- Stylish good looks
- Excellent all-round performer
- Decent value for money
- Not a practical as some small SUVs
- Now only available as front-wheel drive
- Infotainment could be easier to use
Volvo's XC40 is one of the best family SUVs you can buy and has really put the Swedish brand into a whole new market. It went on sale in 2018 and has become steadily more popular since, helped by Volvo’s continual development of the range – including a plug-in hybrid and fully-electric version in the shape of the Volvo XC40 Recharge. Read on to find out why it's so good with our Volvo XC40 review.
One of the best small SUVs going, the Volvo XC40 was even named Car of the Year 2019 by our sister website HonestJohn.co.uk, seeing off some tough competition to lift the crown. Such recognition has really helped establish the Volvo XC40 among potential buyers; it’s Volvo’s best-selling car in Europe, and a great alternative to an Audi Q2, BMW X1 or Volkswagen Tiguan, as well as more mainstream models such as the Ford Kuga, Kia Sportage and SEAT Ateca.
Volvo’s youthful interpretation of its sophisticated signature style gives the XC40 plenty of showroom appeal. It's a chunky-looking machine, with a muscular profile that makes it stand out from the competition. We like the carefully-crafted side panels and love how Volvo has made a feature of the front bonnet line in the wings. On the passenger side, there’s even a tiny rubber Swedish flag poking out – a lovely design detail.
Inside, the Volvo XC40 feels spacious, with a more open, less claustrophobic feel than some of its rivals. It’s less cocooning than larger Volvos like the XC60, but more practical as a result, with an accommodating driving position and plenty of headroom. The dashboard still has the upmarket appearance of larger models, though, using the same upright central touchscreen and even the same high-end steering wheel.
The rear seats are spacious and there’s a good, if not class-leading, load bay. What particularly sets the Volvo XC40 apart is the wonderful attention to detail throughout. Which other cars have properly carpeted door bins, with the speakers relocated in order to make them even more capacious and useful?
There's a comprehensive infotainment system included with the XC40 that is based around Google's Android Automotive operating system. Not to be confused with Android Auto, it comes with Google Maps, Google Assistant and Google Play Store, delivering access to a huge number of apps. Apple users also get the benefit of Apple CarPlay as well.
From launch, the Volvo XC40 was available with a range of 1.5-litre and 2.0 turbocharged petrol and diesel engines of varying power outputs. Petrol engines were labelled ‘T’, while diesels were branded ‘D’ and disappeared from the range towards the end of 2021. The latest Volvo XC40s are now only available as mild hybrids and badged as B3 and B4. Which one you choose won't make a big difference to the driving experience, as they both have a similar feel. Numbers designate how fast they are, with the B4 delivering more power than the B3.
Until very recently Volvo also offered two plug-in hybrid XC40s, with the T4 delivering an electric-only range of 28.6 miles and the T5 a little less at 28 miles, though coming with a bit more power. Perhaps a little confusingly both models were also badged 'Recharge', just like the electric-only version of the XC40. No longer available to order from new, you'll still find them on the used market.
Originally, there were both two-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive versions of the Volvo XC40 offered, with the AWD models being best for winter-road use, but the latest cars are front-wheel drive only. That said, 2WD should prove perfectly fine away from the extremes. People buy the Volvo XC40 for its family-friendly usefulness and SUV good looks, not its off-road ability.
Is the Volvo XC40 right for you?
The Volvo XC40 is an on-trend SUV, from an on-trend premium brand, and it sells for prices that are competitive for this sector. Straight away, this means it'll be right for a lot of people, particularly those bored by their current Audi or BMW.
All Volvo XC40s, even the most affordable versions, have an eye-catching appearance that you’ll be chuffed to see on your drive. You don’t have to spend big on the range-toppers to get a stylish, eye-catching model, which is part of the reason the XC40 is proving so popular.
