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2020 Volvo XC40 review

Volvo's compact SUV crossover oozes Scandi-cool design inside and out

Volvo XC40
(Image: © Phil Hall)

Our Verdict

From its Scand-cool design inside and out, to the excellent levels of safety, comfort and practicality, the Volvo XC40 has to be one of the best compact SUVs available today.

For

  • High quality interior
  • Distinctive styling
  • Decent standard specification
  • Plenty of safety features as standard

Against

  • Slightly hesitant auto gearbox
  • Infotainment system can be a touch fiddly

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Volvo was once synonymous with large and safe estates, but these days it’s just as well known for its growing range of excellent SUVs. The enormous seven-seat XC90 set the ball rolling, and was followed by the mid-sized five-seat XC60. Now Volvo has turned its attention to the compact SUV sector with the launch of the XC40. 

Volvo has refined the SUV formula with both larger models over a number of years, and this promises to stand the XC40 in good stead as it enters what is one of the most crowded sectors of the motoring market right now, with the likes of Range Rover Evoque and Audi Q3 vying with it for attention. 

Volvo XC40: Design

  • Distinctive, modern design
  • Designed to appeal to a younger market
  • Pleasing two-tone paint schemes
Volvo XC40 key specs

Engines: 2.0-liter 4-cylinder petrol
Power output: 248bhp (T5) | 190bhp (T4)
Max speed: 140mph (T5) | 130mph (T4)
0-62mph: 6.5 seconds (T5) | 8.4 seconds (T4)
Fuel economy: 34mpg (T5) | 36.7mpg (T4)

With other manufacturers taking a fairly iterative approach to model design, you could have forgiven Volvo for doing the same and simply shrinking down the proportions of the handsome XC60 to fit the company's new Compact Modular Architecture (CMA) platform. Refreshingly though, Volvo’s opted to steer clear of this approach and has created a distinctive design for the XC40. 

While the 'Thor's Hammer' daytime running light arrangement carries over from other models to tie the XC40 into the range, the smaller car sports a much more defined look. Designed to appeal to a younger market, the XC40 features a neat clamshell bonnet, concave grille, heavily sculpted doors and distinctive rear pillars, while there are also plenty of two-tone paint schemes to choose from as well. We reckon that along with the Range Rover Evoque, the XC40 is the best-looking compact SUV on the market. 

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Volvo XC40: Interior

  • Luxuriously clean and minimalist interior
  • All XC40s also feature a large 12.3-inch digital instrument display
  • No shortage of safety feature

Climb into the XC40 and there's nothing brash or gratuitous. A luxuriously clean and minimalist interior greets you. This clutter-free look is thanks largely to Volvo using the same portrait-orientated 9.0-inch Sensus touchscreen interface seen in other recent Volvos, with pretty much most of the car's major functions accessed via this central interface. 

The interface is your window to pretty much every element of the XC40's entertainment, convenience and safety functions, and is nice and responsive, logically laid out and, for the most part, relatively easy to use. 

Underneath sits a row of buttons that delivers quick access to volume, heated windscreen and heated rear screen, but a couple of extra physical buttons wouldn't have gone amiss here, particularly for the XC40’s climate control. This is not something unique to the XC40, but tweaking the climate control on the move does require you to glance down at the screen to not only locate the climate control icon, but to then adjust the temperature via the display. A dedicated control would be preferable here. 

All XC40s also feature a large 12.3-inch digital instrument display, which as well as relaying speed and revs, can also display the satnav, as well as road sign info and distance alerts. 

Elsewhere though there are some clever design touches. The pockets on the front doors are large enough to stow both a laptop and tablet, with the speakers that would normally be positioned there moving to an air-ventilated dash-mounted subwoofer. The central console has a designated area for your smartphone, along with USB and 12v sockets, as well as an optional wireless charging pad. As you'd expect, there are Apple CarPlay and Android Auto options too. 

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There’s a good amount of space both upfront and in the rear. The front seats are some of the most comfy you’ll find in any compact SUV, while it delivers a high driving position that some rivals like the Lexus UX 250h can’t match. There’s easily space for three adults to sit comfortably at the back, with large rear doors making access easy. There's also good, but not class-leading, trunk capacity of 16.2 cubic feet, but fold the rear seats down and this increases to 47.1 cubic feet. 

As you'd expect from a Volvo there's no shortage of safety features in the XC40, with all XC40s coming with the company's suite of City Safety aids. This sees an integrated radar and forward-facing camera to detect subjects in front of you and warn you of a potential collision; should you not react, the XC40 will automatically apply the brakes to either avoid or limit the impact. 

Another standard feature is Oncoming Lane Mitigation, which is designed to prevent head-on collisions, while Run-off Road Protection will automatically tighten the front seatbelts should the car inadvertently run off the road, to brace you for a potential impact. 

Volvo XC40: On the road

  • Solid-performing petrol engines
  • Handle well-balanced
  • Comfy and supple ride
Volvo XC40: Pricing

Prices start at $34,345 / £28,965 for the Momentum trim level, with the Inscription model starting at $40,450 / £31,165. This compares favorably to other premium compact SUV rivals, with a base price lower than both the Audi Q3 and Jaguar E-Pace, though the final cost will depend on how many extras you opt for. 

The XC40 is available with the choice of two 2.0-liter petrol engines in the US, the T4 and T5. The T4 produces 187bhp and comes in a front-wheel-drive configuration only, while the T5 produces 248bhp and comes with four-wheel drive. Outside the US and there's also the option of a lower-powered 3-cylinder T3 petrol with just under 150bhp and two 2.0-liter diesel power units. 

The T5 offers a bit more in the way of refinement and low-down power, the T4 is still a solid option and really suits the XC40, with the engine never feeling under stress and unintrusive at cruising speeds. 

If you're looking for something with some serious green credentials, Volvo's also recently announced the XC40 Recharge, the company's first battery-powered, all-electric model. Sharing the same design as standard XC40, the Recharge features two 201bhp electric motors with a range of more the 248 miles.

Handling isn't quite as sharp as Jaguar's E-Pace or Range Rover Evoque, but it still pretty well balanced. You'll find a little bit of body roll when you chuck it into a corner and the 8-speed automatic can be a little indecisive, but drive in a relaxed manner, and the XC40 doesn't disappoint. There's a good amount of grip, while the suspension is nice and supple, delivering a comfortable ride over a range of road surfaces. Even in our R-Design spec car with slightly stiffer suspension and larger alloy wheels, the XC40 is a nice and comfy drive.

Volvo XC40: Verdict

Volvo's first compact SUV is a real success. From the Scandi-cool design inside and out, to the excellent levels of safety and comfort, the XC40 really impresses. Not only that, but it's practical too, with some clever attention to detail that sets it out from the crowd. Along with Range Rover's excellent Evoque, the Volvo XC40 is one of the best compact SUVs available today.

Tempted by the Volvo XC40 or any other car for that matter? Take a look at our guide to the best auto loans, while we also rank the best tire brands if you're looking for some new rubber.

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