Parkers overall rating: 4.3 out of 5 4.3
  • Petrol and hybrid options
  • No more diesel
  • Electric available to order

There are two regular petrols, two hybrids, two plug-in hybrids, and an all-electric model in the XC40 range. Depending on your outlook, that's an impressive or intimidating number of options.

You get four-wheel drive as standard on the more powerful versions, and that's the same with the eight-speed Geartronic automatic transmission.

Petrol and mild hybrid engines

Let's start with the T range of engines. These are the regular petrols with no hybrid assistance. The cheapest is the T2 - it's only available on the most basic model, with front-wheel drive and a manual gearbox. It has 129hp and a 0-62mph time of 10.9seconds.

The 163hp T3 is up next, which is available with an auto as well as a manual. The 0-62mph time is quicker than the T2 - as low as 9.3 seconds for the manual version.

Both of these models are relaxing and pokey enough if you rarely venture onto the motorways. These entry-level engines are a bit like a diesel in characteristic really – offering torquey performance low down, before running out of puff above 4,000rpm. There’s not much point revving them out, especially as they feel like they're fuelled by air by that point. But if you just go with the flow and let the gearbox keep you in the torque band, you can make a reasonable amount of progress in everyday driving.

The B range of engines are mild-hybrids. The upshot of this type of system is decreased emissions - but the downside is that unlike with other hybrids, they can't be driven only using electric power. The 197hp B4 is the entry point for these mild-hybrids. The B5 is more expensive, but sports 250hp. Both are auto only, but the B5 is available with four-wheel drive.

In top-of-the range B5, it produces 350Nm of torque and manages to hit 62mph in 6.4 seconds. This is hot hatch-baiting territory. The B5 is an excellent option for those after a speedy petrol and combines impressive pace with reasonable real-world fuel economy. It works well with the eight-speed automatic gearbox, and has enough torque for effortless motorway driving. 

The B4 never feels as quick or as responsive as the B5. However, it is usefully cheaper, and is the one to go for if you like the idea of a mild-hybrid but don't care about 0-62mph times.

XC40 plug-in hybrids

There are two plug-in XC40s - the Recharge T4 and Recharge T5.

In case you can't tell by now, the T5 is the more powerful and expensive of the two.

Up front, they're business as usual. Both use a 1.5-litre petrol engine and an 80hp electric motor. However, the T4's engine makes less power than the T5 - meaning total output for the T4 is 211hp, while the T5 makes a healthy 262hp.

Unlike with lots of other plug-in hybrids, the electric motor used in both cars doesn't power the rear-wheels. This means that plug-in XC40s are front-wheel drive rather than four-wheel drive.

We've only driven the T5 Recharge, and can confirm that its official 0-62mph time of 7.3 seconds feels pessimistic. It seems fast as the electric motor's power comes instantly. Off the line the Recharge could embarrass some hot hatches.

Official electric-only range is officially 27 miles. On our teste route in London, we managed 19 miles before the juice ran out. This was in a lot of stop start traffic, but we imagine that even at constant speeds, it would be pretty difficult to actually achieve 27 miles.

While we're here, we have another plug-in specific gripe. The Volvo has a B mode which can be selected using the gearlever. This turns on the regenerative braking - essentially meaning the car uses kinetic energy from the brakes to recharge the battery. Turn this mode on and the car starts this process by slowing down when you lift off the accelerator. It all works well and it will only take you a few miles to get your head around.

Our gripe is actually with the brake feel. While all the regen is going on, it's difficult to know how hard to press the pedal. Initially there's a bit of resistance through the pedal, so you press harder, then wham, the brakes suddenly come on. When the regen mode is turned off it's nowhere near as noticeable. Volvo's regen braking system on our long-term XC90 feels a lot more natural to use.

Electric powertrain

Unlike with the plug-in hybrid above, Volvo's snappily named XC40 Recharge Pure Electric is four-wheel drive. It has two 201hp electric motors, one powering the front wheels, and the other powering the rears.

It has a combined power output of 402hp and 600Nm of torque. These whopping figures mean that it'll race from 0-62mph in 4.9sec. While it's governed speed is 112mph, like all new Volvos.

Defunct diesel engines

The entry-level D3 diesel has 150hp and a 0-62mph time of between 9.8 and 10.4 seconds depending on which transmission you choose.

Switch it up to the D4 and you get 190hp and 400Nm of torque, accelerating from 0-62mph in 7.9 seconds and reaching a top speed of 130mph. 

Offering decent pace and better fuel economy than the petrols, the D4 engine looks like a smart choice on paper, assuming you're not interested in buying new. It’s a quiet motorway cruiser with plenty of pulling power for effortless overtakes.

Unfortunately, engine noise levels do become more pronounced under power or when pottering around town, meaning the D4 engine lags behind some of its rivals for outright refinement. 

Transmission options

The more powerful engines in the XC40 range come with an eight-speed automatic transmission only, while the lower-powered engines can be had with either the automatic gearbox or a six-speed manual. Happily, though, the auto is well suited to the job and changes gears smoothly with little fuss. 

The gearlever is typically Volvo now in that you have to nudge through the gears one by one, which feels like it can hamper progress somewhat as you have to toggle through Neutral when switching between R and D when parking.

You also get a delay in throttle response when trying to set off when stationary, but this is applicable to other manufacturers too.

The manual gearbox on the other hand is light to use and not too long in throw. The shift is quite positive and the pedals are well-weighted, although the abrupt biting point for the clutch pedal can make crawling through traffic jams a bit jerky.

Handling

  • Comfort-orientated suspension
  • Safe, stable handling
  • Not a huge amount of fun to drive

The XC40’s handling is heavily biased towards being safe, stable and predictable. While that might sound obvious, a number of the XC40’s rivals offer a firmer, more sporting setup. Whether the Volvo’s ambivalence to dynamic handling traits is a good or bad thing depends on your personal preference as a buyer.

Rest assured, however, the XC40 can still lap up a series of challenging bends without breaking sweat – even if doing so provides little enjoyment for the driver. Occupants may notice a degree of bodyroll (the car’s body leaning side to side) but not so much as to be unnerving. 

Grip levels are high and the all-wheel drive system fitted to most models will ensure that traction in the wet is excellent. Adding greater confidence to the overall drive is well-judged steering that provides accomplished levels of accuracy and precision, yet isn’t fidgety at speed. However, like many cars in this sector it is low on outright feel, with no sensation of grip levels at all.

Safe, rather than entertaining

Should you pile into a bend too fast the XC40’s safety systems are reassuringly decisive and quick to take over. A loss of grip results in the brakes being applied, the seatbelts tightened and the car attempting to bring itself back into line. 

All models come with standard dynamic suspension, except for R-Design versions that have firmer sport dynamic suspension. In truth, we were hard pressed to tell the difference between the two when it came to cornering and ride comfort. 

Volvo chooses not to make any bold claims about the XC40’s off-roading credentials, knowing that most customers won’t subject the car to anything more challenging than a muddy field.