The Volvo XC40 SUV has been named 2018 European Car of the Year at the start of the Geneva motor show.

The car has set a challenging benchmark in what is increasingly becoming the most contested area of the car market, and not just in design. The Swedish manufacturer is trying to quietly revolutionise the ownership experience with its new Care By Volvo scheme – a subscription service that lumps all costs relating to vehicle ownership including insurance and maintenance into a single monthly payment.

'Winning this award with our new XC40 is perfect timing,' said Volvo CEO Håkan Samuelsson. 'Volvo now has three globally available SUVs in its range for the first time. The XC40 will be a strong contributor to further growth, taking us into a new and fast-growing small SUV segment.'

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2019 Volvo XC40: First Drive
2019 Volvo XC40: First Drive

The award reflects the XC40’s standing in the small SUV market – and it certainly made a strong impression when we first drove the car a few months ago. Small SUVs often come across as smaller, cheaper copies of larger models and the result is invariably a product that feels inherently disappointing.

The XC40 is the first vehicle built on Volvo's new Compact Modular Architecture, which will also underpin future cars from the company. As such, it draws inspiration from the bigger Volvo SUVs while still carving its own place in both the car maker's lineup and in the compact SUV segment overall.

'We have a clear strategy for growth and we are committed to leading in automotive safety, connectivity services and electrification,' said Samuelsson. 'The XC40 reflects that commitment, and looking at the response from our customers and from the COTY jury here today, we are on the right track.'

Gallery: Volvo XC40 European Car of the Year 2018