Volvo XC40 (2024-) Review - Select Car Leasing
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Volvo XC40 (2024-) Review

Introduction

The Volvo XC40 has been a key part of the brand’s revolution. It isn’t really a resurrection, because Volvo was hardly dead before 2015, but the arrival of the XC90, followed by the S90, signalled a changing of the guard for the Swedish firm. Then the XC40 arrived as a compact alternative to the Audi Q3 and BMW X1, and the brand’s stock only rose as customers clamoured for something cool, stylish and practical, yet also luxurious.

It seems demand has never really eased for Volvo’s compact SUV, but the car’s rivals have taken steps to redress the balance. There’s a new BMW X1 on the scene, for example, and Jaguar completely revamped the E-Pace. The point is, the XC40 has had to evolve to remain among the big players, and Volvo has done exactly that. Tech updates and tweaks to the engine range have been big updates of late, but have they been enough to ensure the XC40 remains worthy of a place on customers’ shortlists?

Select's rating score* - 4.6 / 5

At a Glance

The XC40 is now a common sight on UK roads, and that’s no bad thing, because it’s an attractive car. The style is distinctly Scandinavian, and in keeping with the likes of the XC90 and XC60, but somehow it works equally well on a much smaller SUV. Even with the boxy dimensions and upright stance, it’s pretty easy on the eye.


It has a cool and spacious cabin, too, and the latest models are dominated by a touchscreen infotainment system powered by Google technology. That means you get Google Maps instead of conventional satellite navigation, and the whole interface is designed to feel more like a mobile phone screen than a conventional in-car screen. The system works well, and though it’s imperfect, it’s one of the better touchscreen systems on the market.

Under the skin, Volvo is offering a choice of two mild-hybrid engines, plus an all-electric Recharge option that’s set to be renamed the EX40 in the not-too-distant future. So going forward, the only choices will be the B3 and B4 mild-hybrid petrol engines, both of which are 2.0-litre turbocharged engines providing sufficient power and just-about-acceptable economy, although the XC40 is still quite thirsty.

It’s comfortable, though, and while it doesn’t always fare brilliantly on scarred surfaces, it’s great on the motorway. The engines are quiet, the standard automatic gearbox is smooth and the cabin feels well isolated from the outside world. It isn’t sporty in any way, but it’s a relaxing car to drive.


Key Features

One of the biggest reasons for choosing an XC40 is bound to be the design. About 10 years ago, Volvo really turned a corner, releasing such revolutionary cars as the XC90 and S90, both of which really brought the brand into the 21st century in a way previous models had not. The XC40 continues the theme, with its boxy, Scandinavian, minimalist design that manages to feel premium and likeable at the same time. Almost as though the car has been imbued with character without subtracting any of the upmarket appeal.

The interior is fabulously designed, too, with the same distinctly Scandinavian approach applied to the dashboard. Sure, having the carpet run almost to elbow level is a little weird, but isn’t the same true of pickled fish? Overall, Volvo has made the XC40 feel as upmarket as its rivals, but it has done so in its own way. And with the latest model’s move to Google-powered infotainment technology and a highly integrated digital instrument display, the XC40 feels more user-friendly as ever, as well as more stylish.


Performance & Drive

The XC40 comes in a choice of two mild-hybrid petrol forms, although the mild-hybrid systems are barely worthy of the hybrid suffix. There’s an electric version, too, but that will soon be called the 'EX40', to fit in with the EX30 and EX90 electric models.

But let’s stick with the XC40, which comes in two different forms, although they share plenty. Both use 2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engines with mild-hybrid systems that essentially work as glorified stop-start systems, allowing the car to switch off the engine earlier when coasting to a halt. But there is a difference in power outputs, with the B3 being the base option.

That engine offers 163hp, all of which heads to the front wheels via an eight-speed automatic gearbox. The combination is enough for a respectable 8.6-second dash from 0-62mph, but those who want more performance can always go for the B4. That engine is identical in pretty much every way – it even manages very similar economy and emissions – but it produces more power, with 197hp under the bonnet.