We also rate the car’s practicality, particularly for passengers. MPVs feel rather passé these days, as most people switch to SUVs, but the XC40 shows Volvo hasn’t forgotten families who need a car to work day-to-day.
What’s the best Volvo XC40 model/engine to choose?
All versions of the Volvo XC40 are pretty good. If you’re an undemanding driver, we’d say even the regular B3 will prove fine, while the B4 is a good all-rounder for longer trips and slightly better on fuel. Volvo's realised a stick-shift manual really doesn’t fit in this car so now only offers the XC40 with an auto 'box as standard.
If you're looking at a used Volvo XC40 you're likely to find a fair few diesel-engined examples to choose from. Even the D3 diesel engine has 150PS, while the D4 has 190PS. Only the base D3 model is a manual gearbox. If you can charge it regularly, then one of the plug-in hybrid versions of the XC40 is worth checking out.
What trim should you choose with the Volvo XC40? Until 2022, the XC40 range was made up of Momentum, R-Design and Inscription. The XC40 in entry-level Momentum trim comes surprisingly well equipped, but the trouble is the XC40 in R-Design grade offers a sportier look, with just that bit extra visual appeal outside and in.
If you're buying a new Volvo XC40, the trims to choose from are Core, Plus and Ultimate. The Plus strikes probably the best balance of features and value, but the Ultimate comes dripping with every feature and looks that bit more special.
What other cars are similar to the Volvo XC40?
The Volvo XC40 is a premium-grade SUV without quite the heady price tag of some alternatives. You get more car for your money here than with an Audi Q2 or BMW X1, for example. The Mercedes-Benz GLB is another pricey alternative, though it does offer seven seats.
Because of the Volvo’s great all-round practicality, it also goes up against big-sellers such as the Volkswagen Tiguan and Ford Kuga, both of which provide a stern challenge. Slower-selling alternatives include the Jaguar E-Pace and Lexus NX, while it’s impossible to ignore the draw of the Range Rover Evoque in this sector, too.
The Volvo XC40's interior has a spacious feel, as Volvo has scalloped out the interior door panels for maximum space. But it’s not austere, as set within them, and on the dashboard itself, are some really rich trim inlays. Details such as the metal door handles and chrome-finished air vents (with beautiful twist-toggles to open and close them) are lovely, too.
Volvo offers a range of finishes inside the XC40, from dark and sporty, to bright and contemporary. Special mention must go to the orange carpet option, which actually extends from the floor into the door panels. It’s a bit oddball but very appealing – for those who don’t instantly find it hideous, that is. The fact Volvo is willing to be bold with design details like this shows just how the brand has developed.
Seat comfort is excellent in the the XC40. This is a Volvo trademark and the XC40 doesn’t disappoint. All trim levels get nicely bolstered seats, which have plenty of adjustment and a ‘big car’ feeling of support.
Quality and finish
Features such as the central touchscreen, rich leather steering wheel and beautiful chrome-tipped dashboard elements give the Volvo XC40 a real sense of quality. It has a premium appearance and the clear link to more expensive Volvo models helps reinforce this.
We admire some of the design tricks Volvo has used, too. Instead of a hard plastic centre console surround on the XC40, it has extended the carpet up the sides, so it feels plusher and more luxurious. Fitting carpet on the door panels also adds to the sense of comfort.
Outside, the Volvo XC40 has a solidly-built appearance, with high quality paint and excellent panel assembly. It is the sort of design that simply oozes premium quality, and the finish is impeccable. Be in no doubt, this is a genuine premium-grade car.
Infotainment: Touchscreen, USB, nav and stereo in the Volvo XC40
The centrepiece of the Volvo XC40 dashboard is the 9.0-inch portrait-style infotainment screen. This is exactly the same as you get in pricier Volvos, which really underlines the ‘shrunken premium car’ impression. It uses Google's Android Automotive and it does take a bit of getting used to, as it is reliant on knowledge of smartphone-style swipes, scrolls and pinches. However, once you’ve mastered the basics, we’re pretty sure you’ll love it.
