What Car? says...
Looking at the distinctive design of the Volvo XC40 family SUV you begin to wonder if the German premium car brands have it wrong. While their ‘Russian doll’ designs lead to a very strong resemblance between models, Volvo's creativity is jolly refreshing.
Of course, the XC40 does retain some distinctive Volvo design cues. Its Thor’s Hammer headlights and equally striking LED rear lights, for instance, ape the company’s other models, keeping the bloodline recognisable.
The rest of the car's detailing and its overall proportions are quite different, though. It certainly doesn't look as though the Swedish car maker has popped the blueprints for the Volvo XC60 into a photocopier, selected ‘reduce size’ and pushed ‘print’.
Trim levels range from relatively basic (Core) to properly sumptuous (Ultimate) and, as long as you're not after a diesel, there's just enough choice when it comes to engines.
The Volvo XC40 is a former What Car? Car of the Year, so it's no secret that it's good, but it's been around a while now, so is it still a better buy than rival family SUVs? After all, they include the Audi Q3, the BMW X1, the Genesis GV70 and the Range Rover Evoque.
Well, we've driven them all, and in this review we'll tell you how they compare, and also which version of the XC40 we think is the best choice.
When you've decided which model is for you, we can help you find it for the best price if you use our free New Car Buying service. You could save thousands off the brochure price with the latest family SUV deals.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
Due to a recent rationalisation of the range, all Volvo XC40s now get a seven-speed automatic gearbox, front-wheel drive and a 2.0-litre petrol engine – unless you go for the fully electric Volvo XC40 Recharge (which we've reviewed separately)
There are two version of the engine available: the B3, with 161bhp, and the more powerful B4, with 194bhp. Both have mild-hybrid tech to aid efficiency.
Our pick is the B3, because it's sprightly enough for most buyers, with a 0-62mph time of 8.6 seconds. The B4 cuts a second of the sprint time, but we don't think it's worth the extra cost.
Suspension and ride comfort
On faster roads, the XC40 breezes over ripples and expansion joints and takes the sting out of razor-edged potholes around town – even on 20in alloy wheels.
The XC40 handles perfectly adequately if you drive it in a relaxed manner, which we expect most people will.
It's not a sporty SUV, though, so if you press on, the body leans a fair bit through corners and you'll notice that the steering isn't particularly feelsome.
In short, the XC40 is easy to drive but some rivals feel more fun. If that's a deal-breaker for you, consider the Cupra Formentor – or the Kuga if you want a polished plug-in hybrid (PHEV) SUV with a bit of cornering verve.
Noise and vibration
The engines emit a bit of turbo whoosh when accelerating enthusiastically, but they’re both quieter than the rather coarse-sounding 2.0-litre engine in the X1 xDrive23i.
Whichever engine you choose, you'll hear mild wind buffeting around the windscreen at motorway speeds. There's also road noise, especially when big 20in alloy wheels are fitted (the Evoque and GV70 is notably more subdued in this respect). Still, the XC40 is nowhere near as raucous as the X1 on a motorway.
Strengths Smooth ride; easy to drive; quieter than a BMW X1
Weaknesses Still some wind and road noise; leans quite a bit in corners
The interior layout, fit and finish
Driving position and dashboard
The front seats in the Volvo XC40 are some of the best you’ll find in any family SUV. There’s a wide range of adjustment, including tilt and height, plus four-way electric lumbar adjustment on all versions. If you go for Plus trim, you'll get a fully electric driver’s seat.
We really like the driving position, too. You sit higher than you do in many rivals, particularly the BMW X1, making the XC40 feel like a proper SUV from behind the wheel, rather than just a jacked-up family hatchback. In this class, only the Range Rover Evoque and Genesis GV70 feels as lofty.
A digital instrument panel is standard and proves easy to read at a glance. Our only criticism is that the minimalist design of the dashboard means you have to delve into the infotainment touchscreen to adjust nearly everything, including the interior temperature. This can be rather distracting when you're driving, and physical buttons (like you get in the GV70) would be simpler.
Visibility, parking sensors and cameras
The XC40's elevated seating position gives you a good view of the road ahead, helped further by the relatively slim windscreen pillars. You also get fairly large door mirrors, so you can see clearly what’s drawing up alongside, and bright LED headlights are included to make driving at night easier.
It’s fortunate that all models come with rear parking sensors as standard because over-the-shoulder visibility is compromised by the window line that kicks up towards the back of the car. We recommend going for Plus trim to get the rear-view camera and front parking sensors as well.
Top-spec Ultimate versions have a 360-degree camera system, and all XC40s get an auto-dimming rear-view mirror as standard.
Sat nav and infotainment
Dominating the middle of the XC40's dashboard is the 9.0in tablet-style touchscreen, which works in much the same way as an iPad. While the idea of a screen that lets you swipe, pinch and scroll sounds good in theory, the reality is that you have to take your eyes off the road for longer than is ideal just to complete simple tasks – such as changing the radio station, for example.
Matters aren't helped by the fact that some of the icons are small and the screen doesn’t always react that quickly to prods. A better alternative is Genesis system found in the GV70, which we rate as the best in the class. Its rotary controller is much easier to use on the move than any touchscreen and the operating system is super-quick.
Still, the XC40's screen is crystal clear and there are plenty of features included as standard. You get built-in sat-nav, a DAB radio and Volvo On Call, which requests an emergency response if you're involved in an accident. Wireless phone-charging is standard, as is Apple CarPlay. It is odd, though, that despite Volvo’s operating system being Android based, Android Auto is not available, so tough luck if you own a Samsung or Google phone.
When it comes to interior quality, Volvo now ranks alongside the best in the business, and the XC40 is no exception. Pretty much everything you touch in the XC40 feels ready to stand the test of time and the rigours of daily family use, yet it's also elegant and plush.
