Volvo XC40 estate performance
The cheapest engine is a 154bhp 1.5-litre petrol (badged T3), and it's available exclusively with a manual gearbox and front-wheel drive. It's aimed at those doing relatively low miles who drive mostly around town – and that's a good thing, because it's certainly no ball of fire.
There’s a pregnant pause before the boost from the turbocharger kicks in and, even then, it’s not as healthy a slug of power as you might like. You’ve got to wring out the engine to get motorway-merging performance, and this simply doesn’t suit the XC40’s breezy, laid-back attitude. The next-rung T4 is an improvement, with more low-down flexibility and more outright performance, but you still have to work it pretty hard to make it feel as fast as the numbers suggest.
A better fit is the 148bhp 2.0-litre D3 diesel. Available with an automatic or manual gearbox and front or four-wheel drive, it's more flexible at low engine speeds than the T3. That means that although it doesn't feel any faster, you don't have to wring its neck quite so hard to make progress.
The T5 petrol and D4 diesel engines – which get four-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic gearbox as standard – are much more muscular. Both can whisk you up to speed swiftly; in fact, even the 2.0 D4 accelerates more quickly than a Volkswagen Tiguan 2.0 TDI 190. The T5 (also a 2.0-litre) feels even livelier when you rev it hard and is faster. However, the diesel offers stronger, more flexible performance at low revs. In the real world, that makes it more relaxing to drive and more recommendable.
The automatic gearbox can feel a little hesitant when you want a quick burst of acceleration, but it's generally smooth thereafter.
Volvo XC40 estate ride
In many regards, the XC40’s ride is a level above its chief rivals' – most notably the firm-riding BMW X1 and the unsettled Jaguar E-Pace, but even relatively comfortable competitors such as the Tiguan.
Why? Well, at speed, the XC40 breezes you brilliantly over ripples and expansion joints, while also plucking the sting out of razor-edged potholes around town – even on whopping 20in alloy wheels that come as standard on some of the more expensive trims.
Curiously, the XC40 rides most comfortably on 'sports' suspension, which is fitted as standard to R-Design versions. The softer 'dynamic' suspension on other trim levels is still comfy, but isn't as well controlled over speed humps and crests. There's a bit of side-to-side movement along uneven roads with both suspension set-ups, but this is the case in the vast majority of SUVs and largely a matter of physics.
The optional adaptive suspension is best avoided, though. It causes the XC40 to pitch and wallow more along most roads and there's even the odd crash and wobble over potholes. The fact that you have to pay extra for this is really rather curious.
Volvo XC40 estate handling
There are certainly tidier-handling SUVs in the class, with the BMW X2 and Seat Ateca springing to mind most readily. But while the XC40’s body does lean a fair bit through corners and its steering isn’t particularly feelsome, drive it in a relaxed manner – as most people will – and it handles perfectly well.
It changes direction capably and has lots of grip. Indeed, the composure that helps the car ride well also allows it to flow down an undulating B-road easily. Just don’t expect to have much fun.
R-Design models are slightly more composed through corners than other trims, thanks to their standard 'sports' suspension, although the difference isn't huge.
Volvo XC40 estate refinement
The entry-level T3 petrol is relatively hushed at low revs, although even gentle use of the accelerator elicits whooshes and whistles from the turbocharger. Rev the engine hard and it starts to sound a bit breathless and wheezy. At least you don't feel much vibration through the controls.
The T4 petrol offers more refined progress but can't beat the top-spec T5. This works away peacefully in the background even when you rev it quite hard and has the smoothest-sounding idle of all the petrol engines. Meanwhile, the D3 and D4 diesels are a tad grumbly at idle but, once past 1500rpm, become a much smoother prospect than equivalent engines in the BMW X1 and Volkswagen Tiguan, fading almost entirely into the background at motorway speeds. You’re also isolated well from vibrations in all of the engines we've tried so far.
Better still, the suspension goes quietly about its business around town and there isn’t much wind noise at higher speeds. There is a noticeable amount of road noise, particularly on models with 20in wheels, but the XC40 is still nowhere near as raucous as the X1 along a typical stretch of motorway.