Car Enthusiast - click here to access the home page


Driven: Volvo XC40. Image by Volvo.

Driven: Volvo XC40
Volvo’s smallest 4x4 hits the bullseye of this fast-growing class.


<< earlier Volvo review     later Volvo review >>

Reviews homepage -> Volvo reviews

Volvo XC40

4 4 4 4 4

It will likely prove impossible to get away from the Volvo XC40 in the coming months, but that's OK as it's one of the most likeable premium compact SUVs around.

Test Car Specifications

Volvo XC40 D4 AWD R-Design automatic
Pricing: £34,655 as tested. XC40 range starts from £27,905
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel
Transmission: eight-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
Body style: Compact SUV
CO2 emissions: 131g/km (First-year VED £200, £140 thereafter)
Combined economy: 56.4mpg
Top speed: 130km/h
0-62mph: 7.9 seconds
Power: 190hp at 4,000rpm
Torque: 400Nm at 1,750 - 2,500rpm
Boot space: 460-litres (seats up), 1,336-litres (seats folded)
EuroNCAP rating: Not yet tested

What's this?

In some ways, the Volvo XC40 is as predictable as it was inevitable. With the massive explosion of small SUV sales, and premium models in particular, Volvo just had to wade into this category, to go toe-to-toe with the likes of the BMW X1, Audi Q2, Mercedes GLA and Range Rover Evoque. Fuelled by development money from Chinese owner Geely, Volvo has produced an entirely new platform for this car, the CMA or Common Modular Architecture. This package will also appear under the next-generation V40 hatchback (and very probably a compact saloon to rival the Audi A3 four-door) as well as the new Chinese-made Lynk&Co models. CMA is designed to be cheaper to build than, but equally adaptable as, the larger SPA platform which underpins the S90, XC90 and XC60.

So, it's a small Volvo SUV built on a flexible architecture. So far, so mini-me XC60, right? Well, yes, but Volvo has made an effort to distinguish and separate the XC40 from the larger model. Knowing it had to keep costs under control, in order to keep prices competitive, but still wanting to appeal to upwardly-mobile millennials, Volvo has given the XC40 a much more distinctive style than the XC60 or XC90. That contrast colour roof, the sharp kick-up in the C-pillars, the chunky, almost Lego-like styling. You'll not mistake it for anything other than a Volvo, of course, but there is certainly a sense of the XC40 being a new departure point for Volvo's future styling. Which is a roundabout way of saying it looks good.

Inside, the story is very similar. Again, the carry-over from the other XC models is obvious. You get the same, big 'Sensus' touchscreen in the centre of the dash (well, Momentum models and above do - we're not sure about the most basic Kinetic versions, which are yet to launch) and you can optionally have the same 12.3-inch digital dials, too. These two items give a reassuringly expensive feel to the XC40's cabin (the central touchscreen remains the best infotainment system of them all, for now) which is just as well, as it doesn't take a lot of searching to find areas where touchy-feely quality has been sacrificed on the altar of cost control.

Having said that, Volvo has worked on the XC40's cabin from another direction - that of practicality, and uses that to help mollify any worries you might have had over the lack of premium materials. So, we have massive door bins (able to take a 15-inch laptop and a big bottle of water, and they've caused the stereo speakers to migrate further up the doors and to the top-centre of the dash), spacious stowage in front of the gearlever, wireless charging for phones and other devices, and even a small (but useful) bin in the centre console, complete with spring-hinged lid. It even pops out for cleaning.

In terms of cabin space, up front it's fine, but in the back it's, well, adequate but realistically not much more. You can get a six-footer in behind another, but there's no stretching room, and the centre rear seat is too narrow for boosters. It's a similar story in the boot - 460-litres is actually pretty small (a humble Golf estate has more than 600-litres, just by way of example) but again Volvo has tried to make the space as useful as possible, with a folding and flipping boot floor, dividers, hooks and tie-down points.

On the engine front, as on the styling one, we're on familiar ground with the 2.0-litre four-cylinder D4 diesel with its class-average 190hp and 400Nm of torque, driving all four wheels through the optional eight-speed automatic gearbox. Our test car was in R-Design trim, which adds some sporty black exterior styling items, sports suspension and 19-inch alloys.

