First Drive: Volvo XC40

Volvo can seemingly do no wrong at the moment. Does the XC40 continue that trend?

The new XC90 started the revolution a few years ago, swiftly becoming the favourite (if not the best selling) SUV out there. The V90 estate and S90 saloon are suitably highly regarded, the XC60 SUV is well liked, and now there’s the XC40. It’s so good that it’s just won the European Car of the Year award.

The sober styling of the bigger XC60 and XC90 SUVs has been replaced with something more friendly, a little bit cooler, more youthful. Importantly, it’s also customisable to appeal to younger families.

In this new anti-diesel world, it’s interesting to note that the 2.0-litre turbo diesel (the 187bhp D4 tested here) is likely to be the best seller, and it suits the car well. There’s also a 2.0-litre turbo petrol (the 247bhp T5) available at launch, and there’ll be a range of three- and four-cylinder engines over time, and a front-wheel-drive option is coming, but for now you’re limited to a choice of two engines and one trim level – the fully loaded First Edition.

This is based on the sporting styled R-Design model, but don’t worry too much about that. While many manufacturers spend millions on ensuring their cars can lap the Nurburgring a few seconds quicker than a rival, Volvo has gone the other way and prioritised ride quality and comfort over driver engagement.

Even on the 19-inch wheels fitted to this First Edition, and the slightly stiffened suspension that goes with them, the Volvo rides superbly. I can’t quite claim a magic-carpet ride, but it’s wonderfully cosseting. That’s backed up by a glorious interior, all Swedish cool and minimalist. The large vertically mounted touch screen Sensus infotainment dominates the dashboard, but its surrounded by wonderfully complimentary materials and a lightweight design that leaves the car feeling bright and airy.

It even squeezes in a good deal of room in the cabin, with plenty of legroom in the back for adults. However, the rear doors are tiny, making ingress and egress particularly difficult. There are plenty of clever touches around the rest f the cabin, from credit card slots by the driver for parking passes and the like, to a boot floor that folds up to create secure dividers for shopping, with hooks to keep bags of takeaway upright.

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 sound system even recreates the ambience of the Gothenburg Concert Hall, which works remarkably well on big, traditional music, from rock to classic. It falls apart when there’s talking involved, so you’ll switch it off for Jeremy Vine and, realistically, never turn it back on again.

Cameras dotted around the car provide a 360-degree view of the exterior on that infotainment screen, and it’s a good job it does as the thick C-pillar behind the rear doors really impacts all-round visibility.

Despite these niggles, it’s difficult to find any significant fault in the XC40. Some of the switchgear on the steering wheel is a tad cheaper feeling than you might like, and the soft suspension very occasionally leads to some roller-coaster rocking and rolling. I also don’t like how the windscreen pillar meets the main body, with an awkward mix of paint lines, panel gaps and creases. It’s not exactly a deal breaker though, is it?

Instead it just does the job of being a premium SUV better than any other similarly sized premium SUV. If you’re older and wiser than you car to admit, then the mix of comfort, style, substance and economy will go down rather better than on-the-limit handling prowess and badge-snobbery pricing.

That said, this First Edition model, based on the R-Design Pro but with virtually every option box ticked, is worryingly expensive. At a smidge under £40,000, it really can’t be described as good value. However, the range starts at a more reasonable £27,610, and the prospect of owning a D3 Momentum Pro in front-wheel drive offers £32,420 should be enough value to get excited about.

Model Tested: Volvo XC40 D4 AWD First Edition*
Price: £39,905*
Range: £27,610 – £37,620
Top speed: 130 mph
0-62 mph: 7.5 seconds
Power: 190 PS (187 bhp)
Torque: 400 Nm (295 lb ft)
Monthly PCP**: £545
Official fuel economy: 56.5 mpg
Road test economy: N/A
CO2 Emissions: 133 g/km
Car Tax: £140
Insurance group: 30E
* First Edition model no longer available.
** Monthly PCP estimate based on 20% deposit, 36 month term, 5% APR, final payment of 40%.

Phil is a motoring writer for print and web, failed racing driver, car hoarder and banger rally competitor. Nominated for the Headline Auto Rising Star award and a MGMW member, Phil freelances for outlets as diverse as Diesel Car magazine, and Cambridge Magazine, amongst many others. He also maintains a fleet of unloved motors, but spends most of his time driving an old Corvette.