In Sweden, they design SUVs just a little differently. Take this one, Volvo's XC40, a contender that's much more than just a smaller version of the brand's larger models. It gets its own 'CMA' platform and some very distinct design to set itself apart. The result is an interesting alternative to more mainstream premium-branded compact SUVs like BMW's X1 and the Mercedes GLA. And one you might rather like. I've been trying one as part of a long term test.
If not long ago, you'd have told me that my daily drive would be a bright light blue small Volvo SUV with white wheels and a white roof designed to replicate the look of a science fiction transformer robot, I'd have laughed. But that's just what the brand provided for me as part of this extended test.
British designer Ian Kettle wanted this car to be different, which is why the XC40 looks as it does, a concept inspired by the small robots he used to watch in science fiction films. The small SUV sector's usual curvy conformity is replaced by chunky cuteness with a 'transformer-like' vibe. Not everyone will like it - but then if everyone did, it wouldn't be such an interesting piece of design.
Inside, a dose of crushing conventionality here would have been a disappointment after the extrovert exterior: fortunately, that's not what's been served up. Instead, you get digital dials, a dose of Swedish minimalism and door cards made of a weird felt apparently fashioned from recycled drinks bottles. There are door bins bigger than any you'll have ever seen. And the designers have somehow crammed in the 9-inch portrait-style Sensus infotainment screen that's used in larger Volvo models, framing it with a set of unusual 'Star Wars'-style vertical vents. Interested yet?