Like the B3, the power goes to the front wheels via an eight-speed automatic gearbox – there’s no all-wheel-drive option available – but the B4’s extra power makes the car quite a bit quicker off the mark. A 0-62mph time of 7.6 seconds is pretty brisk, and the top speed of 112mph is ample.

Either way, though, the XC40 is not a sporty thing. The steering is numb, and the height of the car, combined with soft suspension, means it wallows in corners. Even roundabouts require a fair bit of braking before you enter, assuming you don’t want to be slung from side to side.

But slowing down isn’t always easy, because the mild-hybrid system doesn’t necessarily help drivers control speed. Lift your foot off the accelerator and unlike a conventional engine and gearbox, the Volvo system simply dips the clutch to disengage the drivetrain, reducing drag for greater efficiency. But it means you have to ride the brake when going downhill, which isn’t ideal by any stretch.

The advantage is that the XC40 is comfortable. The ride at motorway speeds is pleasant, and it's easy to cover long distances. At lower speeds, the suspension isn’t quite so composed, but given the torrid state of modern British roads, that isn’t entirely surprising.


Running Costs & Emissions

Naturally, the XC40’s running costs will rather depend on which model you choose. Opt for one of the mild-hybrid petrol options, and you get some fairly thirsty 2.0-litre engines that profess to return more than 40mpg, but struggle to hit that figure in the real world. Go for an electric version, though, and you could find yourself paying significantly less to keep the battery topped up.

But for company car drivers, fuel economy is perhaps a less important consideration than Benefit-in-Kind tax. Whereas running an electric EX40 will keep tax bills to an absolute minimum, running a mild-hybrid will likely count those out for most drivers seeking company-funded wheels. Once upon a time, the XC40 was available as a plug-in hybrid, but no longer, and that may impact its desirability.


Interior & Technology

Just as Volvo’s exterior designers turned a corner about a decade ago, so too did the interior designers. The cabin is completely in keeping with the external design, with a clean, minimalist feel that’s unquestionably Scandinavian in its approach.

The whole thing is centred around a portrait-orientated touchscreen, which now comes with an Android-powered infotainment system, making it essentially the Google show. The whole thing is designed to feel like a smartphone, so much so that Volvo has fitted Google Maps in place of its own navigation system. The Google Maps function is great – particularly in electric cars, where it tells you when you need to charge – but the Android influence means the whole screen feels sharper and more responsive. More like a phone, in short.


And the system works with the digital instrument display, which has also been upgraded. Before, the Volvo instrumentation was clear and clean, but not that functional, whereas the modern system is better integrated with mapping technology and looks more modern, even if it isn’t quite as clever as the tech you’ll find in an Audi Q3.

While the tech is solid, there’s no substitute for good old-fashioned engineering, because that’s what really makes a car feel premium. Fortunately, Volvo has plenty of experience on that front, and though the XC40 is the company’s cheapest car, it’s still quite upmarket. Sure, there are a few signs it has been built to a price – the carpet in the door cards looks a bit odd, for example, and some of the plastics feel a little cheap – but everything you regularly touch feels robust and tactile. The dashboard feels well made, the trim looks and feels nice, and the seats – a Volvo speciality – are as comfortable and as supportive as you expect.


Practicality & Boot Space

As you’ve probably gathered by now, the XC40 is a Volvo, and that usually means it’s very practical. However, the figures don’t necessarily back that up. The 452-litre boot looks pretty small against the 591 litres Land Rover claims for the Range Rover Evoque, but that’s because the two spaces have been calculated in different ways. They’re much closer in the real world than they are on paper. Nevertheless, a BMW X1 has more space anyway, with even the most cramped models offering 490 litres of cargo capacity, while a base version offers 540 litres.


That said, the Volvo’s interior space feels much more like it. There’s plenty of room for those in the front, including a seemingly huge amount of headroom, while those in the back will also be comfortable on journeys of any distance. Admittedly, the oddly shaped rear window keeps some of the light out, so it feels more claustrophobic than it is – particularly with dark roof lining and upholstery – but overall space is ample for even quite tall passengers. Certainly, those shorter than about 6ft 4in shouldn’t have any problems at all.


