Volvo XC40 SUV review
“It’s not the most sporty SUV to drive, but the Volvo XC40 is stylish, comfortable and loaded with safety features”
- Appealing design
- Comfortable and refined
- Plenty of standard equipment
- Average to drive
- No diesel engine option
- Less spacious than some rivals
The Volvo XC40 is a small and stylish family car that’s the entrypoint to the brand’s SUV line-up, slotting into the range below the XC60 and the XC90. Thanks to characterful design, it stands out in a crowd, but it’s not short of appealing rivals, including the Jaguar E-Pace, Audi Q3, BMW X1, Mercedes GLA, DS 7 Crossback, MINI Countryman and Lexus UX.
The XC40 has a chunky style of its own that’s quite different from the curvy lines of the larger Volvo XC60. In contrast, the XC40 features a sharper profile with a flat bonnet and a vertical grille. Also, clever details like the ‘Thor’s Hammer’ daytime running light and upswept rear windows help give it a contemporary look that’s muscular and imposing too.
In 2022, the XC40 was treated to a very minor facelift. Its headlights are slightly reshaped, in line with the newer Volvo C40, and there are new alloy wheel designs. The interior is now offered in Bright or Dark themes. But we’d suggest opting for the ‘pre-facelift’ car, because at the time of writing you’ll wait a few weeks for one of these, or around a year for the updated version.
Volvo’s larger cars have always had great-looking interiors in recent years, and the XC40 brings a similar level of design quality to the game inside. It also has a high-tech feel thanks to Volvo’s excellent portrait Sensus touchscreen system and an impressive digital instrument cluster.
The powerful and efficient T4 and T5 Recharge plug-in hybrid models have now joined the range. They're 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. A fully electric model, called the Volvo XC40 Recharge, is also available with a range of up to 259 miles and a 0-62mph time of 4.7 seconds. Top versions of the electric model are very costly for a car of this size, but recently single-motor versions have been added; they’re less powerful but noticeably less expensive.
The petrol engines are worthy of consideration, too, especially if you plan on shorter trips. The B3 and B4 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 petrol engines are available with front or four-wheel drive and return up to 40mpg. A more powerful B5, capable of 0-62mph in just 6.1 seconds, was available up until autumn 2021.
Below the B3, you previously had a choice of cheaper T2 and T3 engines, without mild-hybrid tech. These 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 still used in the T4 and T5 Recharge plug-in hybrids, 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 hybrids can both manage up to 134.5mpg and around 28 miles of pure-electric running.
Until late 2020, D3 and D4 diesels were offered with economy of between 40 to 50mpg depending on whether you opted for front or four-wheel drive, a manual or automatic gearbox and large or small alloy wheels, but diesel engines have now been dropped from the XC40 range.
Volvo has also chopped and changed its trim levels. The old Momentum, Inscription and R-Design trim levels have now been replaced by Core, Plus and Ultimate versions. They’re broadly similar, except that the mid-range version no longer comes with sporty styling.
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. It seems that Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is now included on plug-in hybrid models, but unavailable on petrol versions; the package used to be a £300 option, even though these apps are usually free on superminis.
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 20-inch versions that can be specified.
The Volvo XC40 has also proved itself to be safe, thanks to a five-star Euro NCAP test rating, and popular with owners. It came an impressive eigth out of the top 75 models in our 2021 Driver Power survey, with excellent scores for reliability and build quality.
What about buying a used or nearly new Volvo XC40?
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.
Which Is Best?
- Name1.5 T2 Momentum Core 5dr
- Gearbox typeManual
- Name1.5 T4 RC PHEV Inscription Expression 5dr Auto
- Gearbox typeSemi-auto
- Name2.0 B5P Inscription Pro 5dr AWD Auto
- Gearbox typeSemi-auto