Volvo’s Evoque competitor delivers big car luxury
Up until comparatively recently, BMW, Mercedes and Audi had pretty much dominated the compact premium SUV market.
Then Range Rover launched the Evoque and showed that an appealing option could break the German stranglehold. In 2018, three more contestants will be entering the ring hoping for the same sort of result. We’ve already had early drives in the DS 7 Crossback and Jaguar E-Pace, and now we’re trying the Volvo XC40.
Volvo has good form in challenging the Germans with handsome alternative SUVs, and right from the off the XC40 strikes a positive chord with a design that’s impactful, strong and – unlike the ‘Russian doll’ Audi Q3 – individual.
Volvo XC40 D4 AWD First Edition
Engine: 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, turbocharged diesel
Torque: 295lb ft
Gearbox: Eight-speed automatic
Kerb weight: 1735kg
Top speed: 130mph
Fuel economy: 55.4mpg
Once the XC40 range is filled out, you’ll be able to choose between three turbocharged petrol and two diesel engines, two or four driven wheels, and six trim levels. For now though, the first UK XC40s will be top-spec First Edition models with either a 247bhp 2.0-litre T5 AWD petrol or the 187bhp 2.0-litre D4 AWD diesel that powered our UK test vehicle.
The paper specification of the engine puts it on a par with an equivalent BMW X1 on 0-62mph times, but slightly down on the BMW in the areas of claimed fuel economy, CO2 emissions and kerb weight.
Inside, the XC40 successfully replicates the well fabricated, rich, solid feel that we’ve already praised in the XC90 and XC60 SUVs. Only the odd bit of cheaper-feeling switchgear on the steering wheel and for the electric windows doesn’t quite match the bigger cars’ standard, but the overall ambience is still very pleasing.
The equipment list is appropriately comprehensive too. On top of the 9.0in portrait-oriented touchscreen infotainment system, 12in configurable digital instruments, 18in alloy wheels and LED headlights that entry-level cars get as standard, the First Edition cars add Volvo’s semi-autonomous Pilot Assist lane-keeping system, a powered tailgate, a 13-speaker audio system and a bagful of other desirable add-ons.
In terms of space, it’s very good at either end – front passengers and boot – but taller back seat passengers lose out a little on knee-room back and on support from the abbreviated and quite flat seat cushions. It has to be said however that Volvo is far from being the only sinner here.
The XC40’s dynamic attributes are all pure Volvo: suppleness, ride comfort and driving ease are all present and correct. Cruising with the 2.0-litre diesel is extremely quiet. The only blot on the refinement landscape of our 20in-wheeled XC was a fairly unintrusive amount of road roar.
Grip and body control are both as you’d expect from an upper-scale 2018-model SUV, and the Volvo’s handling is just as accommodating bar the occasional sensation of under-damping in the suspension. This can upset the body when traversing bigger lumps, but it’s not an ever-present problem.
If you’re interested in the idea of a modern luxury car that also happens to be compact, premium-branded SUV, the XC40 will answer your needs. It brilliantly fulfils the role of the laid-back, coolly-designed and insulating modern Volvo, especially on motorway trips. Its friendly demeanour seems unburdened by brand-driven class issues, a refreshing change in this market and one that should chime nicely with buyers.
There are more engaging drives in this sector, but that may not be important to you. If you like the overall Volvo proposition, you’re going to like the XC40. Few other premium compact SUVs wear the cash premium quite as easily.