The XC40's screen is packed with features as standard, including Google Maps for navigation with live traffic information, DAB radio and Bluetooth. There's voice activation in the shape of Google Assistant, while there's access to the Google Play Store to download apps, such as Spotify. This is all possible thanks to Wi-Fi hotspot that the car creates thanks to a built-in SIM card, allowing for online connectivity and even stolen vehicle tracking. Volvo provides new car buyers four years free access to these Google Services, after which a subscription fee will be required.
Earlier XC40s didn't feature Apple CarPlay but the latest models do, while there's also Android Auto available as well. That said, you can sign into your Google account in the XC40 if you don't want to use a phone.
We must also mention the stunning optional Harman Kardon sound system. It has 13 speakers, a subwoofer, 600 watts and Dolby Pro Logic TT surround sound. It is absolutely stunning, turning the Volvo XC40 into a concert hall on wheels.
Space and practicality: Volvo XC40 boot space
The Volvo XC40's exterior dimensions see that it is 4425mm long, 1873mm wide and 1658mm tall. What do these figures mean in the real world? Well, they mean that the XC40 is slightly shorter that the BMW X1 (4447mm) and the Lexus UX (4495mm). It's also narrower than both, the Lexus is a portly 1840mm wide, while the X1 has a 1821mm measurement.
Compared to the larger Volvos, the XC40 has a more spacious and open-plan feel behind the wheel. Front-seat passengers in the XC40 sit up high (with 1030mm of headroom) and the footwells are roomy (1040mm legroom) – it has almost an MPV-like feeling of space behind the wheel, but without the more van-like MPV driving position.
Volvo excels in terms of front-seat practicality, too. The door bins are gigantic in the XC40, with cleverly-relocated speakers opening up the full width of the bottom of the door for stowage space. It makes all other cars seem wasteful and lacking in practicality. The wide centre console of the Volvo XC40 is also very accommodating – the forward section is just waiting to swallow sunglasses, keys and smartphones, while there are two cupholders further back and, behind them, a roomy central stowage cubby.
In the rear, the tall cabin again gives plenty of space for passengers. Tall sides mean plenty of headroom (994mm to be precise), and the rear seat feels wide and accommodating. Again, the bench seat is high off the ground, so taller people will find it comfortable, plus there’s a good amount of space beneath the front seats. The XC40 is a great family car – even if the bulky floor means it won’t be quite so welcoming for the middle-seat passenger.
The only grumble may actually be seeing out: the sporty lines of the rear shoulders cut into the rear side windows, which restricts the view out for smaller kids. Taller people won’t mind, but others might find it feels a bit claustrophobic in there – a rare case of style over passenger-friendly substance in the Volvo XC40.
The boot is extremely well-shaped. It is wide (more than a metre between the wheelarches), and the floor is completely flat, meaning you can make full use of its ample 452-litre capacity with the seats up (that’s a good bit more than a Volkswagen Golf). Its sloping tailgate eats into space above the window line, but this doesn't detract from the fact that the load bay is square and boxy and has no load lip to negotiate when you're sliding heavy luggage safely into place.
You can get bigger SUVs, but you’ll struggle to find anything more practical than the Volvo XC40 – particularly if you have the Convenience Pack, which brings in a multi-function boot floor that doubles as a partition to stop things sliding around. With the rear seats folded, the Volvo XC40's boot space extends to 1336 litres and you'll squeeze an adult's mountain bike into the back without having to take any of its wheels off.
For the Core and Plus models, Volvo fits the XC40 with 18-inch wheels as standard, which we think they are large enough, while the top-spec Ultimate comes with 19-inch wheels. That said, we can understand why you’d be tempted by the 20-inch rims on the Ultimate. Just be mindful that the larger the wheels, the firmer the ride. If you really value a smooth ride, the earlier Momentum model came with 17-inch wheels as standard for even more supple progress.
