Volvo XC40

Cool Swedish SUV joins our test fleet



To see if the XC40 has the sub­stance in daily use to match its eye-catch­ing style and if its show­room suc­cess is jus­ti­fied

Reader, a dis­claimer: I’m a Volvo fan. I love its cars for not be­ing os­ten­ta­tiously Ger­man yet still premium, I love them for hav­ing a bit of cool Swedish­ness about them and I love them for their com­fort. I sold my 2009 C30 a few years ago, and still re­gret it.

I’m not alone, though. Volvo has un­der­gone a resur­gence in re­cent years, with an in­cred­i­bly fresh model line-up (the old­est model, the V40, is five years old and will be re­placed next year). Tes­ta­ment to this is last year’s sales fig­ures: Volvo sold 571,577 cars world­wide, an in­crease of 7% on the pre­vi­ous year. By com­par­i­son, Jaguar sold 178,601.

In the SUV sec­tor, the XC90 and XC60 have al­ready done won­ders in their re­spec­tive seg­ments, but last year came ar­guably the most im­por­tant of them all: the XC40. This com­pact SUV brings some wel­come fresh blood into a hugely com­pet­i­tive seg­ment: it vies with the Mercedes-benz GLA, BMW X1, Audi Q3, Range Rover Evoque and a plethora of cheaper but very good ri­vals, such as the Seat Ateca and Nis­san Qashqai.

So far, the XC40 has cer­tainly proved its worth. It sold 5610 units in Europe in July, more than the XC60 and more than dou­ble its ri­val, the Evoque – which is rea­son enough for Au­to­car to see whether the hype is jus­ti­fied by hav­ing one on our fleet for the next six months.

Looks are al­ways sub­jec­tive but, per­son­ally, I reckon Volvo has nailed the XC40. It man­ages to ap­pear dif­fer­ent from the XC90 and XC60 while still hav­ing a com­mon­al­ity and, cru­cially, it stands out from all the other com­pact SUVS on the road. Its British de­signer, Ian Ket­tle, has since been poached by Tesla, show­ing that it has been well re­ceived not only by buy­ers but the in­dus­try too.

We’ve gone for the mid­dle-of-the-range petrol en­gine, the four-cylin­der 2.0-litre pro­duc­ing 187bhp and called T4, in range-top­ping R-de­sign Pro trim. The T4 comes only with all-wheel drive and an au­to­matic eight-speed trans­mis­sion, although, of course, plenty of the vari­ants are avail­able with front-wheel drive and a man­ual ’box. For now, the en­trylevel D3 diesel re­mains the big­gest seller in the UK, but Volvo ex­pects it to swing to­wards petrol in the not too dis­tant fu­ture.

Our XC40 achieves 0-62mph in a re­spectable 8.5sec. The fastest vari­ant, the T5, shaves 2.0sec off that and the slow­est is the D3 AWD with au­to­matic gear­box at 10.4sec.

Our car costs £35,820. We have plenty of op­tions, but even the most ba­sic XC40 has a good spec­i­fi­ca­tion. This in­cludes nav­i­ga­tion, a 9.0in cen­tre con­sole touch­screen, rear park­ing sen­sors, LED head­lights with ac­tive high beam, cruise con­trol and hill-start as­sist. Volvo prides it­self on lead­ing on car safety (ear­lier this year, re­search found that there had never been any pas­sen­ger or

First im­pres­sions? As I’d hoped and ex­pected: it’s in­stantly com­fort­able

driver fatal­i­ties from car-on-car col­li­sions in an XC90 in the UK since 2004, when records started) and so it in­cludes three safety sys­tems as stan­dard. Th­ese are City Safety, which can de­tect pedes­tri­ans, cy­clists and large an­i­mals, and front col­li­sion warn­ing with fully au­to­matic emer­gency brak­ing; On­com­ing Lane Mit­i­ga­tion, which au­to­mat­i­cally pro­vides steer­ing as­sis­tance if you drift out of your lane; and Run-off Road Pro­tec­tion, which tight­ens the front seat­belts if the car leaves the road and front seat frames with a col­lapsi­ble sec­tion to re­duce ver­ti­cal forces and help pre­vent spinal in­juries, says Volvo.

Our op­tion list is ex­ten­sive (see Test Data, right) but most no­table in terms of ex­tra cost are two packs. The first, the £1500 In­tel­lisafe Pro, gives you more safety tech, such as rear col­li­sion mit­i­ga­tion and cross traf­fic alert, as well as auto-fold­ing door mir­rors. The sec­ond, the £1600 Xe­nium pack, brings the panoramic sun­roof, 360deg park­ing cam­era and au­to­matic par­al­lel and 90deg park­ing.

First im­pres­sions? As I’d hoped and ex­pected: the XC40 is in­stantly com­fort­able. Com­fort­able on long and short jour­neys, with a cosy, en­clos­ing in­te­rior that I ex­pect will treat me well over the win­ter months.

It’s per­fect around town and sur­pris­ingly nifty get­ting into small spa­ces on nar­row roads with par­al­lel park­ing. I haven’t pushed our XC40 on the han­dling front yet, but that’s not its goal. In­stead, the car of­fers light if not wholly pre­cise steer­ing per­fect for ur­ban driv­ing. The R-de­sign Pro is a harder ride than some of the lesser trims but it is still ac­cept­able over the end­less speed bumps on my com­mute.

I have two mi­nor gripes so far. The notch gear­stick takes some get­ting used to. Pre­sum­ably, it has been used to keep the fea­ture as com­pact as pos­si­ble, but even af­ter a cou­ple of weeks with the car, I some­times have to check in the driver dis­play that I’m in re­verse, not drive, or vice versa. The other thing is fuel econ­omy. Of­fi­cial com­bined econ­omy so far is 40.4mpg. We have got it to a best of 28mpg so will be watch­ing it closely as we run the car in to see if or when that fig­ure im­proves.

R-de­sign Pro cars, like ours, ride more firmly but it’s still ac­cept­able Burgess is al­ready a fan of how it drives in town and its cosy cabin View out the rear wind­screen is a lit­tle com­pro­mised by Volvo’s high stan­dards

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