Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
The cheapest engine is the 161bhp 1.5-litre turbocharged T3 petrol, which is available exclusively with a manual gearbox and front-wheel drive. It's fine for anyone doing relatively low miles primarily around town, but it's certainly no ball of fire out on the open road. The next rung up is the 187bhp 2.0-litre T4 turbo petrol, which is a big improvement thanks to better low-rev flexibility and more zip overall. You still have to work it pretty hard before it feels as fast as the numbers suggest, though.
The 148bhp 2.0-litre D3 diesel is available with an automatic or manual gearbox and front or four-wheel drive. Being a diesel it's more flexible at low engine speeds than the T3, so while it isn't ultimately quicker, it's more relaxing to drive because you're not thrashing it quite so hard to build up speed. And because it strikes the best balance between performance and cost, it's our pick of the lineup.
The 187bhp 2.0-litre D4 diesel is more muscular than the D3 and will out drag a Range Rover Evoque D180, while the 244bhp 2.0-litre T5 petrol is the fastest engine available and feels pretty quick — the official 0-62mph time is just 6.5sec. Both come with four-wheel drive and an automatic gearbox as standard, and will better suit those of you that tow a caravan or simply prefer something with a bit more kick.
Suspension and ride comfort
The XC40 is more comfortable than its chief rivals — most notably the firm-riding BMW X1 and the unsettled Jaguar E-Pace — but also relatively comfortable competitors, such as the VW Tiguan and Range Rover Evoque.
Why? Well, at speed, the XC40 breezes over ripples and expansion joints and also manages 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 trims. It's also more settled at speed on motorways, which is great for you and any snoozing passengers.
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 sway along uneven roads with either suspension set-up, but this is the case with the vast majority of tall SUVs and simply a matter concerning the physics of high-riding vehicles. The optional adaptive suspension is best avoided.
There are certainly tidier-handling SUVs in the class: the BMW X2 and Seat Ateca spring 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, rather like a Range Rover Evoque.
It changes direction capably and has plenty of grip. Indeed, the natural composure that helps the car ride well also allows it to flow down an undulating B-road easily. Just don’t expect to have oodles of fun in the process.
R-Design models are slightly more composed through corners than other trims, thanks to their standard 'sports' suspension, although the difference isn't huge.
Noise and vibration
The entry-level T3 petrol is relatively hushed at low revs, although even gentle use of the accelerator will elicit whooshes and whistles from its 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. That, most powerful petrol works away peacefully in the background, even when you rev it quite hard, and it has the smoothest-sounding idle of any XC40 engine. Meanwhile, the D3 and D4 diesels are a quite grumbly at idle but, once past 1500rpm, become smoother than equivalent engines in the BMW X1 and Volkswagen Tiguan. The Evoque D180 is quieter, though.
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 more road noise than an Evoque, particularly on models with 20in wheels, but the XC40 is still nowhere near as raucous as the X1 along a typical stretch of motorway.
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