Volvo always builds a bit of safety into how its cars drive – a bit of ‘sneeze factor’, if you like. They’re not as sharp as something like a BMW, and therefore a bit more forgiving. This is demonstrated by the steering on the XC40: the wheel is a little larger than average and, while it’s perfectly accurate, it doesn’t quite have the wrist-flickability of something sportier. The Volvo XC40 is more easygoing and relaxed, and won’t punish you with a thrum of the lane-keep assist if you happen to lean over behind to ask the kids exactly what they’re up to.
The same goes for the handling. It’s precise enough, but not pin-sharp and tiring. It rolls a bit more than something like a BMW X1, but the Volvo XC40 encourages a smooth, flowing style, which is precisely how you should drive a Volvo anyway. This isn’t a hot hatch, after all.
What engines and gearboxes are available in the Volvo XC40?
Volvo's petrol engines in the XC40 are now branded 'B' and not 'T', as they feature 48-volt mild hybrid technology that extends the engine-off period at low revs and come with the eight-speed automatic gearbox. The now entry-level B3 produces 163PS and is a sweet engine, with a nice, throbby nature and ample pulling power. The B4 produces 197PS and is an accomplished all-rounder.
Until recently Volvo offered a two plug-in hybrid versions of the XC40. The XC40 T4 and T5 Recharge plug-in hybrids both feature a 1.5-litre turbo engine and rechargeable onboard battery. The combined system output is 211PS and 262PS respectively, with both versions providing 28 miles of electric-only driving.
If you're looking at buying a used Volvo XC40, there was a 129PS T2 petrol engine available, and while a bit slow against the clock, it does feel better once up to speed.
Diesel is less of a priority for Volvo nowadays and both the D3 and D4 engines are no longer available as a new option. Both are 2.0-litre four-cylinder engines, with the D3 producing 150PS and the D4 making 190PS. It’s actually not a bad engine and you should find plenty of used examples out there for something pretty frugal.
A manual gearbox was available on some earlier models, but not anymore, with all new XC40s coming with an automatic gearbox as standard. We reckon it's a car that suits an auto 'box anyway.
Refinement and noise levels
Refinement is generally very good with the Volvo XC40. It cruises quietly, with wind noise kept well at bay and road noise dampened down. There’s more tyre roar on versions with the largest alloy wheels, but that’s inevitable – as is the busier ride quality around town.
Diesel engines are a bit clattery on start-up, but they’re quieter when warmed through and hushed at speed. The lower-power petrol engines are a bit busier, and you’ll certainly have to work the T2 rather hard, so it can become raucous. Again, though, their turbocharged pulling power means they’re not too gruff at speed. The B3 and B4 engines are very refined – even more so in town thanks to their extended engine-off range.
The T5 Recharge is extremely hushed in EV mode. When the battery is flat, the engine starts up, but if you’re driving on the motorway, you probably won’t even notice it at first. It’s obviously not as silent as the pure electric drive, though, which may encourage you to charge it up more.
The all-electric XC40 Recharge is hushed at all speeds and has a strong turn of speed when you ask for it. It's also enjoyable to drive in the same way as other XC40 versions.
Safety equipment: How safe is the Volvo XC40?
The Volvo XC40 is outstanding for safety, in the typical Volvo way. Euro NCAP awarded it five-stars for crash safety in 2018, with adult occupant protection rated at a near-perfect 97%. Child occupant protection is good, too, at 87%.
Standard safety equipment includes a full set of airbags, including a driver’s knee airbag and full-length curtain airbags, ISOFIX child seat mounting points for the outer two rear seats (it’s optional for the front passenger seat), an airbag cut-off switch and a seatbelt reminder for all five seats. The front seats also have Volvo’s WHIPS whiplash protection system.
Active safety features are comprehensive with the Volvo XC40, including City Safety autonomous emergency braking that detects cyclists and pedestrians as well as other cars. Run-off-road protection helps stop the Volvo XC40 driving over road-edge markings and into danger, and there is a driver alertness monitor that sounds a warning when it detects a drowsy driver.