The great mix of high-end plastics, leather and metal or wood inlays really gives the XC40 premium panache. It looks and feels so classy inside that the GV70 and Evoque are the only other similarly priced family SUVs that can hold a candle to it.
Strengths High driving position; supportive front seats offer lots of adjustment; interior quality up with the best rivals
Weaknesses Compromised over-the-shoulder visibility; infotainment touchscreen is distracting to use while driving
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
There lots of space to stretch your legs in the Volvo XC40, and loads of head room in the front too – even if you opt for Ultimate trim, with its panoramic glass roof. You won’t be banging elbows with your front passenger, either, because the interior is broad by family SUV standards.
It’s also full of thoughtful details. You get a pop-out rubbish bin between the front seats, and carpeted door pockets that are each big enough to take a laptop or two large bottles of water.
The XC40 is roomy enough in the back for taller adults to sit comfortably without their heads brushing the ceiling or their knees bashing the seat in front. It’s a bit behind the BMW X1 for leg room, but only a carload of giants will have any cause for complaint.
Thanks to its relatively wide rear bench, three adults can sit side by side fairly easily, with plenty of space under the front seats for their feet. The middle passenger’s legs will need to straddle a fairly big hump in the floor, though. As for storage space, you get big door bins and a couple of cupholders in the rear centre armrest.
Seat folding and flexibility
Split-folding rear seats are standard. However, the seatbacks are split 60/40, rather than the more versatile 40/20/40 arrangement that you get in the BMW X1, the Range Rover Evoque and the VW Tiguan.
It's also pity that – unlike in the X1 and the Tiguan – the rear seats don't recline for extra comfort or slide back and forth to increase luggage space.
The XC40’s boot has an official capacity of 452 litres – slightly less than non-PHEV versions of the X1 and Tiguan. However, the load bay's commendably square proportions make packing super-easy and, if you don't opt for a spare wheel, you get a big underfloor storage area that makes up for any shortcomings above deck.
You can squeeze seven carry-on suitcases below the XC40's parcel shelf (the same number as we fitted in the Tiguan), while the Genesis GV70 swallows seven.
There’s no lip to negotiate at the boot's entrance and opting for the Plus model adds a hinged panel midway along the floor. This panel clips up vertically and creates a divider to prevent smaller items from sliding around too far.
Strengths Space for tall adults in both the front and the back; thoughtfully designed storage cubbies; square boot is easy to pack
Weaknesses Rear seats don't slide or recline; seatbacks split and fold 60/40 rather than the more useful 40/20/40
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
Costs, insurance groups, MPG and CO2
As premium family SUVs go, the Volvo XC40 is priced attractively and should hold its value well – even compared with the Range Rover Evoque. Slow depreciation also means the XC40's PCP finance deals are usually competitive.
The B3 is the smallest and cheapest to buy, but having to haul the sizeable XC40 around results in it returning fairly mediocre economy. You can find out what a car really does to the gallon with our True MPG Calculator.
The best version if you'll be paying company car tax is the fully electric XC40 Recharge, which we've reviewed separately.
Equipment, options and extras
Entry-level Core trim provides a decent list of goodies, including cruise control, keyless start, dual-zone climate control, LED headlights and rear parking sensors. It also brings 18in alloy wheels, a powered tailgate and a rear centre armrest.
Many buyers will find that enough, but our favourite trim is the even better equipped Plus. It's still reasonably priced while adding heated front and rear seats, a heated steering wheel and ambient interior lighting.
Luxurious Ultimate trim completes the line-up, adding a Harman Kardon sound system, tinted rear windows, a sunroof and 19in wheels, but is rather expensive.
As a brand, Volvo finished 17th out of 32 manufacturers in our 2022 What Car? Reliability Survey. The XC40 itself didn’t perform much better in the family SUV class, finishing in the bottom third.
A three-year/60,000-mile warranty, including roadside assistance, comes as standard, as does a three-year paintwork warranty and 12 years of cover against rust. This is par for the course among premium family SUVs and can be extended at a cost.
Safety and security
The XC40 received the top five-star safety rating from Euro NCAP and earned high scores across the board. That’s in part due to the impressive level of safety kit that comes as standard, including an automatic emergency braking (AEB) system that not only recognises other cars but also cyclists, pedestrians and large animals.
The Evoque received five Euro NCAP stars too, but a more detailed look at the results reveals that the XC40 is a slightly better guardian, with more points for protecting against rear-passenger whiplash, for example.
Every XC40 comes with traffic-sign recognition and Oncoming Lane Mitigation (which intervenes if you cross a road's centre line into the path of oncoming traffic). Blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert are available as part of an option pack that also includes an assisted driving function, which can steer, accelerate and brake for you in certain situations – although your hands must always be on the wheel.
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Strengths Attractively priced for a premium family SUV; strong resale values; performed well in Euro NCAP safety tests
Weaknesses Fuel economy is a bit disappointing; finished in the bottom third of its class in our most recent What Car? Reliability Survey
The XC40 didn’t perform particularly well in our latest 2022 What Car? Reliability Survey – it finished in the bottom third of the family SUV class.
In entry-level Core form, the XC40 gets a 9.0in touchscreen, built-in sat-nav, rear parking sensors and a sophisticated automatic emergency braking system. Plus trim adds keyless entry and drive, heated front and rear seats, a heated steering wheel and ambient interior lighting.
|RRP price range
|£35,895 - £61,855
|Number of trims (see all)
|Number of engines (see all)
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)
|electric, petrol, petrol parallel phev
|MPG range across all versions
|134.5 - 42.7
|Available doors options
|3 years / 60000 miles
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)
|£93 / £3,048
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)
|£186 / £6,097