Driving position and dashboard
The front seats are some of the best you’ll find in any family SUV. There’s a wide range of adjustment for tilt and height, plus four-way electric lumbar adjustment on all versions. Go for Inscription trim or any Pro model and you'll also get a fully electric driver’s seat.
We really like the driving position as well. You sit higher than you do in many of its rivals, particularly the BMW X1, instead of feeling like a slightly jacked-up family hatchback. The XC40 imparts the sensation that you’re in a proper SUV as a result. Add to that the little details, such as the perfectly positioned centre and door armrests for you to rest elbows on, and you start to wonder why all small SUVs don’t feel as impressive. Only the Range Rover Evoque matches it in the class.
Digital instruments are standard and prove easy to read at a glance, and with such a minimalist dashboard there are only a few buttons to familiarise yourself with. Our only criticism there is that the degree of minimalism means you have to delve into the touchscreen to adjust nearly everything, including the temperature. That's more diverting while you're driving than having physical controls to make tweaks. You can at least change the interior temperature using the voice control system as well.
Visibility, parking sensors and cameras
The elevated seating position gives you a good forward view, helped further by the slim windscreen pillars. You also get fairly large door mirrors, so you can clearly see what’s drawing up alongside. Standard LED headlights also make easy work of night driving.
It’s fortunate that all XC40 models get rear parking sensors as standard, because over-the-shoulder visibility isn't so good. It's compromised by a window line that kicks up towards the back of the car. We recommend going for the relatively inexpensive optional reversing camera to help out.
Sat nav and infotainment
The dashboard in the Volvo XC40 is dominated by a 9in tablet-style touchscreen that, in essence, feels a little like an iPad to operate. But, while the idea of a screen that lets you swipe, pinch and scroll sounds good in theory, in reality it means you have to take your eyes off the road for otherwise simple tasks – changing the radio station, for example.
Things aren't helped by the fact that some of the icons are small and the screen doesn’t always react that quickly to commands. We rate BMW's iDrive as the best system in the class, because its rotary controller is much easier to operate on the move.
Still, at least the XC40's screen is crystal clear and there are plenty of features included as standard. For instance, you get standard satellite-navigation, a DAB radio and Volvo On Call, which features an automatic emergency response if you're involved in an accident. Volvo On Call also means you can use an app to send navigation destinations to the car, start the car and open or lock it all from your smartphone. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring is available as an option.
When it comes to interior quality, Volvo now ranks alongside the best in the business. The XC40 is no exception. Pretty much anything you touch in the XC40 feels ready to stand the test of time and the rigours of family use, but it also looks elegantly plush.
There's a great mix of high-end plastics, metal inlays and leather to really give it premium panache. It looks and feels so classy inside that the Range Rover Evoque, and BMW's X1 and X2, are the only other family SUVs that can hold a candle to it.