Volvo XC40 D4 AWD First Edition

Road Test
Richard Gooding

The smallest modern Volvo and the company’s most successful model launch in the UK ever, the XC40 has a lot resting on its duo-tone shoulders, as Richard Gooding finds out

What is it?
Once a maker of traditional, safe, and sturdy cars, there have been few about-turns in the car industry as startling as Volvo’s. Now a manufacturer of high-end SUVs, saloons and estates, Volvo Cars has set out its environmental stall and claimed that every car it launches by 2019 will be electrified, and will usher in three fully electric models between 2019 and 2021 (see panel).
    
The XC40 is the smallest model in the Volvo range, and the first on the company’s new modular vehicle architecture (CMA). This platform – which has been co-developed with new Chinese owner Geely – will underpin forthcoming cars in the 40 series, including the long-awaited full-electric version. As a compact SUV, the XC40 enters one of the most fearsome segments of the market, and to that end, looks like no small Volvo before it. Funky design marks out the Swedish newcomer, Volvo keen to attract both current small car owners as well as those downsizing from larger vehicles. The XC40 is also the first Volvo to be available with the ‘Care by Volvo’ subscription service, only initially available to customers inside the M25.

How does it drive?

The most appealing and design-led Volvo aimed at younger drivers in a generation, the handsome XC40 exudes chunky, classy cool. From Volvo’s signature ‘Thor’s Hammer’ headlights, through to its rising waistline and Scandinavian flag tag tucked under the bonnet edge, the XC40’s smart looks turn heads.
    
Inside, the XC40 takes the lead from its larger siblings and features a portrait-orientated nine-inch colour touchscreen. First seen on the XC90 (see GreenFleet 91), it is both very user-friendly and clear, though you have to dig down into menus to find more functions, and it’s a shame the heater is controlled by the screen itself. Elsewhere, quality is first-rate, and the XC40 is very well built. With materials worthy of its premium price tag, the cabin is a really nice place to be.
    
On the move, the 2.0-litre diesel engine is audible on acceleration but otherwise very hushed. Five ‘Drive Mode’ settings allow the driver to change the vehicle parameters. In ‘Comfort’ and ‘Dynamic’ modes, the XC40 feels as spritely as its 188bhp power output and 295lb ft (400Nm) of torque suggests. Unsurprisingly, ‘Eco’ mode makes the car feel slower, as its responses are calibrated for the lowest possible fuel consumption, while ‘Individual’ mode allows the driver to tailor the driving experience to a preferred preference. ‘Off-Road’ mode is geared to giving as much performance on a slippery surface.
    
The eight-speed automatic gearbox can be sluggish upon take-off, but once on the move it shifts through the ratios seamlessly. As you’d expect from a Volvo, the XC40 handles safely  and securely, but also feels more agile than it should, given its chunky stance, 1,698kg weight, and SUV silhouette. The positively-weighted steering responds well to inputs, and ride on our 19-inch rimmed car was good, despite its low-profile tyres. As practical and safe as Volvos of old, there is 460 litres of rear luggage space, as well as a raft of electronic safety systems.

How economical is it?

Volvo quotes an official 56.5mpg on the combined cycle, and over the course of 516 miles we achieved 42.3mpg.

What does it cost?

The Volvo XC40 range starts at £29,010 ‘on the road’ for the 127g/km entry-level Momentum model, powered by a 148bhp version of the 1,969cc engine fitted to our test car. Standard equipment includes automatic LED headlights, automatic wipers, climate control, rear park assist, a nine-inch colour touchscreen infotainment system, 12.3-inch Active TFT crystal driver’s information display, and 18-inch also wheels. Momentum Pro models begin at £30,560, and additional kit includes heated front seats and front LED fog lights.
    
Moving up the range, R-Design models start at an extra £300 over Momentum Pro cars, and gain leather/nubuck upholstery, a perforated leather-covered steering and gear knob, sports pedals and a ‘sports’ chassis. R-Design Pro models add 20-inch alloy wheels and cost from £32,760. Finally, Inscription XC40s are priced from £31,510 and feature leather upholstery, wood inlays, a powered tailgate, and, on automatic models only, Volvo’s signature ‘Orrefors Crystal’ gear knob. Range-topping Inscription Pro cars from £33,060 gain powered front seats, and 19-inch alloy wheels.
    
It’s difficult to compare our model directly as it was only available at the car’s launch. Although based on R-Design Pro models, First Edition trim married elements of Inscription and Inscription Pro models, and included a Harman Kardon Premium sound system, steering wheel-mounted gear shift paddles, wireless smartphone charging, as well as ‘Convenience’, ‘Intellisafe Pro’ and ‘Xenium’ option packs.

How much does it cost to tax?

Before those electrified Volvos arrive, drivers can choose between a range of diesel and petrol engines. All ‘Drive-E’ units, the all-aluminium engines employ sophisticated injection and boosting technology for greater efficiency. The XC40 range encompasses diesel D3 and D4 front and all-wheel drive (AWD) models, as well as petrol-powered T3 front-wheel drive, and T4 and T5 AWD versions. There is also a choice of manual and automatic transmissions, and typically, as you move up through each trim level, the greater the power and the CO2 emissions.
    
Our First Edition test car’s D4 2.0-litre 188bhp turbodiesel engine was allied to an all-wheel drive, eight-speed automatic transmission. With emissions of 133g/km, Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) for the D4 is £515 in the first year, decreasing to £140 thereafter. The cleanest XC40s are the D3 models which attract a £205 rate of VED in the first year, and the same £140 rate thereafter.

Why does my fleet need one?

The multi-award-winning XC40 bears the honour of being Volvo’s most successful model launch ever in the UK, and it’s very easy to see why. Voted European Car of the Year 2018, the XC40 encapsulates the technology and kudos that typifies modern Volvo, but in a smaller package. It’s a very welcome addition to the compact SUV market.
    
Take time to trawl through the specification and price list, though. If the extra performance isn’t needed, D3-engined models are easier on taxation and price, and offer all the welcome qualities Volvo’s compact SUV offers. For ultimate sustainability, PHEV and full-electric versions are also on the horizon. But, whichever you choose, we doubt you’ll be disappointed.