Oh, and you don't even have to buy an XC40. The newcomer is the launch car for Volvo's new 'Care By Volvo' personal leasing scheme, which sees you pay a single monthly fee to cover all your costs (car, tax, insurance, servicing, etc) bar fuel. You pay £629 a month over two years, and can get access to other Volvo models for short periods as and when you need them. It's the beginning of moving Volvo's sales into the online sphere, and it'll eventually extend to the whole range.

How does it drive?

Really pretty well, is the short answer. Were you honestly expecting anything else? Like almost all other Volvos, you wouldn't call it a class leader in a dynamic sense (a BMW X1 remains far more engaging to drive, as does an Evoque) but equally the XC40 is very pleasing to drive and does nothing poorly.

Actually, it's worth throwing some Kudos in the direction of both Volvo and Geely for the CMA platform. In spite of having been designed to be cheaper to build than the larger SPA platform, it actually outperforms its bigger brother in one key area - ride quality. The XC40's suspension is straightforward MacPherson struts up front, and a multilink setup at the back, but it rides with very good grace, better for the most part than the large XC90 in fact. Our test car had the big wheels and low-profile tyres, and while it certainly wasn't soft, the damping is really quite excellent, and the XC40 has a pleasingly firm-but-absorbent quality to its ride. It's really impressive, and is aided by the usual excellent comfort from Volvo's seats.

Less impressive is the handling. Our car didn't have the Four-C adaptive dampers, but you could choose between Dynamic, Eco, and Comfort modes for the steering, throttle, and gearbox. In Comfort and Eco, the steering is just too light and PlayStation-twirly. You can feel nothing from the front tyres, so cornering becomes a series of jabs and over-corrections. Switch to Dynamic and things do become an awful lot better. While there's no appreciable extra feel to the steering, the weight and speed of reaction in Dynamic feels more proportionate to how the front suspension reacts, so the whole dynamic effect is more harmonious. There is, happily, an individual mode that allows you to tweak the various settings to your choice, so you can have the meatier steering with fuel-saving Eco mode, which is good. There is an Off-Road mode too, but we doubt many owners will partake, even though Volvo claims the XC40 has the best ground-clearance in its class.

The D4 diesel engine and Volvo's own in-house eight-speed automatic transmission make for as good a partnership as ever. This engine is no longer the most refined in its class (that'll be Audi's 2.0 TDI) but while it can get a touch gravelly at times, for the most part all the noises are far enough away for comfort, and the decent (if peaky) low-down torque makes for relaxed progress.

That, essentially sums up the XC40 pretty well. There is decent dynamic capability there if you're pushing on along a twisting road, and are prepared to cope with the feel-free steering. But the XC40 is, like all Volvos, best at making relaxed progress.


We are, generally, becoming a bit sick of the endless tide of mid-size SUVs of all shapes and creeds, but the XC40 does manage to stand out as quite an impressive addition to the horde. It's really quite good looking, has an interior chock full of nice detailing, it's incredibly safe (it can even take control of the steering to swerve you away from an accident), pleasing to drive and should be reliable long into the future. If it's not Volvo's best-selling car this time next year, we'll be very surprised.

5 5 5 5 5 Exterior Design

4 4 4 4 4 Interior Ambience

3 3 3 3 3 Passenger Space

3 3 3 3 3 Luggage Space

5 5 5 5 5 Safety

5 5 5 5 5 Comfort

4 4 4 4 4 Driving Dynamics

4 4 4 4 4 Powertrain

Neil Briscoe - 11 Dec 2017    - Volvo road tests
- Volvo news
- XC40 images

2018 Volvo XC40 drive. Image by Volvo.2018 Volvo XC40 drive. Image by Volvo.2018 Volvo XC40 drive. Image by Volvo.2018 Volvo XC40 drive. Image by Volvo.2018 Volvo XC40 drive. Image by Volvo.

2018 Volvo XC40 drive. Image by Volvo.2018 Volvo XC40 drive. Image by Volvo.2018 Volvo XC40 drive. Image by Volvo.2018 Volvo XC40 drive. Image by Volvo.2018 Volvo XC40 drive. Image by Volvo.


Internal links:   | Home | Privacy | Contact us | Archives | Old motor show reports | Follow Car Enthusiast on Twitter | Copyright 1999-2023 ©