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Driven: Volvo XC40 T5 Recharge PHEV. Image by Volvo UK.

Driven: Volvo XC40 T5 Recharge PHEV
Should you go plug-in hybrid for your choice of Volvo XC40 drivetrain? Time to find out.

   



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Volvo XC40 T5 Recharge PHEV R-Design

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5

Good points: all the usual XC40 exterior panache and interior quality, superb refinement, decent EV range

Not so good: it's expensive, not that great for handling, feels heavy, and you'd be better off with a T3

Key Facts

Model tested: Volvo XC40 T5 Recharge Plug-In Hybrid R-Design
Price: XC40 range from 24,965, T5 Recharge R-Design from 40,905 as tested
Engine: 1.5-litre turbocharged three-cylinder petrol with 60kW electric motor and 10.7kWh lithium-ion battery
Transmission: seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, front-wheel drive
Body style: five-door plug-in hybrid compact crossover
CO2 emissions: 41g/km (VED Band 1-50 Alternative Fuel Cars: 0 in year one, then 465 per annum years two-six of ownership, then 140 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 141.1mpg, 28.6-mile electric range
Top speed: 127mph
0-62mph: 7.3 seconds
Power: petrol 180hp at 5,800rpm, electric 82hp, quoted system maximum 262hp
Torque: petrol 265Nm at 1,500-3,000rpm, electric 160Nm, quoted system maximum 425Nm
Boot space: 460-1,336 litres

Our view:

Let's be clear, of all the small and premium-badged crossovers that are out there, the Volvo XC40 is our favourite. It brings all the incredibly cool exterior styling and high-class interior finishing traits of the modern, Geely-owned Volvo era into a compact form and, apart from a slightly inert chassis, there's little to dislike about it. We loved it when we tried one for a week as a somewhat costly D4 First Edition and we adored it even more when we got our hands on a much-more-reasonably-priced T3 Momentum, complete with the joyous little Volvo 1.5-litre turbocharged 'triple' lump.

So the idea of blending that very T3 three-cylinder unit, boosted to 180hp, with a 60kW (82hp) electric motor to create the first plug-in compact crossover (no one mention the Mitsubishi Outlander, folks, it just ain't darned premium nor compact enough) in the segment is tantalising in the extreme. You get all the Volvo XC40 attributes, of which there are oh-so-many. You get the promise of almost 30 miles of fully electric driving range. You lose none of the practicality of the regular ICE-only models elsewhere in the line-up, as the positioning of this car's 10.7kWh lithium-ion battery pack is in the floor so you sacrifice nothing in terms of passenger nor boot space. And you also get the most powerful XC40 with a combustion engine onboard yet committed to production, its 262hp eclipsing the old petrol-only T5's 250hp rather neatly (yes, yes, the P8 fully electric XC40 has in excess of 400hp but it's also as near as makes no difference 60,000, so we'll leave it there for now). In essence, the XC40 T5 Recharge (Volvo's new corporate naming of the plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles, or PHEV/EVs) is just a boil-washed XC90 T8 Twin Engine and that can only be a very, very good thing, right? Right?

Er... not quite, as it turns out. As there are some hard-to-ignore problems and issues with the XC40 T5. It still looks thoroughly gorgeous inside and out, especially in the two-tone, contrast-roof warpaint, but the first major stumbling block is the price. Choose from four trim grades for your T5 Recharge - R-Design, R-Design Pro, Inscription or Inscription Pro - and, no matter which you go for, you'll be in the wrong neighbourhood of circa-40,000. That's not only a lot, it means you incur the 'rich tax' of 325 per annum on top of your regular VED requirements in years two to six of ownership. So much for incentivising saving the planet, HM Government.

This wouldn't be so bad if Volvo hadn't, only recently, announced a T4 Recharge model of the XC40 family, which is the correct side of forty-k. Admittedly, only just, so there's not a huge gap betwixt T4 and T5 PHEVs on the face of it (less than two grand, in fact), but as the T4 uses the 129hp 'T2-spec' three-cylinder petrol engine with the same 60kW electric motor, you still get 211hp overall and all the PHEV benefits. Only without being stung for an additional 1,625 of road tax across five years.

