How good is Volvo’s first foray into the small SUV segment?

Introduction

The XC40 is Volvo’s first foray into the small SUV segment, but you wouldn’t know it given that it’s gone straight to the top of the ever-growing array of competitors. Electric and plug-in hybrid models are to come, but even without the eco-champions of the range, the Volvo XC40 is the best premium small SUV going.

Body Style: 5 door SUV

Seats: 5

 MRP from £28,750-£40,055

Did you know? The Volvo XC40 is offered with a ‘Care by Volvo’ monthly payment scheme, which includes all the costs of running the car and 14 days’ use of a different Volvo model each year, should you need it. So all you need to budget for is fuel. 

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Verdict 9.0 / 10

The Volvo XC40 is the ideal blend of comfort, luxury, practicality and style. It won’t beat a Range Rover Evoque off road, and the infotainment system is a way off the benchmark set by BMW in that area, but as an overall ownership prospect the XC40 sets the standard in this class.

Design & Exterior 10/10
Interior & Comfort 9/10
Technology & Connectivity 6/10
Performance & Handling 9/10
Safety Features 10/10
Spec & Trim Levels 8/10
Running Costs & Fuel Economy 8/10
Pricing 8/10
2018 Volvo XC40

We Like

Clean yet super-desirable styling

Great balance of comfort and handling

Decent practicality

We Don't Like

Limited engines on cheapest trim level

Touchscreen system can be complicated

You have to pay for Apple CarPlay

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Design & Exterior 10/10
2018 Volvo XC40
2018 Volvo XC40
2018 Volvo XC40

Style is always a subjective matter, but you’ll struggle to find anyone who doesn’t like the styling of the Volvo XC40. The boxy proportions, the trademark ‘Thor’s Hammer’ headlights, the contrast roof (optionally white on base Momentum, black as standard on R-Design or – oddly, not contrast at all on top-spec Inscription)… It manages to be understated yet dripping in desirability.

18-inch alloys are the smallest wheel offered on the XC40, and a lot of buyers will opt for mid-spec R-Design, which ups the style ante with roof rails, dual-tone alloy design, front fog lights, gloss grille and front bumper, contrast wing mirrors, and dual integrated exhausts also finished in a gloss black surround. Momentum doesn’t get a contrast roof, but does get 19-inch alloys and chrome highlights.

2018 Volvo XC40
2018 Volvo XC40
2018 Volvo XC40

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Interior & Comfort 9/10

It’s easy to get comfy in the XC40 thanks to deeply bolstered seats that include part-electric seat control with adjustable tilt, height and lumbar support on the driver’s seat. R-Design adds extendable thigh support to the front seats, variable colour ambient lighting, rear reading and courtesy lights and tinted windows, and Inscription goes for the full Swedish hotel décor ambience with driftwood inlays and leather upholstery. All XC40s get a fully digital colour driver’s readout, which is easy to read, although there’s no head-up display as you can have in a Jaguar E-Pace or BMW X2.

2018 Volvo XC40

The only notable omissions in terms of comfort are heated seats – which are standard on the company car-oriented ‘Pro’ versions of the core three trims, or cost £500 as part of the Winter Pack that we’d recommend you add given that it also brings a heated windscreen and headlight cleaning system. You can even get heated rear seats for £200, and of course a panoramic glass roof is available as part of the £1600 Xenium pack.

Even adults will have plenty of space in the back, and there's a centre armrest with cupholders. Mind you, anyone sat in the middle is going to be uncomfortable thanks to the protruding air vents and a hump in the floor eating up all the legroom.

Visibility is fine but there is a fairly big blind spot caused by the chunky rear pillar, and the rear window is quite narrow.

Practicality

The XC40 is one of the most practical compact SUVs, with loads of neat touches that’ll make life easy, from a small bin built in below the front armrest (in automatic models), a slot designed to hold staff cards, car park cards, credit cards etc in the dash, and a fold-out hook in the glovebox for a shopping bag or handbag, there’s been loads of thought put into what makes life on the road easy for a Volvo driver.

