Volvo XC40 2.0 T5 AWD R-Design Pro
The XC40 is yet another great Volvo. Whilst the little touches of quality may be lacking when compared to the other 60 and 90 series cars, the XC40 is still up there with the best cars in the small SUV segment. The T5 model has performance to rival a hot hatch, albeit with a bit more lean through the corners. The XC40 is a great choice for a family car. But it is priced a bit too closely to the bigger, and better, XC60.
One of the reasons Volvo has been so successful in its resurgence in recent years is that people are finally taking notice of its cars. Styling plays a big part in that, and the new XC40 is yet another styling triumph.
As far as the Volvo line-up is concerned, the XC40 is probably the most square, boxy model in it. But that boxyness is effective on a small SUV, giving it a ruggedness beyond its compact size.
At the front, the familiar ‘Thor’s Hammer’ LED daytime running lights create a signature Volvo silhouette. The large grille curves outwards at the bottom, incorporating itself into the bumper. The lines of the bonnet are sleek.
On the R-Design Pro, 20-inch two-tone alloy wheels look tremendous, if not a little out of place underneath black plastic arch trims. One says ‘rugged practicality’ while the other says ‘urban style’.
You’ll notice the unusual rear door line, which rakes up steeply to meet the edge of the black roof. When opting for a two-tone colour scheme it’s hard to avoid an awkward meeting of the two.
Volvo has debossed the ‘R-Design’ designation at the back, which is a great way of blending the black roof to the blue bodywork.
At the back there is more black plastic on the bumpers, but also sporty touches. A roof spoiler and twin exhausts hint at the R-Design’s performance edge. The rear lights are very stylish, as is the way the word ‘Volvo’ is sunken into the boot lid.
I made a bold claim that the Volvo XC90’s interior is among the best of any car currently on sale. Anyone who’s been in one will know exactly what I mean.
Given that the XC60 has a similarly plush cabin, expectations for the XC40 were rather high. And, for the most part, it lived up to it.
For starters, the materials used throughout the interior have been well thought out. All plastics are soft touch. The seats for the R-Design Pro are finished in the wonderful Nubuck leather. The leather used on the steering wheel is soft and luxurious to the touch. And a combination of gloss black, silver and vibrant patterned finishers ensure the XC40 makes an impact.
But as you spend more and more time in the XC40, and look at the smaller details, you’ll notice the shortcuts made on this compact SUV.
The crystal-pattern start/stop twist knob, and drive mode scroll wheel, are both replaced by simple buttons. The material used on the sides of the transmission tunnel and in the door cards is soft, but it also looks like the stuff used as boot lining. And the seats are nowhere near as sumptuous as those in the 60 or 90 series R-Design models.
Thankfully Volvo got the major details right. Like the 9-inch portrait-oriented, tablet-style multimedia screen. It looks superb as a dashboard centrepiece. The 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster is a crisp and clear focal point for the driver, and has a few elements of customisation to make the dials your own.
Of the various engines available in the XC40, we went for the one the R-Design model commands: the fastest.
The T5 is a 2.0-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder petrol engine which produces a not-insignificant 250PS and 350Nm of torque. This is sent to all four wheels via an 8-speed Geartronic automatic gearbox.
Because the XC40 is relatively compact, the resulting performance is quite astounding. 0-62mph is dealt with in 6.5 seconds, and the top speed is 140mph. Forget compact SUV, those figures are hot hatch!
Despite this capable performance the theatrics expected of a hot hatch aren’t there: the engine note is a little harsh when you get higher up the rev range and those twin exhausts offer little in the way of a sporty rasp.
But when all is said and done, this isn’t a hot hatch, and that’s fine. For the odd time you’ll give it the beans to beat a cocksure teenager away from the lights, you don’t need an exhaust note. In the Volvo XC40 you get unobtrusive power; fast without making a song and dance about it.
A quick word on that 8-speed Geartronic. It’s good, but is some way off being as slick as a DSG unit. Changes are smooth, but not as lightning quick as a DSG. That means that using the paddles isn’t as engaging or rewarding as you’d like.
But in all honesty, the XC40 still scores top marks despite these niggles. It proves two things. First, that family cars can still be exhilarating. Second, not all compact SUVs are pointless. The look on a Fiesta ST driver’s face when you beat them away from the lights will be testament to that…
Now whilst you may have beaten the Fiesta ST away from the lights, when you get to a twisty B-road they will be right back up your backside. Because whilst performance may rival a hot hatch, the handling is more compact SUV.
As far as compact SUVs go, the Volvo XC40 is up there with the best of them. Its AWD system means there is grip at all times, whatever the road conditions. Selectable drive modes optimise the steering feel, gearbox eagerness and throttle response.
Body roll is present in the corners, but it’s not chronic by any stretch. In fact, it would be even less noticeable if the car had more supportive seats. The side bolsters on the XC40 could do with being a little bigger, like in the XC60.
Another consideration when critiquing the handling is the speed at which the T5 hurtles towards corners. You will undoubtedly be hitting them faster than you thought.
Steering is direct, albeit with no real feel, a trait found on many new cars these days. Brakes are equal to the 250PS engine so you can always stop quickly.
The suspension is good in standard guise, a nice balance of motorway comfort and B-road composure. For a little extra capability, you can consider the Active Four-C Chassis (£750). With its four-corner adaptive damping it is able to get even more comfort on the motorway and even more firmness for a B-road blast.
We haven’t tried an XC40 with the Active Four-C Chassis, but would be interested to do so. There’s a good chance it could be the thing which gets it that final star in this category. And at £750 it doesn’t seem bad value at all.
