The Swedish manufacturer started revamping its model range at the top end, first with the XC90 and then the S90, but by 2019 the first of those cars will be the oldest model in the company’s line-up and its baby cousin, the XC40, could well be the firm’s biggest seller.
Volvo boss Håkan Samuelsson confirmed the plan to build a small SUV and extend the ‘40’ range at the recent S90 launch. “We want to build a broader range of ‘40’ cars,” he said. “Today we only have the hatchback, but we want more, and with the new technology that we’re working on, we will have the means to expand the line-up.
“Highest on my list is a small SUV, because that’s where the market is going,” he added.
The XC40 will sit on Volvo’s new Compact Modular Architecture (CMA), which is being developed in partnership with the brand’s Chinese parent firm, Geely. CMA is designed to be premium enough to allow Geely to develop more upmarket products while supporting a more profitable, wider range of Volvo’s 40-series models.
However, the charge is likely to be led by the XC40, which has already been spied testing. Development mules based on a jacked-up V40 have shown how much taller the XC40 will be. It will feature an extremely upright stance, making it more of an SUV than the crossover-like Mercedes-Benz GLA and the new Infiniti QX30. It’s likely to feature a version of Volvo’s new concave front grille, but standard editions will get less sophisticated headlights than the so-called ‘Thor’s Hammer’ LED arrangement that features on the S90 and XC90.
As with the larger Scalable Platform Architecture (SPA), used under the XC90 and S90, CMA will be engineered for comfort more than outright agility. It will get a cheaper rear suspension arrangement than SPA’s composite leaf spring set-up, though - most likely a relatively simple torsion beam.
CMA will also be engineered for hybrid powertrains, with Volvo insiders claiming the firm has achieved some “strong solutions” in packaging a small electric motor along with the gearbox. Volvo’s head of R&D, Peter Mertens, said: “Small diesels are becoming harder and harder to justify in small cars, because of the costly technologies that are required to make them comply.”
That could be a sign that Volvo is considering using a small petrol-electric hybrid powertrain in the cleanest 40-series models - with a set-up based around its new turbocharged 1.5-litre three-cylinder engine - instead of a conventional turbodiesel. Samuelsson also hinted at this. “I think in the future, and independently of ‘dieselgate’, we will see some more petrol sales, and of course, more electrification - the mix of a small petrol engine and an electric motor,” he said. “We will have it on all of our cars.”
The extended line-up of 40-series models will allow Volvo to develop three distinct production sites around the world. The V40, S40 and XC40 will all be produced out of the firm’s facility in Ghent, Belgium, while the XC90 and S90 will be made in Torslanda, near Gothenburg, Sweden, and the XC60 and S60 will come out of a new facility in South Carolina in the United States.