2018 Volvo XC40
2018 Volvo XC40

You can pay to add electrically folding rear seats, but the standard manual folding function is easy enough as the 60/40 split backrest falls quickly and drops to leave a level, extended boot floor.

You also get underfloor storage in the boot as standard, with a space to store the loadbay cover if you rarely need it – dog owners or anyone with chunky buggies to load regularly will really appreciate this. You can also add a £350 Convenience Pack that include the power folding rear seats and a flexible boot floor with grocery bag holder that allows you to divide the space easily so your shopping doesn’t get flung about the boot.

At 460 litres the boot capacity is good – roughly on a par with the BMW X2 and Mercedes GLA, if a way off the generally more utilitarian BMW X1 or VW Tiguan - and it’s shaped well with flat sides and a load lip that’s flush with the boot floor.

You’ll want to add the £350 keyless entry and powered tailgate option, no doubt, but otherwise the XC40 is well sorted for practicality as standard.

2018 Volvo XC40

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Technology & Connectivity 6/10

This is one of the Volvo’s weakest areas. You have to pay £300 to add Apple CarPlay and Android Auto – often standard fit on rivals – and while the portrait shape 9-inch touchscreen looks great and has smart graphics, it’s not the easiest to use. Some of the icons are quite small and fiddly to hit precisely when you’re driving, and you have to swipe side to side to access some of the menus.

2018 Volvo XC40

Still, you do get sat-nav, Bluetooth, DAB and voice control as standard, and it’s not a bad system to use once you’ve familiarised yourself. You can pinch to zoom in or out, and it does mostly function just like a normal tablet, which is great - but it is a way off the user friendly interface of BMW’s latest iDrive system, which benefits from a rotary controller for use on the move.

You can add wireless charging for your phone to the XC40, and all models get an in-built modem so that you can turn the car into a mobile wi-fi hotspot with the help of a SIM card and a mobile data allowance. With all that working, you can connect up to eight devices to the to the internet via the car, and if that’s not enough then you need to have serious words with your kids about their gadget addiction.

A Harmon Kardon sound system is optional, and excellent, so for audiophiles the £550 cost to step up to this 13 speaker system from the standard ten speaker setup is likely worth it.

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Performance & Handling 9/10

Performance

From launch the XC40 is only available with two, four-cylinder 2.0-litre turbocharged engines; a 188bhp D4 diesel and a 244bhp petrol badged T5.

Later in 2018 the range expands with the D3 – a 148bhp version of the same diesel – a 188bhp version of the petrol called the T4, and a three-cylinder turbocharged petrol with 154bhp and badged the T3.

The T3 will be the entry point in the range, and will only be offered with front-wheel drive and a six-speed manual gearbox. The D3 will have four-wheel drive and the eight-speed automatic gearbox both available optionally, and the rest of the range is four-wheel drive and automatic as standard.

2018 Volvo XC40
2018 Volvo XC40

In 2019 the XC40 range will expand further with a plug-in hybrid model, complete with enough p[pure electric range for short commutes, and the T3 petrol engine for when the batteries have run out of juice. A pure EV XC40 is also confirmed but its launch date hasn’t been.

We’ve driven the D4 and T5 engines, and both are great. Refined and with more than enough gumption to dispatch with overtakes and fast merges easily, and surprisingly both have the same maximum towing weight of 2100kg.

The T5 manages the 0-62mph sprint in a hot-hatch like 6.5sec while the diesel is hardly slovenly at 7.9sec and has better mid-range urgency. Given that both cost much the same on list price and finance, it’ll come down to running costs (see more below) as to which is better for your lifestyle. It’s a shame that you can’t have the D4 or T5 on entry-level Momentum trim.

The eight-speed auto’ gearbox is smoother than it has been in previous Volvos and the hesitant step-off from a standstill has also been improved, so this is now right up there with the likes of VW and BMW for having a slick auto’ gearbox. It’s not the snappiest if you choose to use the standard wheel-mounted paddles, but it’s responsive enough to satisfy for the odd country road rampage.

