Volvo's XC40 is much more than just a smaller version of the brand's larger SUVs. It gets its own 'CMA' platform, a very distinct design to set itself apart and lots of potential for electrification. The result is a slightly unusual alternative to premium-branded compact SUVs like Audi's Q3 and the BMW X1. Here's the most recent lightly updated version, which offers mild hybrid, PHEV and full-EV options.
Volvo took its time in developing a contender for the industry's fastest-growing market segment, that for compact family hatchback-based SUVs. Back in 2017, the XC40 put that right. Since then, it's been usefully updated. Under the skin lies a bespoke 'Compact Modular Architecture' platform that Volvo created with its Chinese owner Geely. It's a chassis that will in future be used by a whole range of new compact Volvo models, but it's hard to believe that many of them will be much more significant than this one. Established premium brand compact SUV contenders like BMW's X1, Mercedes' GLA and Audi's Q3 are all within this XC40's sights. So it'll have to be good.
The XC40's 'CMA' platform has been based around provision for a whole range of future cutting-edge Volvo powerplants. All the combustion units now fuel from the green pump, you can only have front wheel drive and auto transmission is mandatory. The range kicks off with the B3 mild hybrid 163hp variant, which sits alongside a 197hp B4 mild hybrid model. Want combustion-style electrification with your XC40? Well Volvo also offers a front-driven T4 Plug-in Hybrid XC40 Recharge model, which mates the three cylinder 1.5-litre engine with an 82hp electric motor. There's also a T5 Plug-in Hybrid that mates that electric motor with a 180hp version of the same engine. Both go up to 28 miles on a charge. If you need your XC40 to be fully battery-powered, There are two Pure Electric variants on offer. The base rear-driven single-motor model offers 238hp and goes 290 miles between charges of its 69kWh battery. The alternative AWD model offers the twin electric motor set-up (one on each axle) offering a 334 mile range between charges of its larger 82kWh battery. That AWD variant has 408hp on tap (yes, you heard that right), which seems like it'd be rather excessive for the needs of most likely customers, sprinting you to 62mph from rest in just 4.5s with more torque than you'd get in a Nissan GT-R super sports car - 660Nm of it, at which point, the motor's spinning at a heady 14,000rpm.
This XC40 has recently been updated with a smarter front bumper and a frameless front grille. That latter feature is blanked off in the Pure Electric model, which is the main visual difference marking out that full-EV XC40 variant from the combustion-engined versions of this design. In addition, the car's signature Thor's Hammer headlights have been augmented with state-of-the-art pixel LED light technology, enabling them to automatically adapt to traffic in front and efficiently light up the road ahead without dazzling other drivers. Otherwise, the XC40 is much as it was when we first saw it back in 2017. It's an interesting combination this. A Swedish-branded product, financed by a Chinese conglomerate, styled by a British designer and built in a Dutch factory. We'll start with the penman, a young Englishman Ian Kettle who says that the look of this car was inspired by robots he'd seen in sci-fi movies. In styling this contender, his brief was to give the XC40 its own identity, rather than simply making it a down-sized XC60. So while this car shares its bigger stablemate's 'Thor's Hammer' LED headlights and clamshell bonnet, it also gets unique touches like an inverted front grille and coupe-like rear styling. To some extent of course, the XC40 had to be different because it rides on quite different underpinnings, a 'CMA' ('Common Modular Architecture') platform that'll be seen on a whole range of future small models from Volvo and its Chinese parent Geely. Not too much is different with the latest model inside, though if you delve into the workings of the central portrait-style 9-inch screen, you'll find that the infotainment system is powered by Android, which means you get a raft of over-the-air Google features, including Maps and YouTube Music built in. What else might you need to know about the cabin? Well because the XC40's basic architecture was designed to accommodate a full-electric powertrain from the start, there are no compromises with the EV model over combustion versions when it comes to rear seat legroom. Or luggage space. Which is just as well because trunk capacity isn't huge, though the 452-litre capacity figure will probably be quite sufficient for the needs of most owners.
The XC40's quite a lot pricier than it used to be. The combustion models start at just under £36,000 and range up to just under £46,000. The Pure Electric line-up begins at around £48,000 and ranges up to around £62,000. Whatever kind of propulsion you choose for your XC40, there are three levels of trim available - 'Core', 'Plus' and 'Ultimate'. As standard in the combustion range, even entry-level 'Core' variants come with LED headlights with optional active high beam, two-zone climate control with a 'CleanZone' air-filtration system, rear parking sensors, a 12.3-inch TFT instrument binnacle display and 19-inch alloy wheels, plus roof rails and a power-operated tailgate. Plusher 'Plus'-spec gets you keyless entry, LED front fog lamps, a Park Assist system, a flexible load floor and heat for the front seats and steering wheel. Top 'Ultimate' trim gives you 19-inch wheels, Volvo's 'Pilot Assist' with Adaptive Cruise Control set-up and a 12-speaker Harmon Kardon sound system. There's also a powered sunroof, a 360-degree camera system and a headlamp cleaning system. As ever with Volvo, a key focus is safety. An autonomous braking system is standard-fit and this system can specifically detect people and animals. There's also an 'Oncoming Lane Mitigation' set-up that not only stops you from pulling out into the path of an oncoming vehicle but can also steer you away from such an impact. Pilot Assist, Volvo's innovative semi-autonomous drive feature, is an optional extra on every XC40, as is 'Run-off Road Protection and Mitigation'. And Cross Traffic Alert with brake support', which warn you of oncoming vehicles when you're reversing out of a space.
On the the WLTP figures. The B3 and B4 mild hybrid front-driven models both offer combined fuel economy of up to 42mpg on the combined cycle and CO2 emissions up to 152g/km. The Recharge Plug-in hybrids (which can go up to 28 EAER-rated miles on a charge) both manage a faintly unbelievable official combined cycle fuel reading of up to 134.5mpg and a CO2 reading of around 47g/km. The rear-driven single motor Pure Electric model can go up to 290 miles on a single charge. The Dual Motor AWD Pure Electric XC40 manages up to 334 miles. Charging times for the EV variants are competitive. The improved AWD model's larger battery pack allows for charging at an updated top rate of 200kW DC (previously there was 150kW DC maximum), while a 10-80 per cent charge takes approximately 28 minutes. Overnight charging via a home wallbox will occupy around 8 hours. There are of course, lots of taxation advantages in running an EV. With this one, as with its main rivals, you'll be rated at just 2% for BiK Benefit-in-Kind taxation. Maintenance across the XC40 range should be relatively affordable for a car of this kind, with three or five year pre-paid servicing packages are available to help you budget ahead. If you pay extra for the useful 'On Call with App' remote connectivity system, this Volvo can be programmed to autonomously realise when a service is due, then automatically book it for you at a dealership of your choice. Finally, we'll tell you that the warranty is the usual three year, 60,000 mile package.
Volvo clearly felt that to break into the premium brand compact SUV segment, it had to offer something distinctively different to its German rivals, so that's exactly what we've got. Not everyone will like the looks but there's no doubt that they will help the brand to target buyers who would never previously have considered a Volvo. Will these people pass up a premium German-branded alternative to own this car though? Well, the class-leading safety standards may be tempting for some. And the personalisation options a deciding factor for others. Overall, if you're looking for a quality option that's a bit more unique in this segment, Volvo thinks it has a car that'll interest you very much.