Not only is the XC40 Volvo’s first foray into the compact SUV market, but it also marks the renewal of the ‘40’ series of vehicles, with a replacement for the V40 hatchback and V40 Cross Country, as well as the re-introduction of an S40 saloon, which is set to go head-to-head with Audi’s A3 saloon and the Mercedes-Benz CLAClass. All will be powered by Volvo’s 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel engines, as well as plug-in hybrid variants using a similarly sized petrol engine for propulsion. The investment in the lineup renewal has been masterminded by Volvo’s Chinese owner Geely, who, if you haven’t heard of them, also owns the London Electric Vehicle Company that makes the London Taxi, as well as its recent acquisition of Lotus cars. Oh, and the company has also recently acquired a 9.7 per cent stake in Daimler, the owners of Mercedes-Benz. So pretty significant in the global car industry and one that you’ll no doubt hear lots about in the coming years.
And with SUV sales continuing on an upward curve, it’s a perfect time for Volvo to enter the sector with a rival that is similar in size to Range Rover’s Evoque, as well as the Audi Q3. And because Volvo doesn’t have a predecessor to worry about, the majority of its sales will come from rival firms, though there might be a few V40 owners that will upgrade, and maybe some XC60 customers looking to downsize. The styling of the XC40 mimics the look of the larger XC90, albeit with a funkier, more modern twist.
Personalisation options are exploited, with the opportunity to specify a contrasting roof and funky interior colours. The Swedish flag attached to the front wings exhibits pride in its origins and we reckon the smallest Volvo SUV looks ultra-cool. If you’ve experienced any of the new generation of Volvo’s, you’ll be instantly at home, with a nine-inch portrait orientated touchscreen dominating the centre of the cabin. The hi-tech feel is backed up by a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and a short, stubby automatic transmission lever that feels modern. Interesting inlays and dashboard appliqués complete the striking interior look. All of the materials high up are nicely squidgy and top quality, though the further you move down, the harder the surfaces become, particularly in the rear, where the plastics are hard and scratchy. The driving position is excellent, multi-adjustable and with a lovely elevated seating position and chairs that offer good comfort levels. The touchscreen menus are logical and easy to navigate, though it’s sometimes difficult to adjust the temperature settings using the sliding scale, and physical buttons on the dashboard would be far more intuitive. The kind of dial that you’ll find for the volume of the audio system, which feels great and is easy to locate and operate. Space for both front and back seat occupants is good, with generous leg, head and kneeroom. There’s plenty of room for oddments too, with a large bin underneath the centre stack, a deep armrest cubby, enormous door pockets and a pair of cupholders, though the glovebox is quite small. Boot space is a two-tier design and folding down the rear chairs opens the space up from 460 to 1,336 litres. With the loadbay divider in the upper position, it provides a flat surface, though beware that the seats are pretty heavy to fold down, and the sill to haul your luggage over is relatively high.
The most powerful diesel XC40 so far delivers plenty of zip away from rest, with good mid-range punch. The 188bhp 2.0- litre D4 unit is paired exclusively with an eight-speed automatic transmission, and that’s a bit of a shame. Not because the gearbox is particularly bad, though it does feel a little slow-witted at times, but due to the fact that a nice, slick manual gearbox would not only lower the CO2 emissions, but also gives customers more choice, as not everyone wants an auto ‘box. The homegrown four-cylinder powerplant is quiet, even when you’ve got the accelerator pedal buried in the footwell, and though you’ll hear a little tyre and road noise, it’s certainly not intrusive, while wind flutter is nicely dialled out. Thanks to its quick steering, the XC40 feels quite agile to hustle along an entertaining B-road, with good precision and accuracy and great manoeuvrability around town. It’s good fun to pilot and there’s very little in the way of body lean through the corners and plenty of grip, feeling more like a hot hatchback than an SUV. But the real ace in the XC40’s pack is the brilliantly comfortable suspension that is incredibly supple. It soaks up potholes really nicely, shrugs off speed humps and is a great companion on a long-distance motorway schlep.
On sale | Now In showrooms | Now
Prices | £28,965 to £39,305
Bodystyles | 5-door SUV
Engines | 2.0 (148bhp), 2.0 (188bhp)
Trim levels | Momentum, Momentum
Pro, R-Design, R-Design Pro, Inscription, Inscription Pro, First Edition
Also consider| BMW X1, Jaguar E-Pace
Model tested | First Edition D4 AWD
Price | £39,305
Built in | Ghent, Belgium
Bodystyle | 5-door SUV, 5-seats
Layout| Four-wheel-drive
Powerplant| 1,969cc, 4-cylinder, 16-valve, turbo diesel
Transmission | 8-speed automatic
Stop-start| Yes SCR | No
Max power| 188bhp @ 4,000rpm
Max torque | 295lb ft @ 1,750-2,500rpm
Top speed | 130mph 0-62mph | 7.9secs
CO2 emissions | 133g/km (Euro-6)
Economy (urban/extra urban/combined) | 49.6/60.1/56.5mpg
Fuel tank size | 54 litres
Range | 671 miles
Insurance group | 30 BIK rate | 28%
Size (length/width with mirrors) | 4,425/2,034mm
Boot space (min/max) | 460/1,336 litres
Kerb/max towing weight| 1,698/2,100kg