Volvo XC40


   You may perhaps not even have seen one yet, but already Volvo’s new XC40, has been winning awards. Not only did it recently win both the Car of the Year and Best Medium SUV titles in the recent DieselCar and EcoCar Top 50 awards 2018, it also scooped the coveted European Car of the Year award prior to its unveiling at this year’s Geneva Motorshow in March. What Car? Named it their Car of the Year 2018, just four months after it went on sale, as well as bestowing upon it their Best Family SUV award, and residual value guides Cap Hpi and KeeResources have both positioned the new XC40, ahead of its two main premium German rivals, the Audi Q3 and BMW X1, as a result of its predicted competition-beating residual values. Autocar magazine called it a game changer.

   It’s no surprise then perhaps that the XC40 also recently become Volvo’s most successful new model launch in the U.K., ever. And with sales currently running at around 2,000 a month – a portion of  those having been stolen from the likes of Audi, Mercedes Benz and Range Rover, - it’s a little difficult not to get caught up in the XC40’s wake.

    Some of the first XC40’s to come into the UK were in the somewhat lavishly equipped First Edition spec: It’s one of those that Volvo recently lent us.

   Built in Ghent, Belgium, the XC40 is, say Volvo, a milestone car. It’s their first ever compact SUV and the first car to be built upon their all-new Compact Modular Architecture (CMA) platform. It sits below both their XC60 and the simply lovely XC90 and is the first of Volvo’s new generation 40 series models.

   But, just because it’s smaller, and far groovier looking than its larger siblings, don’t think for one minute that it is any lesser equipped. The XC40 gets the same, ipad-esque nine-inch infotainment display as you’ll find in the XC90, as well as a 12.3in digital instrument panel instead of conventional dials. The touch screen sits centre-stage within the dash and controls the majority of the XC40’s functions including the entertainment, satellite navigation, heating, ventilation, air conditioning and most other vehicle settings too. It does take a little while to fathom – Volvo’s scandi-chic interior is virtually button-less and until you’re familiar with the Sensus system as Volvo calls it you may have to take your eyes off the road to perform simple tasks such as altering the cabin temperature or changing the radio station – but with time everything becomes as clear as the touchscreen’s high definition display. Well, almost. Quite why Apple Carplay or Android auto, the smartphone mimicking apps, are a £300 option remains a mystery.

   Being a Volvo of course safety is a huge selling point and the Swedes (albeit the now Chinese owned) have already said that their goal is that by 2020 no-one will be killed or seriously injured in one of their new vehicles. As a result the XC40 gets a whole host of safety and driver assist systems including… wait for it… Volvo Cars’ Pilot Assist system – a step towards (sigh!) fully autonomous driving - City Safety, Run-off Road Protection and Mitigation, Cross Traffic Alert with brake support, and a 360° camera, something that proves a boon when trying to manoeuvre into tight parking spaces. Trust me, that thick upswept rear pillar might look cool, but oh boy, does it cause a blind-spot.

    Another bug-bear is the XC40’s gear selector. Not only do you have to push it forwards or backwards, twice, in order to get either Drive or Reverse, should you want to select your own ratios whilst on the move you have to push it either left or right to shift up or down. It really does take a lot of getting used to.

   Better then to simply select Drive, (pull the lever back twice remember) and let the 8 speed auto ‘box do its own thing – which apart from the odd slow reaction – it does rather well. As is the Volvo way the XC40 has been set-up with more of comfort bias than a sporty one. So, if you’ve penchant for B-road blasts you may want to consider something else; the steering is a more than a tad light for “enthusiastic” driving. 

   But that’s not to say there is in any way a lack of performance. In T5 guise (as tested) the 2.0litre four –cylinder diesel produces 247bhp, enough to get the XC40 to 62mph in 6.5 seconds; it’s swift to say the least. Pick your wheels and tyres wisely though. The 20 inch rims might make you look smooth, but they certainly won’t make you feel it!

    And that perhaps is a metaphor for the XC40 as a whole: Pick your engines and options carefully. In certain specs the XC40 could prove both thirsty and expensive – our car was £40K plus and never bettered 30mpg – but with smaller engine (a 3 cylinder is on the way, apparently) and with fewer sparkly bits the XC40 might just be the safest, coolest, and most satisfying medium sized SUV currently available.


Volvo XC40 T5 AWD First Editon.

Engine: 1,969cc 4Cyl 16V turbo diesel

Transmission: 8 speed Auto, Four wheel drive.

Power:  247 bhp @ 5,500 rpm

Torque: 259 lbft @ 1,800 – 4,800 rpm

0-62 MPH: 6.5 Sec

Max Speed: 140 mph

CO2: 168 g/km

MPG: 39.2 combined

Price: XC40 range from £27,905 (First Edition, as tested £40,055).


Many thanks to Luke at Volvo’s UK press office for the loan of the XC40



Liam Bird Liam Bird

I'm Liam Bird, a freelance Motoring Writer based in the South Shropshire Marches. I currently write car reviews and road tests for a number of regional lifestyle magazines and newspapers which are distributed throughout Cheshire, Herefordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Worcestershire, most of Wales and beyond.

As a member of the Welsh Group of Motoring Writers I'm as happy behind the wheel of a super-mini as I am in the latest super-car. I have press accreditation with most of the major motor manufacturers, meaning that as well as always being on the look out for further commissions, I always have a number of cars arriving each month ready to review.

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