Video review: Volvo XC40
Youthful and cool, the XC40 epitomises what Volvo is all about right now. Virtually faultless, it's the automotive equivalent of a zen garden.
If there’s a company that’s found its mojo, it’s Volvo. Since the latest XC90 turned up, the Swedish firm can seemingly do no wrong, with the smaller XC60 being well received, the V90 widely liked and the forthcoming V60 getting us motoring journalists excited.
Then there’s the XC40, a compact SUV that’s so good it’s won the European Car of the Year award.
1.5 T3  R DESIGN 5dr
- 8k Miles p/a
Per Month, INC VAT
Initial Payment: £1,849.50
Out goes the sober but svelte styling of its larger siblings, the 60 and 90, and in comes something friendlier. It’s more youthful, a little bit cooler, and, importantly, customisable to appeal to young families.
Despite wanting to protect their kids from the perils of diesel emissions, it’s the 2.0-litre turbo diesel that’s likely to be the the most popular. In D4 form, producing a healthy 187bhp, it suits the car well, but those of a more sensitive disposition can opt for a more powerful 247bhp 2.0-litre turbo petrol unit. That’s tagged as a T5, while there’ll eventually be a range of three- and four-cylinder engines available. A front-wheel-drive option is available, too.
Youthful and cool, it'll appeal to young families.
I’m in the four-wheel drive launch model though, snappily named First Edition. It’s based on the sporty looking R-Design model, but reassuringly it’s only cosmetic. While its rivals waste millions on making sure their cars can lap the Nurburgring a few seconds quicker than the last model to lap the Nurburgring, Volvo has gone the other way and prioritised comfort and quality.
Even with the stiffer suspension and 19-inch wheels that the First Edition rides on, the XC40 rides superbly. Seriously, it takes the hard-edged ride found in its rival from Germany and chamfers off anything even remotely uncomfortable, without sacrificing ultimate road holding significantly.
The interior ignores the cut and thrust of its over-styled rivals and instead presents the automotive equivalent of a zen garden.
It supports a cabin that, once again, ignores the cut and thrust of its over-styled rivals and instead presents the automotive equivalent of a zen garden, all cool and minimalist. There’s a large vertically-mounted touch-screen infotainment system that dominates the dashboard, but it’s surrounded by wonderfully complimentary materials and a lightweight design that leaves the car feeling bright and airy.
It’s not short on space in there, either. However, while there’s plenty of legroom in the back, the rear doors are freakishly small so getting in and out can be a bit of a problem. Elsewhere there are bundles of clever touches, from credit card slots near the driver for parking passes and the like, to a boot floor that folds up to create secure dividers for shopping. There are even hooks around to keep bags upright.
The 14-speaker Harman Kardon stereo can recreate the ambience of the Gothenburg Concert Hall.
Technology is covered with wireless mobile phone charging, Android Auto and Apple Carplay connectivity, hands-free rear tailgate operation, and heated front and rear seats amongst a lengthy list of equipment that really wants for nothing.
The Sensus infotainment allows you to fiddle with most settings in the car including the Harman Kardon sound system. This 14-speaker setup can be tuned to recreate the ambience of the Gothenburg Concert Hall, which works remarkably well on big, traditional music, from rock to classic. However, switch to Jeremy Vine on Radio 2 and the sound falls apart, a weird echo ruining the illusion. You’ll turn it on once, think how impressive it is, turn it off again and then forget about it from there.
Looking for faults is difficult, but some of the switchgear on the steering wheel feels a tad cheap.
The screen also displays the view from the 360-degree cameras dotted around the car. With such a large C-pillar interfering with rearward visibility, the cameras are a bodywork saver when parking.
Looking for faults is difficult, but some of the switchgear on the steering wheel feels a tad cheaper than it could do, and the soft suspension can, very occasionally, lead to a bit of rocking and rolling until it settles. Getting really picky, I don’t like how the windscreen pillars meet the main body, with an awkward mix of paint, angles and lines.
It does its job of being a premium small SUV exceptionally well.
That’s about the most fault I can find though. It just does its job of being a premium small SUV exceptionally well, appealing to those of us who have had enough of bone-jarring suspension and overtly stylish cabins. Swedish cool trumps ambitious teutonic tendencies every day of the week, with a mix of comfort, style, substance and economy that will go down rather better than on-the-limit handling prowess and badge-snobbery pricing.
However, there is one final flaw. This First Edition model, based on the R-Design Pro model but with virtually every option box ticked, is knocking on the door of £40,000. That can’t be described as good value, no matter how good the actual car underneath all that trim is.
However, the range starts at a more reasonable £27,610 and, thanks to very reasonable residuals, lease rates are priced from less than £250 per month, and that should be enough value to get excited about.
Model tested: Volvo XC40 D4 AWD First Edition
Cool, minimalist and youthful, Volvo is one of the only manufacturers that could pull off such a clean-cut design.
Materials are wonderful to look at and to touch, while state-of-the-art tech like wireless charging and that vertical touchscreen infotainment system makes it feel truly premium.
It’s significantly more comfortable than German alternatives, but it doesn’t sacrifice the road-holding significantly.
460-litre boot and capacious rear quarters make it a sound choice for families, although the rear doors are a little small.
190bhp D4 is capable of up to 56.5mpg combined and is likely to be most popular choice, while the cheaper T3 petrol manages around 45mpg.