Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
Our pick of the engines for the Volvo XC40 is the 1.5-litre T3 petrol. This has a respectable 161bhp and, when combined with the recommendable optional automatic gearbox, delivers 0-62mph in 9.6sec, which should be plenty of poke for most buyers' desires.
The B4 (194bhp) and B5 (247bhp) are 2.0-litre petrols and adopt mild hybrid tech that aids performance and efficiency. If you are looking for a bit more go than you get with the T3, the front-wheel-drive B4 feels more than quick enough, hitting 0-62mph in 8.4sec with a broad spread of shove available from about 2000rpm. The B5 is quickest of all – bar the fully electric Recharge P8. It hits 62mph from rest in just 6.4sec and comes with four-wheel drive as standard.
We're still waiting to drive the Recharge T4 plug-in hybrid (PHEV), but the Recharge T5 is quick; when we tested one, it hit 0-60mph in a very respectable 7.1sec. On the other side of the performance equation, it managed only 21 miles of pure electric driving on test (its quoted range is 28 miles), whereas the cheaper Ford Kuga PHEV kept going for 31 miles on the day. When running solely on electric power, the Recharge T5 is a lot less sprightly can still progress calmly up to motorway speeds and is totally fine for any duties around town.
Suspension and ride comfort
The regular petrol versions of the XC40 are more comfortable than any of their chief rivals, including the firm-riding BMW X1 and the unsettled Jaguar E-Pace. The XC40 betters even some relatively comfortable alternatives, such as the Range Rover Evoque and Volkswagen Tiguan.
What’s so good about it? Well, on faster roads, all but the plug-in hybrid versions of the XC40 breeze over ripples and expansion joints and also manage to take the sting out of razor-edged potholes around town – even on the whopping 20in alloy wheels that come as standard with the more expensive trim levels.
Curiously, the XC40 rides most adeptly on 'sports' suspension, which is fitted as standard to R-Design versions (our recommended trim). The softer 'dynamic' suspension on other trims is comfy too, but doesn't keep the car's body as well controlled over speed humps and crests. Unfortunately, the plug-in hybrid Recharge models are far less forgiving along pockmarked roads due to the extra stress placed on the suspension by their heavy battery.
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 is quite accurate but not particularly feelsome.
R-Design models are slightly more composed than the other versions, thanks to that sports suspension we mentioned above, although the difference isn't huge. The plug-in hybrid versions feel the most wallowy through bends, but since no XC40 is exactly a riot on a country road, you don't feel like you’re missing out.
In short, the XC40 is easy to drive but some rivals feel more fun. If that's a deal-breaker for you, consider the BMW X2 or Seat Ateca, or the Ford Kuga if you want a plug-in SUV with a bit of cornering verve.
Noise and vibration
Our favourite engine, the T3, is relatively hushed at low revs, apart from a few whooshes and whistles from the turbocharger. It starts to sound quite thrummy when you rev it harder, but you don't feel much vibration through the controls. The B5 also emits the odd turbo whoosh, but both the B4 and B5 engines are smoother and quieter than the T3 when you rev them out.
The plug-in hybrid Recharge T5 is relatively quiet in pure electric mode, although you hear more whine from the electric motor than you do in some rivals, such as the Ford Kuga PHEV. You can tell when the petrol engine fires up but it's never uncouth.
Whichever engine you choose, you will hear some mild wind buffeting around the windscreen at motorway speeds. There's also quite a lot of road noise, particularly when big 20in alloy wheels are fitted – the Evoque is notably more subdued in this respect. Still, the XC40 is nowhere near as raucous as the X1 along a typical stretch of motorway. The Recharge T5's brakes are quite snatchy, but the rest of the models' brakes are nice and progressive.
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