Volvo XC40 SUV review
“The Volvo XC40 is a stylish small SUV that comes loaded with safety equipment and feels upmarket, but it’s only average to drive”
- Appealing design
- Comfortable and refined
- Plenty of standard equipment
- Average to drive
- Thirsty petrol engines
- Less spacious than some rivals
The Volvo XC40 is a stylish small SUV that bolsters Volvo’s popular line-up of raised models, sitting below the Volvo XC60 and Volvo XC90. It’s not short of rivals, though, pitching into competition against the Jaguar E-Pace, Audi Q3, BMW X1, DS 7 Crossback, MINI Countryman and Lexus UX in the fashionable premium small SUV arena.
It certainly looks the part, shunning the curves of the XC60 in favour of an altogether blockier design, with a flat-topped bonnet, upright Volvo grille and upswept rear windows. Familiar styling cues like the 'Thor’s Hammer' daytime running lights and vertical brake lights work well to set it apart from the plethora of SUVs rolling out of showrooms, and give it the tough looks people clearly want.
Anyone who’s been impressed with Volvo’s latest interior design will be pleased to see the XC40 looks similarly stylish at a lower price, too. The sharp graphics and portrait Sensus touchscreen are sure to make an impact on prospective customers, along with the standard digital instrument cluster.
The powerful and efficient T5 Recharge plug-in hybrid has now joined the range. It’s a bit more expensive than other XC40 models but not compared to other PHEVs, and Volvo will pay for your first year’s charging too. There are also conventional engines to choose from. The D3 and D4 diesels offer economy of 39.8 to 51.4mpg depending on whether you opt for front or four-wheel drive, a manual or automatic gearbox and large or small alloy wheels. A fully electric model, called the Volvo XC40 Recharge P8, is also available with a range of upto 260 miles and a 0-62mph time of under five seconds, but it's expensive.
The petrol engines are worthy of consideration, too, especially if you plan on shorter trips. For 2020, B4 and B5 models now come with a mild-hybrid assistance system consisting of a starter-generator and a 48-volt battery. This is designed to give the engine a boost under load, helping to improve efficiency and acceleration.
The B5 is the fastest petrol XC40 on offer right now, getting from 0-62mph in 6.4 seconds. The T2 and T3 are powered by Volvo’s first-ever three-cylinder engine, a 1.5-litre that’s essentially the 2.0-litre engine with a quarter of its length chopped off. This is used in the T5 Recharge plug-in hybrid, and the addition of an electric motor is welcome because on their own the T2 and T3 feel a bit underpowered compared to the other models. Volvo says the plug-in hybrid will manage 0-62mph in 7.3 seconds and up to 134.5mpg. The middle petrol offering from Volvo is the B4 mild-hybrid; its thirsty 2.0-litre turbo engine does give pretty decent performance but suffers in comparison with top rivals on fuel economy.
The diesel line-up consists of two 2.0-litre engines. Taking 7.9 seconds to reach 62mph, the D4 diesel with 188bhp feels decidedly brisk and its 2,100kg towing limit should suit anyone looking to tow a caravan with a small SUV, but many will be satisfied with the 148bhp D3.
The XC40 is offered in three trim levels, Momentum, Inscription and R-Design, plus a new entry-level Momentum Core model for 2020. The Momentum models are the entry point into the range with Inscription adding more equipment, while the R-Design focuses on the look of the XC40, adding various sporty styling accessories and material upgrades. In addition to the three main trim levels, Volvo offers Pro packs for each with extra features.
Standard equipment on every XC40 includes LED headlights, cruise control, heated door mirrors, a 12.3-inch digital instrument display, and a sat-nav system with touchscreen control. You'll need to pay a £300 premium for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto though, which is a little pricey - especially when many manufacturers throw it in for free.
Driving the XC40 isn’t quite as engaging as a Jaguar E-Pace, or even a Mazda CX-5, but it’s better than a DS 7 Crossback and suitably comfortable for an SUV that you’re likely to be driving with passengers of all ages on board. The steering feels precise and well weighted, its suspension shouldn’t induce any feelings of sea sickness and road noise is well contained too. Potholes and ruts can be felt at lower speeds, though, so we’d recommend sticking with smaller 18- or 19-inch wheels rather than the 21-inch versions that can be specified.