2019 Volvo XC40 vs 2018 BMW X1


In the world of compact luxury crossovers, the BMW X1 has reigned supreme. It outsells many of its rivals and is seen as a premium choice with a lower price tag.

However, it certainly isn’t the most exciting or charming car, which is the vibe the new Volvo XC40 exudes. Naturally, we had to compare these two, to see which one seems better suited for luxury car buyers.

The BMW is a safe choice though, visually, it looks like a smaller version of the brands X3 and X5 vehicles, although that means it lacks a distinct personality. It’s easy to get it confused for one of those other crossovers too, which is both a good and bad thing, especially when you point out your car in a crowded lot and your friends think you are diving that badass X5 when you really have the entry-level X1…

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Sharing the similar front-wheel-drive focused platform as the MINI Countryman, the X1 has solid proportions, looking a bit more rugged than a raised hatchback that many crossovers end up imitating. This platform comes with a number of advantages as the X1 is surprisingly spacious, not to mention it drives like a MINI, which is to say that it feels agile.

Spacious, but unexciting

But the main purchasing reason for something like this is how practical it is, and the X1 can store everything you can imagine. With 27.1 cubic feet (767 liters) in the trunk, you’ll love how deep the cargo area is, with a hidden under-tray area too. Fold down the rear seats and you get an immense 58.7 cubic feet (1,662 liters) to throw stuff into. It also has a more spacious rear seat than the Volvo we brought out too. It’s a wonderful car if all you care about is space, but the materials and design aren’t the most impressive.

For starters, the design is so similar to what we’ve seen before in other BMWs that it’s lost its charm. The layout is familiar and easy to get used to, but it feels a bit drab and boring. There’s no clever design touches or fun elements to delight or welcome you in the car. In fact, if the X1 is a stablemate to the MINI Countryman, it seems like it’s been stripped of all the bits of uniqueness that the MINI has.

The Ultimate Driving Machines or a spruced up MINI

At least the X1 feels like the MINI on the road, which is to say, all the driving dynamics are tight and entertaining. The X1 feels plenty responsive, especially in terms of agility. It feels small and energetic, just like a small BMW should. The chassis is excellent in terms of engagement, but the car is a bit stiff, sometimes crashing harshly over potholes, highway expansion joints or small sidewalk access ramps. It can feel extremely uncomfortable when just pulling into a driveway sounds like you’ve broken something.

The plus side is that the powertrain is wonderfully refined and powerful as the 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo puts out 228 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. It’s much more linear feeling than the Volvo’s powertrain, which can feel a bit peaky and laggy at times. The BMW motor is mated to a solid eight-speed automatic, which works well, despite the very different looking shifter. It’s slightly less fuel efficient than the Volvo, with our all-wheel-drive model earning 25 MPG combined (9.3 L/100km).

Compare Specs

2018 BMW X1
2019 Volvo XC40
Vehicle 2018 BMW X1 Advantage 2019 Volvo XC40
Engine 2.0-liter turbocharged-four - 2.0-liter turbocharged-four
Output 228 hp, 258 lb-ft XC40 248 hp, 258 lb-ft
Transmission eight-speed - eight-speed
Fuel Economy 22 city, 31 highway, 25 combined XC40 23 city/31 highway /26 combined
Total Cargo 58.7 cubic feet X1 57.5 cubic feet
Headroom front/rear 41.9/39.4 X1 39/39.1
Legroom front/rear 40.4/37 X1 40.9/36.1
Weight 3,697 lbs. X1 3,713 lbs.
Starting Price USD $34,895 XC40 $34,195
Fully loaded price USD $52,430 XC40 $47,290

And The New Kid on the Scene

The Volvo is certainly fresh looking, with a design that is unique to the XC40. It has a few callbacks to the other Volvo products, but its unmistakable as an XC40. It also manages a design that’s both boxy and rugged, while being cute and eye-catching. Something to do with the big headlights and large wheels help make the vehicle look like a caricature.

Our tester also came in a charming shade of blue that made the vehicle really stand out, in a way that the BMW X1 could only dream about. The Volvo also has an attractive interior, full of modern design sense and interesting materials, including a fuzzy carpet like substance on the door panels.

Minimalist style, still spacious

The minimalist design has its downsides, as there are so few buttons in the XC40 that everything has to be done through the Sensus infotainment system, which is clunky and cumbersome to use at times. The highlight though is that the XC40 doesn’t feel like a downgrade in comparison to other Volvos. The digital dashboard, layout, and design are all very closely related to what’s found in other vehicles by the Swedish automaker.

It has slightly less rear seat space, and less cargo space than the BMW with 57.5 cubic feet (1336 liters) to play with, which sounds like a lot but feels like much less than the X1. There are other unique family and owner friendly features like a removable, covered bin that would be perfect for hiding treats, or use as a garbage bin.

Swedish Driving Machine

The vehicle rides pretty well too and is surprisingly comfortable despite the larger wheels and slim rubber. Unlike the BMW X1, the XC40 feels smooth and refined on the road, and far from crashy experience in the German car. As a result of its slightly spongy ride is that the Volvo feels less agile and exciting than the BMW, but it’s a welcome compromise.

Under the hood of the Volvo is the turbocharged Drive-E engine, a 2.0-liter four-cylinder that makes 221 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. It’s not perfect, but it gets the job done. There’s quite a bit of lag before the power arrives, which is unfortunate. The engine is paired to an eight-speed automatic, which sends power to all four wheels when needed. It’s a much more efficient setup than the BMW, with 27 MPG combined (9 l/100kms).

And the extras and fees

The Volvo also has a few more tech features in its corner. The Pilot Assist system is a handy helper on the road, guiding the vehicle into the middle of its lane, and maintaining a proper distance from the car in front of you. It feels pretty refined and much more premium than other vehicles in this class and feels plucked right from Volvo’s bigger and more expensive vehicles. The BMW doesn’t have such features, but it does have a bright Head-up display, which is to say that the brand is willing to give buyers more features.

That is if the customer is willing to pay for it. The BMW costs $52,430 fully loaded, while the Volvo will set you back $47,290 in its top guise. The Volvo feels more premium, modern and special at that price, while the BMW is lacking its usual luxurious sheen at this level.

The Verdict: 2019 Volvo XC40 vs 2018 BMW X1

It’s an easy pick now, with the Volvo XC40 representing a really solid approach to this segment. It’s seriously great and feels like a more complete vehicle than the popular BMW X1. Buyers will also love the style, and uniqueness that this more affordable Volvo brings to the table.


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1 Comment

NormT says:

The X1 only sold 30K units last year putting well behind RDX and NX at over 50,000 a d Buick Envision at 41K.