Handling and comfort

2018 Volvo XC40

You can’t add adaptive suspension to the XC40 as you can with most rivals, but this is the most comfortable car in the class despite that. Even on the 20-inch alloys fitted to the test cars that we drove, it sponged up the road surface imperfections really well, staying composed and supple even at high speed. Sure, there’s a bit of body roll but nothing that you’re particularly conscious of. The only word of caution here is that we haven’t tried an R Design model, which gets stiffened sports suspension, so we’ll update this review as soon as we’ve got impressions of this popular trim.

Impressively, given the refreshingly cushy and controlled ride comfort, the XC40 also serves up some deft handling. The four-wheel drive system is on-demand, so sends up to 50 percent of the drive to the rear wheels only when it senses that it’s required, but the XC40 feels solidly planted and keen to turn into a corner.

2018 Volvo XC40

All XC40s come with variable drive modes that affect the steering, auto gearbox and throttle response, and while the steering is quite light in Comfort and suddenly feels quite artificially heavy in Dynamic, it’s always predictable and gives a decent sense of what the wheels are doing. You can swing it gamely through a series of bends and it turns-in with satisfying relish and feel confident and responsive. It’s not as overtly sporting in its feel as a BMW X2, but actually it resists understeer better than the BMW and feels a bit more organic generally. And it’s certainly more comfortable and more fun to drive than a Mercedes GLA. 

Recommended engine: D4 AWD auto

0-62 MPH

7.9 seconds

Fuel economy

56.5mpg

Emissions

131g/km

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Safety Features 10/10

Volvo has spent decades affirming its reputation as a leading light in vehicle safety and the XC40 is no difference. Autonomous emergency city braking – which will react to a pedestrian, bike, car or even large animal – is standard, as is traffic sign recognition, lane-keep assist that actively steers to keep you in a lane if you’re drifting over a line, and there’s a full suite of airbags including a driver’s knee airbag.

2018 Volvo XC40

For £1400 you get Volvo’s Intellisafe Pro pack, which brings adaptive cruise control, blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert (which tells you if there’s a car coming when you’re reversing out of a space), and Pilot Assist. Pilot Assist is effectively a semi-autonomous mode that pulls all the XC40’s systems together to enable it to steer, accelerate and brake itself. You have to keep your hands on the wheel and in our experience it’s a bit wayward at staying in lane if you’re in free-flowing roads in town or rural areas, but it does take a lot of the stress out of sluggish traffic and tedious motorway journeys.

One option that all parents should add is the powered childlocks, which for £85 give you a button up front that allows you to activate or deactivate the rear child locks.

Rear parking sensors are standard across the range, as are automatic windscreen wipers and LED headlights.

2018 Volvo XC40

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Spec & Trim Levels 8/10

Colours

The XC40 is offered with a variety of colours, which vary depending on which trim you go for. Momentum trim has three standard colours – black, white and the lovely grey-blue Amazon Blue that we favour in combination with the Ice White roof (£375). You can also add some metallic colours, including the Fusion Red shown here. R-Design gets the black roof as standard, and also adds the bright Bursting Blue to the metallic palette, but you can’t have the chalky Amazon Blue on this trim. Inscription can’t be had with a contrast roof and, oddly, also loses the most interesting colours and settles for a rather subdued colour palette, although even the metallic shades are standard. We favour the silvery-gold Luminous Sand or the dark chocolate metallic Maple Brown of the Inscription colour choices.

2018 Volvo XC40
2018 Volvo XC40

There’s a good spread of interior colours to choose from, too, with five colours of seat upholstery (part-leather on R-Design and full leather on Inscription), and even a bright orange carpet on R-Design. Don’t worry that you would feel shortchanged with the textile finishes in Momentum; they’re tactile, classy and warm. You’re not talking about static-inducing nylon, here, and there are some really unusual but appealing style finishes for the trim inserts, too. It’s not hard to make the XC40 feel and look as good inside as it looks on the outside, even in the entry-level trim.

