Parkers overall rating: 4.3 out of 5 4.3
  • Petrol, diesel, and hybrid options
  • D3, D4, T3, T4 and T5 diesel and petrols
  • Electric available to order

There's a decent range of petrol and diesel engines available in the XC40 – three petrols and two diesels. You get four-wheel drive as standard on the more powerful versions, and that's the same with the eight-speed Geartronic automatic transmission.

>> We rate the best hybrid SUVs for 2020

Petrol engines

The 163hp T3, 190hp T4 and 247hp 2.0-litre turbocharged T5 engines are your petrol options. In top-of-the range T5, it produces 350Nm of torque and manages to hit 62mph in 6.5 seconds. Top speed is 140mph. This is hot hatch-baiting territory.

The T5 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. 

If you’re looking at the T3 and its three-cylinder engine, performance is fine most of the time. This entry-level engine is a bit like a diesel in characteristic really – offering torquey performance low down, before running out of puff above 4,000rpm. In this case, there’s not much point revving it out, especially as it feels like it’s 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.

Sure enough, more torque and power wouldn’t go amiss but it’s not a bad engine for an entry-level option at all and far from an embarrassing choice.

If the T3 could achieve even higher mpg figures, it’d be hard to argue against beside the D3 and its slightly grumblier engine refinement. The additional torque of the diesel engine might make progress even more relaxing, in trade for a little more refinement. They’re both still worthy of a test drive if your choice is limited to these two.

Diesel engines

The entry-level D3 is available with 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 much better fuel economy than the T5, the D4 engine looks like a smart choice on paper, assuming you're not wedded to the idea of moving away from diesel. 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. 

XC40 Recharge T5 

Volvo's plug-in hybrid works in a slightly different way when compared with other plug-in SUVs.

Up front, it's business as usual. There's a 1.5-litre petrol engine making 180hp. But the 80hp electric motor doesn't power the rear-wheels, meaning the XC40 Recharge T5 is only available with front-wheel drive.

Combined power is 260hp, which makes it usefully quick. Expect the industry standard 0-62mph time to come up in 7.3 seconds.

>> What is a hybrid?

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.

Gearbox options

The more powerful engines in the XC40 range come with an eight-speed automatic transmission only, while the lower-powered engines up to D3 and T3 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 (as the car’s body leans slightly on its chassis) 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.