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In-depth reviews

Volvo XC40 review – an impressive small premium SUV

“It’s not the most sporty SUV to drive, but the Volvo XC40 is stylish, comfortable and loaded with safety features”

Carbuyer Rating

4.0 out of 5

Owners Rating
Be the first to review
Price
£36,625 - £51,940

Pros

  • Appealing design
  • Comfortable and refined
  • Plenty of standard equipment

Cons

  • Average to drive
  • No diesel engine option
  • Less spacious than some rivals

Verdict – is the Volvo XC40 a good car?

Driving the XC40 isn’t quite as engaging as a Jaguar E-Pace, or even a Mazda CX-5, but it’s more fun than a Citroen C5 Aircross and suitably comfortable for an SUV that you’re likely to be driving with passengers of all ages on board. The Volvo XC40 has also proved itself to be safe, thanks to a five-star Euro NCAP test rating. It came an impressive eighth out of the top 75 models in our 2021 Driver Power survey, with excellent scores for reliability and build quality, although it did slip substantially for the most recent 2023 edition, landing in 61st place.

Volvo XC40 models, specs and alternatives

The Volvo XC40 is one of the brand’s smallest SUVs, sitting below the mid-size XC60 and full-fat XC90 in its lineup, but above the fully-electric EX30. The XC40 itself is also offered as an electric model, originally badged the XC40 Recharge, and later rebranded as the EX40. The Volvo XC40 sits towards the premium end of the market with rivals such as the Audi Q3, BMW X1, Mercedes GLA, MINI Countryman and Lexus UX, and the Volvo starts from around £36k, slightly undercutting the GLA, but making it a bit pricier than the entry-level X1.

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While some models in this segment try to disguise the SUV look with curvier, sporty lines, the Volvo XC40 features an unapologetically boxy design with a flat bonnet and blunt, vertical grille. Its ‘Thor’s Hammer’ daytime running lights and long vertical tail-lights are unmistakably Volvo, showcasing the XC40’s muscular and solid family resemblance.

There have been some revisions to the XC40 over its time on sale, including a minor facelift in 2022 that introduced slightly reshaped headlights, redesigned alloy wheels and a rejig of the car’s trim levels in line with the rest of Volvo’s lineup – these now comprise Core, Plus and Ultra. The car’s infotainment system was updated to use Google-based software rather than the brand’s own, and became all the better for it.

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 and voice control.

Comfort and refinement are the name of the game for Volvo, and the XC40’s interior is beautifully minimalist. Rather than reinventing the wheel, the focus here is on the use of high-quality materials and ensuring sturdy build quality. 

All versions of the Volvo XC40 employ some degree of electrification, with the entry-level models getting mild-hybrid petrol engines, badged B3 and B4. Volvo even later introduced two plug-in hybrid options badged T4 and T5 Recharge, but these have been discontinued at the time of writing. The fully-electric XC40 Recharge, which we’ve reviewed separately, has since been rebranded as the EX40 and comes with either a single-motor or dual-motor setup and a range of up to 343 miles to a charge, but is much more expensive than the standard XC40 to buy.

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Diesel engines were once offered for the XC40, badged D3 and D4, but have long since been discontinued owing to a fall in demand for diesel cars, and Volvo’s move towards cleaner propulsion. That said, the mild-hybrid petrol models aren’t too far behind their fuel efficiency figures – D3 and D4 models were capable of between 40-50mpg, while both mild hybrids can achieve up to 42.8mpg.

The XC40’s steering feels precise and well-weighted, its suspension shouldn’t induce any feelings of motion 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 20-inch versions that can be specified.

What about buying a used or nearly new Volvo XC40?

Used Volvo XC40 review: 2018-Present (Mk1) - front 3/4 cornering

You should certainly consider a used Volvo XC40, if only because there are some excellent diesel options that have been discontinued from the new range. These older D3 and D4 models deliver excellent fuel economy at an affordable price and are great for people who do a lot of motorway miles. A used or nearly new XC40 makes sense in any form, though.

What’s its history?

The Volvo XC40 arrived in 2018, so it’s still a pretty new car, and many second-hand examples will still be covered by the factory warranty as a result. The early range was made up of petrol and diesel engines only.

The XC40 range was updated in 2019 with some trim changes and a new T2 petrol model at the bottom of the range, but the most significant events were the addition of the T5 Twin Engine and then the T4 Twin Engine models, which are plug-in hybrids. Then in 2021 the full electric Recharge P8 model was added.

Used Volvo XC40 (Mk1 2018-Present) 

The all-electric model is highly impressive, and even the plug-in hybrid versions could return incredibly low running costs if driven correctly. However, as a used car, the earlier diesels make a lot of sense - they are cheap to run, cost less to buy and should be reliable. As long as your lifestyle fits, they make a good second-hand buy.

Read our full used review of the Volvo XC40 Mk1 here

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Which Is Best?

Cheapest

  • Name
    1.5 T2 Momentum Core 5dr
  • Gearbox type
    Manual
  • Price
    £25,000

Most Economical

  • Name
    1.5 T4 RC PHEV Inscription Expression 5dr Auto
  • Gearbox type
    Semi-auto
  • Price
    £37,045

Fastest

  • Name
    2.0 B5P R DESIGN 5dr AWD Auto
  • Gearbox type
    Semi-auto
  • Price
    £36,625

Charlie writes and edits news, review and advice articles for Carbuyer, as well as publishing content to its social media platforms. He has also been a regular contributor to its sister titles Auto Express, DrivingElectric and evo. As well as being consumed by everything automotive, Charlie is a speaker of five languages and once lived in Chile, Siberia and the Czech Republic, returning to the UK to write about his life-long passion: cars.

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