Trim Levels

The cheapest trim is Momentum, and it’s very well equipped, with automatic LED headlights and auto wipers, rear parking sensors, dual climate control, the 9-inch sat-nav touchscreen, part-electric front seat adjustment, 18-inch alloy wheels, drive modes and cruise control. R-Design adds mostly style extras and a more lavish-feeling interior with mood lighting and part-leather upholstery, while Inscription gets full leather, powered bootlid, fully powered driver’s seat with memory function and front parking sensors. Each trim can also be upped to the ‘Pro’ version, which is focused on company car drivers and includes heated front seats, windscreen and washer nozzles, headlight washing system, powered front passenger seat, 19-inch alloys, foglights and active bending headlights. 

2018 Volvo XC40

Size and Dimensions

Length

4,425mm

Width

2,034mm

Height

1,658mm

Max towing weight unbraked - braked

750kg – 2100kg

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Running Costs & Fuel Economy 8/10

The D4 AWD powertrain that we recommend is barely any less economical even than the most efficient D3 front-wheel drive model in the XC40, with the D4 returning 56.5mpg combined and the D3 bettering that by only 2mpg. The T5 is the least efficient of the XC40 models, being the only one that doesn’t better 40mpg on the official combined economy test, and if you do a lot of miles you’d be wise to settle for a smaller petrol or better still – one of the diesels.

2018 Volvo XC40

Reliability and servicing

The Volvo comes with a three year, 60,000 mile warranty and three years’ European roadside assistance, and the cover is automatically extended by 12 months each time you have your car serviced at a main Volvo dealer. Servicing can be spread out into fixed monthly payments, and the car will tell you when it needs servicing.

It’s hard to predict reliability on the XC40 given that it’s the first car to ride on an all-new platform – call the CMA platform – from the company. For all that, the engines and gearboxes are known quantities that have served Volvo well in owner surveys.

Minor

Variable depending on use

Major

Variable depending on use

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Pricing 8/10

Finance is competitive – a D4 AWD Auto R-Design will set you back £436 per month for three years if you put down a £5000 deposit, which is some £70 less than you’d be paying each month if you apply the same terms to a BMW X2 xDrive20d M Sport.

2018 Volvo XC40

Volvo also offers its everything-included ‘Care by Volvo’ service, which means you can drive away with nothing to worry about but fuel. Volvo is open about the fact that you’re paying for the convenience of this service; it includes the ability to borrow a bigger Volvo for up to 14 days per year if you need to, and you can loan your car to friends by adding them to the App, among other useful features, but it’s a premium service and you pay a premium price – over £600 per month for a D3. We’d stick to sorting the tax, insurance etc yourself and save a few quid. Plus, it’s only offered to people living inside the M25 at the moment.

The Volvo is competitive in terms of CO2 and BIK tax, making it a compelling proposition for company car users; a D3 AWD Auto R-Design will set you back £324 per month in BIK tax for 40 percent tax payers. The real company car hero will be the plug-in hybrid due in 2019, so it could be worth waiting for that if you’re keen to cut your tax costs and want a posh small SUV.

Recommendations

Trend Setter

Go for R-Design in one of the brighter metallic colours and on 20-inch alloys.  

New Parents

Go for Momentum and add the power child locks, keyless drive and powered tailgate. The £1600 Xenium Pack, with automatic parking and the glass roof, will also keep you and the kids happy.

Luxury Seeker

Inscription, with its driftwood dash trim and leather upholstery, looks spectacular. Make sure you add the Xenium Pack which includes a panoramic glass roof and auto parking function, and the Harmon Kardon sound system.  

Rivals

Audi Q3

Old now, and showing its age inside, but it’s still good to drive and cheap on finance.

BMW X2

Great dash and exterior colours, and fantastic engines, but firm riding and expensive on finance

Volkswagen Tiguan

Bigger than the XC40 and therefore roomier, and cheaper, but not as desirable or urban-savvy

Jaguar E-Pace

Disappointing to drive, and expensive once you’ve specced it properly

Mercedes GLA

Some seriously efficient engines, but not as good to look at or as comfortable as the Volvo

 

Gallery: 2018 Volvo XC40