Parkers overall rating: 4.3 out of 5 4.3
  • High-quality cabin
  • Good standard driving position
  • Easy-to-use controls

Sitting behind the wheel of R-Design- and Inscription-spec cars is a highly pleasurable experience. Lower spec Momentum cars look and feel a bit less premium, but are still easily nicer than what most other car manufacturers can cobble together. 

Excellent all-round ergonomics

Hop behind the wheel of the XC40 and the vast majority of drivers will immediately feel at home. All of the major controls and auxiliary functions are easy to understand and reach, even if the lack of physical climate control buttons can be annoying. Traditional dials have been replaced by a 12.3-inch TFT digital driver information display that offers up sat-nav, media, phone and trip computer information. 

It’s mostly clear, has a good resistance to glare from sunlight and is easy to understand and operate, although some drivers may yearn for a bit more contrast, or simply, old-fashioned analogue dials.

The XC40 is at the premium end of the compact-SUV sector and the materials on display in the cabin reflect this. Occupants will be hard pushed to find a cheap-feeling service or control switch, while expensive-looking woods and swathes of leather on top-spec cars are a welcome sight.

Almost all of the XC40’s functions are controlled via the car’s 9.0-inch central touchscreen. Unlike most cars, it’s laid-out in portrait orientation and is slightly cantered towards the driver.

The screen itself is bright and clear, and the graphics sharp, while responsiveness to inputs is good on the whole – although we did find it took a couple of stabs at the screen on occasion. Getting used to where all the menus are on the infotainment system will require some time, too.

Those who want to appreciate their music collection should opt for the Harman/Kardon sound system. It may not be quite as impressive as the Bang & Olufsen systems found on more expensive Volvos, but it’s certainly good enough here.

Volvo XC40 2017 touchscreen

One of a number of things that really stands out in the XC40 is the number of clever storage solutions. For example, there are slots for credit cards near the steering wheel and the door pockets are all more than big enough to take a large bottle of water or even a laptop. 

Also, trays under the front seats have been designed to take an iPad, while there’s also a foldaway hook under the glovebox for hanging shopping.

Comfort

  • Comfort-orientated suspension
  • Accomplished refinement levels
  • Well-structured, supportive seats

The XC40 excels when it comes to comfort, offering good ride quality and strong refinement; even on larger alloy wheels.

Having driven the car on 19- and 20-inch wheels we reckon there’s little to choose between the two for outright comfort. The high-speed ride is accomplished and lends the XC40 to being a capable long-distance cruiser. 

Driving around town bumps and potholes are noticeable, although not enough to stop the Volvo from being class-leading for ride quality. The XC40 errs towards the comfort end of the scale, rather than sportiness, but it certainly won’t feel like it’ll topple over down a country road. 

The firmer suspension setup in R-Design cars seem to make little difference to real world ride comfort or handling capabilities. We’d avoid paying extra for the larger, 20- and 21-inch wheels, they may look good, but they do make the ride just that little bit harsher.

Comfortable seats all-round

Regardless of where you’re sitting in the XC40 the seats are, as we’ve come to expect from Volvo, exceptionally comfortable. They’re capable of securely holding in drivers of all sizes and provide excellent support all the way up the occupant’s upper body. Heated front and rear seats are available.

Top-spec Inscription cars come with an electrically adjustable driver’s seat (with memory function) that offers an excellent range of adjustment – as does the steering wheel. The standard driving position is the regular SUV fare, offering an elevated view out front. The leather upholstery (standard in R-Design and Inscription models) is finished to a high standard while the seats themselves are supportive and comfy to sit in, although you may wish for a little more side support when it comes to cornering.

Refinement could be better

The engines used in the XC40 are generally hushed and quiet on the move and, predictably, the petrol engines are noticeably more refined than the diesels, especially at low speeds where the latter can feel intrusive. 

Drive the T3 petrol engine and it’s not immediately obvious that it’s a three-cylinder under the bonnet. It’s not the smoothest of engines when driving at low-speeds, or when it idles away as you sit stationary, but it smooths out and remains hushed everywhere else with just a faint rumble in the background.

Go for the automatic version if you can, as it makes the XC40 far smoother to drive than the manual and suits the car's relaxed nature. Plus, it allows you to enjoy the engine a bit more without having the SUV bobbing back and forth on its suspension every time you change gear – you can thank the manual’s abrupt biting point on the clutch pedal for that.

There is room for improvement, however. The T3’s turbo whistle filtering through into the driver’s footwell might be entertaining when you’re in the mood, but it can be slightly annoying when you’re not.

Otherwise, the XC40 offers up very little in the way wind noise – even at high speed – allowing occupants to easily be heard within the confines of the cabin. You’ll experience a bit of road noise and a few vibrations through the floor, but it’s something found in other Volvos and not specifically affecting this small SUV.