Look back several years at the small 4×4 market and your choices were somewhat limited, especially when you’re looking at the more premium, upper echelons of the segment. Now, you’re literally spoilt for choice, with offerings from Audi, BMW, Mercedes and now Volvo, entering the market with the XC40.
Now there are a lot of similarities with other Volvos in the family, like the trademark Thor daytime running headlamps, the large grille and sleek taillights, but it’s not just a scaled down version of an XC60. Volvo is pitching this as the safest car in its class with all the latest tried and tested safety tech, plus it’s the first model in the range to be offered with the Care by Volvo scheme which means you pay one price and it covers everything, insurance, maintenance, roadside assistance, taxes, the lot. Now that all sounds like an attractive proposition, but is it all it’s cracked up to be?
On the road
The engine line up is restricted at the moment to a pair of two litre four cylinder units – a 244bhp petrol or a 187bhp diesel. Lower capacity petrol and diesels are set to follow as well as a hybrid and even a full electric offering.
Both engines come with four-wheel drive as standard as well as an eight speed automatic gearbox. Both the petrol and diesel versions are pretty swift and car-like to drive. The petrol is definitely more spirited, but the diesel is more flexible, with low down pull making it more effortless to drive, and for now is the one we’d opt for.
One of the biggest selling points for the XC40 is its excellent ride. Many of its rivals like the BMW X1, Jaguar E-Pace and Audi Q2 are quite firm and unsettled, the baby Volvo though is extremely cosseting, hiding imperfections in the road, even on the large alloy wheels which come as standard on more expensive trims.
As good as the ride is, there are more engaging rivals out there. Push it hard and it will lean into corners, and the steering isn’t as confidence inspiring as some of its competition.
As we said the two four wheel drive versions are pretty economical on paper – the 2.0 litre d3 returning an average fuel economy in the mid 50s, while the petrol T5 figures are in the high 30s/low 40s.
In the cabin
The second you get behind the wheel you get the sense that this is a premium baby 4×4. The materials are first rate and there’s a reason why every button, every control is placed where it is. Of course, as with every other modern Volvo, the centre console is dominated by a 9.0-inch tablet style touchscreen infotainment system which controls virtually everything from your sat car, in car settings, dab radio, even your heater controls. By having everything running through this system, it means the dashboard can be more clutter free and minimalist.
It’s a system that does work well, but it does mean you have to focus on doing even simple operations, and the other frustration is that you’ll need to keep a screen wipe close to hand as it does pick up fingerprint marks easily.
The build quality is excellent, as mentioned all the materials are on a par with much of the competition and it all feels pretty durable too, exactly what you want in such a family focussed wagon.
There are a few neat party pieces too, like the rubbish bin inbetween the front seats and not to mention the good sized door bins.
Space isn’t as generous as some rivals, but that’s not to say that a family of five will struggle for head and leg room. Three will sit comfortably shoulder to shoulder in the back but the boot is a little more compact that some rivals. With the seats in place it offers less space than the likes of the BMW X1 and Volkswagen Tiguan, however it’s a good shape and there’s no lip to heave heavy items over. Practicality can be improved too if you go for the Convenience pack which allows you to lift up part of the boot floor to act as a divider.
There’s no question the XC40 should be on your list if you’re looking for a compact SUV. On the outside it looks just as good, if not better than a lot of the competition, the ride is very relaxing, it’s practical and, as you’d expect for a Volvo, it’s got all the safety toys you could possibly want to keep your family safe. It’s just a shame its not as fun to drive as some of the competition and the infotainment system can be a bit awkward to use while on the move.