The Volvo XC40 SUV isn't just a new car - it could also herald a new way of driving one for two years
First Drive in Barcelona: Volvo XC40
Seldom has there been a new-car launch at which the way you buy the motor has stirred nearly as much discussion as the arrival of the vehicle itself.
That was most certainly the case with the new Volvo XC40 (here by spring) recently in Barcelona.
It's because of a system the carmaker is introducing called 'Care by Volvo'.
Simply put, you have use of the car for two years for so much a month.
No, it's not quite like a Personal Contract Plan (PCP) because the monthly sum includes your insurance, road tax, repairs, maintenance etc.
The critical point is there would be no deposit.
You pay a monthly fee; full stop. A figure of €690/month was floated for some European market, but I wouldn't set massive stock in that as an absolute guide for Irish buyers. There's a lot of work to do on nailing down details, understandably.
Anyway, at the end of two years you hand back the keys. Easy as that. And it will happen here next year at some stage.
We got so interested in the minutiae we nearly overlooked the car. For example, you can't use a trade-in with the deal; you'd have to go the traditional route. There are as yet unspecified mileage restrictions. I think the insurance issue could be the thorniest. But it is a fresh way to shift cars.
Ultimately you will be able to share your Volvo, if you so wish, thanks to a new digital key. Instead of a physical key you'll get an app on your mobile. The Bluetooth-enabled app will do everything a physical key currently does.
But it also means you could receive more than one digital key on your app, technically allowing you access to different Volvos in different locations, all things being equal.
You could also get the use of an XC90 for a certain number of days over the two years.
The idea will be extended to all new Volvo models over time, so we are looking at quite a revolution in how cars will be used in future. You can see why we were so interested in the concept.
Cars for dealers to show to potential customers arrive next month. Prices, technically, start for the T3 FWD at €38,900. They have a demo model on display in their pop-up shop on Grafton Street until the end of the month. And until March 31, there is a €4,000 purchase contribution on the XC40 D4 AWD.
However, there will be just all-wheel drive from start as part of a D4 AWD automatic package that kicks off from €47,450.
There will be more engines in May and two-wheel drive versions.
It's a strong looking car with firm, bold lines that are close to the concept on which it is based.
The XC40 is the first model on their new modular vehicle architecture (CMA). This will underpin all future '40 series' cars.
Safety and driver assistance elements include pilot assist, city safety, run-off road protection and mitigation, cross traffic alert with brake support and a 360° camera.
They worked hard on generating and using internal storage. There is more space in the doors and under the seats, as well as slots for phones (including inductive charging).
They also have a fold-out hook for small bags as well as a removable waste bin in the tunnel console.
All clever and practical.
Our D4 diesel drove well. There was good insulation from road noise and the cabin reflected the maker's desire to be regarded as premium - even the low-down plastic didn't have that cheap look or feel.
It is one of the better new small SUVs to come on the market, but rivalry is keen with competitors ranging from the Range Rover Evoque to the BMW X1.
We drove it in mixed traffic, motorway and over some hilly stretches. The diesel was well muted and would make a lot more sense than the T5 petrol. Definitely a crossover for your shortlist.