Volvo spent a lot of time creating the DriveE range of engines. Designed to offer efficiency without compromising power, these engines are yet another reason more and more people are now driving Volvos.
Take company car drivers. They get capable performance to rival bigger-engined alternatives, but at a lower CO2 figure so the benefit-in-kind payable is lower. As for you or I, we get a car that is a hoot when you put your foot down, but doesn’t cost the earth to run.
The T5 in the XC40 has impressive fuel consumption of 39.8mpg on the combined cycle. Having the Eco drive mode helps with this, as does the tall 8th gear when cruising on the motorway. Other fuel-saving assistance comes from start/stop technology and its relative compact size.
CO2 emissions are 166g/km. Given that this is an AWD SUV with 20-inch wheels, we don’t think that’s half bad. First year VED is £515 and could be £140 thereafter.
But there is one down side. Our XC40, as tested, cost more than £40,000. So VED in years 2-6 for this exact car would incur the £310 surcharge.
It’s certainly one to think about when you see the options list. Because any extras taking you over the magic £40k are actually costing you £1,550 extra over 5 years…
As a car to live with, you can’t go far wrong with the Volvo XC40. There’s plenty of head room thanks to the tall frame.
Although because this is a compact SUV the space is the rear isn’t as generous as you’d find on a bigger car. At 5ft7in it was fine for me, but taller ladies and gentlemen may find it a bit of a squeeze back there. You’d have no such problem in an XC60, for what it’s worth.
Similarly, the boot is bigger than you’d get in a regular family hatchback, and 460 litres is a decent amount of space. Certainly, enough for the family pooch, or a spot of retail therapy. But again not quite as big as you’d get on a regular SUV.
But being compact does also have its plus points. When you go to the supermarket or, heaven forbid, find yourself in a city-centre multi-storey car park, you’ll find parking easier. Better than having to scour the full car park for a suitably large space that’s for sure.
Best of all, and this is full credit to Volvo, the XC40 is an incredibly safe car. Despite a more compact size, the XC40 achieves a five star Euro NCAP rating.
In doing so it achieved a 97% score for Adult Occupant Protection, one of the highest ever recorded. It’s reassuring to know that the XC40 will protect you and your family. Volvo’s aptitude in vehicle safety is one of the reasons why we bought one.
While some of the little flashes of style are missing on the XC40 interior, there’s no such complaint on the equipment front.
The XC40 comes with a generous standard specification, in ‘base’ model Momentum trim. The R-Design adds sporty styling inside and out, whilst the Inscription is aimed at heightening that luxurious edge.
Irrespective of which model you choose, the 9-inch tablet touchscreen multimedia system with Sensus Navigation is included. This will most certainly impress passengers and is very easy to use. It even has voice control if you really want to show off
For convenience you get keyless start, dual-zone climate control with Volvo’s CleanZone air-quality system, rear parking sensors, cruise control with speed limiter and hill start assist.
As ever the safety equipment is comprehensive. City Safety is the front collision warning system, featuring pedestrian, cyclist and large animal detection. It has fully autonomous emergency braking capabilities, even when pulling out of junctions.
Oncoming Lane Mitigation provides steering assistance if you start to wander out of your lane, and Run-off Road Protection tightens the front seatbelts if the car leaves the road.
Further safety equipment can be added through the Intellisafe Pro pack, which we’ll come to in a moment.
The R-Design additions include high-gloss black exterior styling touches, a leather/nubuck upholstery, perforated leather steering wheel and gear knob, theatre and ambient lighting and privacy glass.
The ‘Pro’ is even plusher, with heated front seats, windscreen and washer nozzles, power driver’s seat with memory function and those lovely 20-inch alloy wheels.
Value For Money
And so we come, finally, to the XC40’s biggest downfall: price. The range starts from a tempting £27,610. By the time you get up to the T5 R-Design Pro the base price is a meatier £37,320.
Our test car had quite a few options on it. Most expensive was the Xenium Pack at £1,600 comprising opening panoramic sunroof with electronic blind, 360-degree top-view camera system and Park Assist Pilot; automatic parallel and perpendicular parking.
The Intellisafe Pro pack is another hefty one at £1,500 but again contains lots of useful features, including the innovative Pilot Assist: Volvo’s semi-autonomous drive system for motorway use. This pack also includes adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring with cross traffic alert, auto-dimming interior and exterior mirrors and auto-fold door mirrors.
The aforementioned gear shift paddles are actually an extra – £125 – and to be honest we wouldn’t choose them. Another one you could potentially leave off is the premium Harmon Kardon sound system at £550. It’s great, but the standard system is pretty good too.
Whether or not you really need the keyless entry/drive with hands-free tailgate at £350 is one for you to decide. Whilst not essential, it is pretty good value.
By the time Volvo was finished with our test car, it was £43,095. And the problem there is that you’re in XC60 territory, albeit with a less powerful engine or fewer toys.
Ultimately, it comes down to what you need. If compactness is important, the XC40 will probably tick all the boxes. For those open to something a little bigger, the XC60 could well be more car for your money, due to the step-up in quality.
Undecided? Read our review of the XC60 for comparison. It might help.
Facts and Figures
|2.0-litre, 4-cylinder turbocharged petrol
|250PS at 5,500rpm
|350Nm at 1,800rpm – 4,800rpm
|8-speed Geartronic gearbox, all-wheel drive
|Fuel tank size
|39.8 mpg, combined cycle
|2,100 kg braked / 750 kg unbraked
|Price as tested