Lit­tle GAINS

Volvo has found an­other win­ning for­mula with the XC40, its first com­pact SUV, and it has re­ally found favour with cus­tomers

EADT Suffolk - - SOCIETY - WORDS: Andy Rus­sell

Put a de­sir­able badge on an equally de­sir­able com­pact SUV in a pop­u­lar, fast-grow­ing mar­ket, and it makes a big im­pact. The XC40, its small­est SUV, won Euro­pean Car of the Year and is also Volvo’s most suc­cess­ful UK model launch with 2,000 sales a month – double its fore­cast.

LOOK AND IM­AGE

As the model that com­pletes the three-car SUV line-up, Volvo could have just scaled down the XC90 and XC60’s styling, but chose to take a slightly dif­fer­ent ap­proach for this ‘ur­ban SUV’, de­signed pri­mar­ily for city life. The sportier side pro­file, with its sharply an­gled rear side win­dow draw­ing the eye to the roof, avail­able in a con­trast colour, makes it look youth­ful and trendy.

UN­DER THE BON­NET

The 2.0-litre turbo en­gines – at launch 190hp D4 diesel and 247hp T5 petrol, both all-wheel drive and eight-speed au­to­matic – are now joined by 190hp T4 and 150hp D3, the lat­ter also of­fered with six-speed man­ual gear­box and front-wheel drive. The XC40 is also the first Volvo with a three-cylin­der en­gine – a 156hp 1.5-litre turbo petrol in fron­twheel drive, man­ual T3. Hy­brids are still to come.

HOW IT DRIVES

New plat­forms have trans­formed mod­ern Volvos’ dy­nam­ics and the XC40 is the first model us­ing the com­pact mod­u­lar ar­chi­tec­ture (CMA) plat­form that will un­der­pin fu­ture small Volvos.

The XC40 takes things to a dy­namic new level – nim­ble enough through twists and turns to make you for­get this is still a rel­a­tively large SUV with well­weighted steer­ing hav­ing good feel.

Even with 20in wheels and R-De­sign’s up­rated sports sus­pen­sion, the ride copes well with poor sur­faces, but there’s a lot of tyre noise. If com­fort is a pri­or­ity, go for smaller wheels and deeper tyres.

SPACE AND COM­FORT

It may be the small­est SUV, but it’s roomy enough for four six-foot adults – even three in the back isn’t a squeeze – how­ever the high win­dow line makes it quite dark in the back with­out the power glass panoramic sunroof.

The 460-litre boot’s sill-level re­mov­able floor panel makes load­ing easy and the rigid par­cel shelf fits be­neath it when not needed. Rear seats split 60/40 and fold flush.

AT THE WHEEL

The XC40 shares its big­ger sib­lings’ clean-cut, qual­ity cock­pit with top-notch ma­te­ri­als, good seat and steer­ing wheel ad­just­ment and a min­i­mal­ist feel to the fas­cia thanks to cus­tomis­able vir­tual di­als, ac­cord­ing to drive mode, and the nine-inch, tablet-style Sen­sus in­fo­tain­ment touch­screen that swipes like a smart­phone and also ben­e­fits from voice con­trol. Don’t worry – us­ing it soon be­comes sec­ond na­ture.

FI­NAL SAY

Volvo has done it again, storm­ing into the com­pact SUV mar­ket with the XC40 – an­other win­ning for­mula borne out by soar­away sales.

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