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Has Volvo overtaken BMW at the top of the compact SUV table?

IN THE mid-$50K bracket, premium compact SUVs add sporty handling to sharp looks. Ride comfort sets one apart

$55,900 — 16.5 points

BMW X2: Range starts from $49,990 but can exceed $60K with options

3 stars

The X2 range starts from $49,900 but we have the 2.0-litre turbo front-driver from $55,900. The example tested was $63,940 with options. Metallic paint alone adds $1120 — and it’s $500 for Apple CarPlay (standard on most rivals) and $150 a year after the initial three-year subscription ends. Android Auto is not available. Service intervals are condition-based and a pre-purchase package for three years is a competitive $1120. Warranty is three years/unlimited kilometres.

3.5 stars

Looks sharp, a fresh take on the city SUV theme. It’s about as long as a Toyota Corolla but has a taller driving position. The sleek roofline limits rearward and three-quarter vision. The interior has an upmarket appearance and good oddment storage. The tailgate can be operated at the press of a button or by using the key fob.

X2: Upmarket interior with good storage — but Apple CarPlay costs extra.

3.5 stars

The 2.0-litre turbo (141kW/280Nm) is perky rather than high performance but it’s quicker than most hatchbacks. Paired with a seven-speed twin-clutch auto, it delivers power to the front wheels. The lack of AWD hardware and lower output give the X2 slightly better fuel economy than the Volvo (6.0L/100km) although as with most luxury cars it needs premium unleaded.

3 stars

Standard braking assistance primes the brakes ahead of an emergency stop and slows the car. Autonomous emergency braking that brings the car to a halt is in a $2600 option bundle with a bigger navigation screen and head-up display.

3,5 stars

SDrive 2.0i: Front-driver steers sharply and returns better fuel figures than the Volvo

With its sports suspension and low-profile tyres on 19-inch wheels, the X2 steers sharply and has quick reflexes in corners. The suspension is a touch firm over bumps and the run-flat tyres are noisy on coarse chip surfaces. This is the compromise for favouring handling prowess over a plush ride.

$56,740 — 19.5 points

Volvo XC40: Launch Edition adds about $12K to $44,990 starting price

4 stars

The XC40 range starts at $44,990 and this is the T5 R-Design Launch Edition. The only option is premium paint ($1150). Standard fare includes Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, digital radio and built-in navigation. Service intervals are 12 months/15,000km. The cost of routine maintenance over three years is high at $2165. Warranty is three years/unlimited kilometres.

4 stars

One of the most distinctive city SUVs on sale, the XC40 gets clever, fresh design inside and out. The interior is dominated by a large tablet-style nine-inch touchscreen. The carpet-lined door panels have huge pockets and there’s decent room in the rear seat and boot.

T5 R-Design: Tablet-style touchscreen, smartphone mirroring and roomy rear

4 stars

In this grade, the turbo 2.0-litre’s power is wicked up (185kW/ 350Nm) to deliver acceleration on par with hot hatches such as the VW Golf GTI. It turns an eight-speed auto and all-wheel drive, the power and hardware making the Volvo a touch thirstier than the BMW (7.7L/100km) but it’s still competitive. As with the BMW, it insists on premium unleaded.

3.5 stars

Standard are seven airbags, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian, cyclist and animal detection, lane keeping assistance (up to 15 seconds hands-free) and rear camera. Optional safety equipment includes blind zone alert, rear cross traffic warning, rear AEB, 360-degree view camera and radar cruise control — Volvo has included this technology pack on the Launch Edition, hence the higher starting prices.

4 stars

Double act: Agile-handling AWD is also comfortable to drive

It rides on larger 20-inch wheels with low-profile tyres but Volvo has done a remarkable job of getting the XC40 to deal with bumps quietly and fuss free. This, combined with its agile handling, make it more sporty and also more comfortable to drive than the BMW, an impressive double act.

The XC40 drives better than the X2 — and packs better performance and more equipment for less money.

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