IT’S TAKEN Volvo a while to catch up with the likes of Audi, BMW and Mercedes, and deliver its own premium small SUV. But maybe the wait wasn’t such a bad thing: the Volvo XC40 arrives at a time when Volvo’s design language brand identity are stronger than ever.
Indeed, the Volvo XC40 is a funky looking family SUV that sits below Volvo’s SUV XC60 and larger XC90 in terms of size. It’s comfortable and has a raised driving position that gives you a good view out when you’re driving in town.
It also has one of the sharpest looking interiors you’ll get in a premium small SUV for this sort of money. The dashboard has a simple design and it’s built from high-quality plastics that are finished with expensive looking trim pieces.
The only downside is the so-so build quality – sadly, there are inconsistent gaps in the Volvo XC40’s interior that wouldn’t make it past quality control at Audi and BMW.
That said, the Volvo’s 9in, portrait-style touchscreen infotainment system is nicer to look at than what alternatives offer. It is used to control most of the car’s features, so you don’t have to worry about navigating yourself through a pebble dash of confusing buttons. The trouble is, it can be slow to respond to prods and many of the onscreen buttons are too small to confidently hit while driving.
On a more positive note, the XC40’s tall roof means there’s loads of room to crank the driver’s seat as high as it’ll go and you can carry two adults comfortably in the back – even with six-footers in the front seats.
The Volvo XC40 is not designed to be thrown into corners like a sports car. Instead, it’s built for comfort.
When it comes to practicality, the Volvo XC40’s boot is also a healthy size – albeit a little smaller than the one you’ll find in key alternatives such as the BMW X2 or Mercedes GLA. Its boxy shape means you can make the most of its space, the large boot opening means loading bulky luggage isn’t too much of a pain and dogs will have no trouble jumping in the back.
As the family canine will no doubt be happy to hear, the XC40 is not designed to be thrown into corners like a sports car. Instead, it’s built for comfort, so the suspension absorbs bumps very well and the cabin is quiet at a cruise.
Top-of-the-range models have semi-autonomous driving tech that takes some of the mental strain out of long motorway journeys. It’s also worth bearing in mind that the Volvo XC40 is one of the safest SUVs you can buy in terms of standard safety kit.
To make it an even better family car then it’s worth choosing the D3 diesel engine. It’s cheap to run but also punchy enough to shift the Volvo XC40 along at a decent rate even if it’s fully loaded, making the more powerful but expensive D4 diesel less attractive.
If you do a lot of town driving, then consider the three-cylinder T3 petrol, which is the cheapest way into an XC40 but easily has enough power for a family runaround. In fact, it’s good enough that the T4 and T5 petrols seem unnecessary unless you want bragging rights at the school gates.
If you have the option, you’re better off going for Volvo’s eight-speed automatic gearbox, which can hesitate a little from standstill but flicks between gears smoothly on the move. Unfortunately the entry-level T3 petrol doesn’t get the auto ‘box, instead only getting Volvo’s clumsy six-speed manual.
But all told, the XC40 makes a fine premium SUV buy. There are alternatives with keener handling and better infotainment systems, but the XC40’s bold looks, brilliant comfort and great space and practicality mean it should be at the top of your list of test drives.
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