Again, the T5 might be able to get away with this, if it drove in sparkling fashion. But it doesn't. Weirdly, despite the fact all the T8 PHEV Volvos that have gone before this T5 have been all-wheel drive, and despite the further fact that you can specify the XC40 as an AWD with other drivetrains in the range, the 262hp Recharge sends all of its power to the front axle alone through a new seven-speed dual-clutch 'box. So while the powertrain is fine, as it's reasonably refined and perfectly punchy enough, the XC40 T5 never really feels quick and it can sound harsh if you rev it right out to extract the maximum from it. You also don't ever really want to exploit the handling too much, because it's obvious in the corners that the Recharge is sending a lot of grunt at the 'wrong' wheels, so coupled to the XC40's safely-safely chassis set-up it's not much fun to hurl it about on some interesting, nuggety roads.

That'll also be to do with weight. The XC40 T5 Recharge is 1,800kg. A T3 model is about 200kg lighter. This is abundantly evident when you're making the T5 brake hard, or you're asking it to make fairly rapid direction changes, because it's not very happy performing such antics. Furthermore, while we achieved an impressive 79.9mpg economy with it while driving on local errands with a full battery charge, the usual PHEV failing reared its ugly head. Once you've exhausted the battery's reserves, and this seems to happen quite quickly with the XC40 PHEV, you end up with a 180hp three-cylinder, 1.5-litre petrol engine trying to haul around the best part of two tonnes of Swedish luxury. So, across 261 miles, our overall economy (when not driving the car particularly hard at all) was a mere 38.9mpg. Not terrible, in the grand scheme of things, but also not game-changing nor any reason to kill off a good diesel XC40. Except... that's exactly what has happened, because Volvo is quietly dropping the D-badged XC40s and replacing them with mild petrol-electric hybrid B4 and B5 derivatives instead, with the T4 and T5 variants being the plug-in economy saints.

This all sounds terribly down on the XC40 Recharge and it's not meant to. After all, there's so much to recommend it. The ride quality is excellent, the refinement is magnificent, it's great to whirr around in it on electric power alone for significant mileage, and we still adore the interior and the exterior too. However, in the end, we kept coming back to the same thought over and over again. And the thought was this: by all means, if you want an efficient and classy compact crossover, buy a Volvo XC40 - but just make sure it's the 7,000 cheaper T3 Momentum model, instead of this noble but flawed T5 Recharge version.

Alternatives:

Audi Q3: there's not yet a TFSI e version of the Q3, although one cannot be too far off, but the regular crossover from Ingolstadt is a quality, polished item.

BMW X1: X1 has an xDrive25e PHEV variant and it's a fine small crossover, as you'd expect of the Bavarians, but the Volvo looks nicer inside and out.

Peugeot 3008 Hybrid4: it's from the class below but could be considered a rival to the XC40 PHEV. The Pug has the twin advantages of 300hp and all-wheel drive, but it's ridiculously expensive.


Matt Robinson - 23 Jun 2020



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2020 Volvo XC40 T5 Recharge PHEV R-Design. Image by Volvo UK.2020 Volvo XC40 T5 Recharge PHEV R-Design. Image by Volvo UK.2020 Volvo XC40 T5 Recharge PHEV R-Design. Image by Volvo UK.2020 Volvo XC40 T5 Recharge PHEV R-Design. Image by Volvo UK.2020 Volvo XC40 T5 Recharge PHEV R-Design. Image by Volvo UK.

2020 Volvo XC40 T5 Recharge PHEV R-Design. Image by Volvo UK.2020 Volvo XC40 T5 Recharge PHEV R-Design. Image by Volvo UK.2020 Volvo XC40 T5 Recharge PHEV R-Design. Image by Volvo UK.2020 Volvo XC40 T5 Recharge PHEV R-Design. Image by Volvo UK.2020 Volvo XC40 T5 Recharge PHEV R-Design. Image by Volvo UK.








 

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