Safety

Volvo’s reputation for safety is legendary, so it’s no surprise to see the XC40 achieved the maximum five stars when it was crash-tested by Euro NCAP. Particularly impressive, however, is the 97% score for adult occupant protection, suggesting the XC40 is one of the safest cars on the road – at least for drivers and adult passengers. That said, it fared well in terms of child occupant protection, too, and safety assistance technology.

Speaking of which, the XC40 has plenty of driver assistance tech to go at. As standard, you get features including autonomous emergency braking to stop or slow the car if the driver doesn’t respond to a hazard, and there’s a reversing camera included across the range to help prevent parking bumps. You get rear-seat Isofix mounting points, too, for carrying kids. But if you go for a top-of-the-range model, you get the works, including blind-spot monitoring to show you when a vehicle is lurking over your shoulders, and a 360-degree parking camera.


Options

The XC40 is available in a choice of trim levels: Core, Plus and Ultimate. Even the basic Core model is fairly well equipped, with two-zone climate control, a digital instrument display and central infotainment system. Rain-sensing windscreen wipers, cruise control and a reversing camera are also thrown in, along with 18-inch alloy wheels and a power-operated tailgate, plus Google Maps.

But stepping up to the Plus model gets you a few extra creature comforts, including ‘keyless’ entry and a hands-free function for the tailgate, as well as a power-adjustable driver’s seat with memory functions. The rear-view camera is upgraded to a 360-degree view of the car and its surroundings, too.


However, the Ultimate is, as the name suggests, perhaps the most desirable. A panoramic roof, clever lights that only dip in the direction of other vehicles and a Harman Kardon sound system are among the highlights, but there’s also extra driver assistance technology and tinted rear windows.

Once you’ve chosen your trim level, you can pick from a selection of options, including a broad range of paint colours, although it isn’t the brightest list. There’s a red and a kind of air force blue, but otherwise it’s a swathe of greys, whites, silvers and blacks. Oh, and there’s a strange khaki choice, too. Aside from that, it’s a matter of choosing smaller features such as mud flaps and cargo-carrying devices, and away you go.


Rival Cars

The XC40 has some tough rivals to contend with, not least the German trifecta from Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz. Audi’s attempt is the Q3, which offers plenty of quality but little excitement, and it doesn’t have the style of the XC40. The same cannot be said of the Mercedes-Benz GLA, which is a really attractive thing with a cool cabin and a pleasant driving experience, although the technology is a bit hit-and-miss.

Of the three, perhaps the best is the BMW X1, which was recently launched with BMW’s latest-generation infotainment system, a choice of great engines and a cool new design. It’s a really difficult car to fault.


But the X1 (above) is far from the only contender out there. Jaguar and Land Rover both have their own takes on the family SUV, in the shape of the E-Pace and Range Rover Evoque models. While the E-Pace has improved greatly since the original car was introduced, the Evoque remains the more popular of the two, thanks to its cool design inside and out.

Elsewhere, there’s the Mazda CX-5, which is great to drive and offers a semi-premium experience, and the Land Rover Discovery Sport, which treads on the Evoque’s toes a little with its comfort, space and off-road capability. Petrol and diesel versions are quite thirsty, though.


Verdict & Next Steps

In many ways, the XC40 remains one of the best on the market, but some customers might find its appeal more limited than before, rather than less limited. Yes, the technology is an upgrade, but the mild-hybrid engines feel as though they miss the mark, and in the absence of diesel power, plug-in hybrid or electric will be the way to go. For those customers, the XC40 can still compete – particularly in electric form – but other brands have caught up, and the XC40 is no longer the obvious choice. That said, it’s still one of the front-runners, and customers bored of the BMWs, Mercedes Benzes and Audis of this world will find plenty to like about the compact Volvo.


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**Score based on Select’s unique meta score analysis, taking into account the UK’s top leading independent car website reviews of the Volvo XC40.

**Correct as of 08/04/2024. Based on 9 months initial payment, 5,000 miles annually, over a 36 month lease. Initial payment equivalent to 9 monthly payments, or £3,286.35 (Plus admin fee) Ts and Cs apply. Credit is subject to status.

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