 l/100 km. The low fuel consumption can be associated with the clever seven speed double clutch gearbox which change the gears earlier without reving the engine too high.
Volvo – style of safety
The chinese Geely assures a fine transition to the new generation of Volvo models. The new XC40 is not only a beautiful car but has a lot of intelligent functions. When you fold the rear backrest you get a perfect flat loading floor, the cover of the boot cand be hide under the double floor. The entry on the rear is comfortable, the space is very generous, the seats are cuddly and big, the finishing is very elegant. It is not cheap, but is much cheaper than its 60/90 series brothers.
The XC40 is based on the new compact modular architecture (CMA). So, in front it has a McPherson construction (instead of double wishbones on the 60/90) and in the rear a normal multi-link axle (without air suspension like in the 60/90). An adaptive damper will be available in short time and the R-Design does not use a sport suspension. But it would be nice to have it because the set-up combines an average comfort with low handling ability. The absorbtion of the bumps is not the best, XC seems subdued and is always in motion. And the steering has a lack of precision and a nebulous feedback. The quick drive is not one of the strenghts of the Volvo but the four wheel drive offers a lot of traction. Volvo has the best assistance safety package which offers the high safety driving and helps to win the Car of the Year 2018 title.
The 8 speed automatic Aisin gearbox fits very good with the two liter turbo which does not need to rev too high. With particle filter the fuel consumption reaches 10.1 l/100 km. But the fuel is not the high costs because the car is expensive like the BMW X1. But for this price, which include a lot of extras, you can find two small swedish flags on the each side of the bonnet. Very Swedish!
- Mercedes GLA 250 4Matic 421 points
A Mercedes cheaper than its rivals, this never happened. But the narrow GLA convinces with pleasant comfort, smooth handling and efficient drive.
- BMW X1 25i xDrive 418 points
A BMW which not excel on handling, this also never happened. But nobody has more space and variability. As young as he is, he should offer more assistance systems.
- Volvo XC40 T5 AWD 402 points
The fact that Volvo comes so close to the top shows how good the new XC40 is. But the suspension tuning, steering and ergonomics still needs some improvement.
- Audi Q3 2.0 TFSI Quattro 388 points
The age does not forgive nobody and Q3 is 7 years old. But he still convinces with the quality, drive and comfort. Ergonomics and assistance are outdated.