2020 Volvo XC40 Recharge T5 Plug-In-Hybrid review: price, specs and video
With an official average of 141.1mpg, the new Volvo XC40 Recharge T5 Plug-in Hybrid is the most efficient version of the 2018 What Car? Car of the Year. But is it the best?...
Priced from £40,905 Release date Now
It’s fair to say Volvo has been one of the driving forces behind the plug-in hybrid. Not only was its diesel-electric V60 one of the first of its breed to be commercially available in Europe, but the introduction of this (deep breath) Volvo XC40 Recharge T5 Plug-in Hybrid also means the Swedish brand is the first manufacturer to offer a PHEV version of every model it currently sells.
This XC40 is rather different from its larger range-mates, though. For a start, the engine is smaller at 1.5 litres and 178bhp – understandable in a more compact car – but the main difference is that you won’t find an electric motor powering the rear wheels. Instead, you’ll find the 80bhp unit attached to a new seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox, making the XC40 front-wheel drive only.
Of course, with company car tax receiving a stout shake-up to favour plug-in hybrids, the XC40’s CO2 emissions of just 38g/km means it’s in the 12% BIK tax bracket. Now, that isn’t quite as low as rivals such as the Peugeot 3008 Hybrid4 but still makes it far more attractive than any other model in the range should BIK payments be a consideration.
Fully charge the XC40’s 10.7kWh battery and, according to official figures, you can travel up to 28.6 miles before you’ll wake up the petrol engine. To top it back up again, 0-100% takes up to six hours on the standard three-pin plug lead, or as little as 2.5 hours using the optional £50 Type 2 cable and a wallbox charger.
2020 Volvo XC40 Recharge T5 Plug-in Hybrid on the road
But enough of the theory; what’s it like on the road? With a charged battery, the XC40 will always try to start in electric mode, which is as quiet and smooth as you’d expect. With only 80bhp to cart this 1800kg SUV around, performance is fairly leisurely but enough to deal with rush-hour traffic. Just don’t be surprised when the petrol engine chimes in if you demand urgent acceleration or meet a steep hill.
When the engine does join the party, it remains more subdued than the aforementioned 3008 and the Vauxhall Grandland X Hybrid4. Even if you pin the accelerator pedal to the floor, there’s a pleasant three-cylinder thrum from under the bonnet and minimal vibration coming through the steering wheel. At a cruise and during gradual acceleration, the engine is very quiet indeed.
It’s not quite as smooth switching between power sources as the T8 plug-ins higher up the range, but the hesitation isn’t as noticeable as in the Hybrid4. More of an issue is the inconsistent response of the brake pedal, which can take some getting used to. Once both power sources are on full song, performance is strong, although you’ll find the front tyres can struggle for traction on wet roads.
As for the handling, it’s tidy enough and doesn’t seem to suffer too much from the added weight of the batteries, but like the regular XC40, there’s a bit of body lean and no impetus to carry on driving quickly. You’re much better off slowing down and enjoying the XC40’s comfortable ride; even on 19in wheels, it’s only sharp-edged potholes and lumps at low speeds that can be a little jarring.
2020 Volvo XC40 Recharge T5 Plug-in Hybrid interior
Interior quality remains an XC40 strong point, with loads of squishy plastics and expensive-looking metal trims, along with some seriously comfortable seats. You get plenty of kit, too, but that’s mainly because you can’t get a Recharge in anything less than sporty R-Design trim.
Impressively, the XC40’s boot remains the same size as that of any other model in the range and even has a bit of space under the boot floor for your cables. That means it’ll swallow far more luggage than the 3008 Hybrid4, although sadly you can’t get the handy boot divider that we like so much in regular XC40s. Passenger space is also unchanged, so the XC40 is among the best for rear leg room. With that in mind, head on over to our main Volvo XC40 review for more information on practicality, the infotainment system and plenty more.
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