Volvo also offers the optional IntelliSafe Assist package with the XC40, with adaptive cruise control and pilot assist that helps with steering, plus IntelliSafe Surround that includes a blind-spot and rear collision warnings. It’s a very useful safety aid – and a neat driver convenience feature, too.
If you're looking at a used Volvo XC40, the T2 petrol is rated at up to 40mpg – but as the T3 delivers exactly the same fuel consumption, you may prefer to go for that. The automatic version is around 2mpg less fuel-efficient than the manual.
The B3 front-wheel-drive auto averages 42.2mpg, with the slightly more powerful B4 actually proving to be the more efficient at 42.8mpg.
Because it has an electric range of around 28 miles, the T5 Recharge hybrid officially averages up to 128.4mpg, but this will be unrealistic unless you start every journey with full batteries. The less powerful T4 Recharge meanwhile provides the same electric-only range, but a slightly better official fuel economy of 134.5mpg.
Depending on whether you choose the XC40 Recharge EV with single or dual motors, this will dictate the car's driving range. The single motor model is good for a claimed 294 miles on a full charge, while the dual motor car ups that to an official 331 miles.
How reliable is the Volvo XC40?
We've had very few reports of problems with the Volvo XC40 and it is so far proving extremely reliable. Indeed, it proved the most reliable Volvo model in the range in the latest HonestJohn.co.uk Satisfaction Index, with an impressive reliability score of 9.82.
Insurance groups and costs
Pick the entry-level Core with either the B3 engine and it falls insurance group 24, though find a used XC40 T2 in Start spec and it's only insurance group 18.
Even the B4 should be reasonably affordable in terms of insurance, with groups beginning from 28 in Plus spec. The Recharge Ultimate T5 starts from group 31.
VED car tax: What is the annual road tax on a Volvo XC40?
Only a handful of early Volvo XC40s cost more than £40,000 when new, so most of them have escaped the ‘expensive car’ £390 road tax premium owners pay in years two to six. Newer cars though have increased in price, with many nudging over £40,000, so do your research when buying used if you want to avoid paying the premium as it's transferred to the new owner.
Because VED is now based on stricter, WLTP-tested CO2 emissions, first-year tax rates have gone up if you're buying new. That said, these are bundled into the OTR price of a new car so won't be a concern if you're buying a secondhand Volvo XC40.
The pure EV XC40 Recharge doesn't have to pay any road tax at present, but this is changing in the future.
Upping your budget to around £25,000 brings in a broader choice of trims levels with the Volvo XC40, including the top-spec XC40 Inscription, plus a good selection of T3 and T4 petrol engines. For around £35,000 – roughly the price of an entry-level new XC40 – there is a wide choice of 1-2 year old vehicles with all engines and trim levels represented. Look carefully and you’ll find cars with desirable add-on extras, saving even more money over a new Volvo XC40.
If you want an XC40 Recharge EV, you'll need a pot of at least £30,000 to bag a three-year old with around 30,000 miles under its wheels.
Trim levels and standard equipment
The Volvo XC40 range comprises three core models: Core, Plus and Ultimate. These trims have recently replaced Momentum, R-Design and Inscription trims that were available on new XC40s until about mid-2022 and standard features will vary on these older models. These trims are also mirrored for the XC40 Recharge EV.
The XC40 in Core, Plus and Ultimate trims all feature the latest trims feature LED headlights (including the charismatic LED running light signature), a 12.3-inch TFT active instrument display and 9-inch touchscreen, cruise control, rear parking sensors and built-in navigation. There's now Apple CarPlay, as well as Android Auto. That's not forgetting the XC40's Android Automotive system (this includes Google Maps, Google Play Store and Google Assistant).
As well as this, there's 18-inch alloys, dual-zone climate control, heated front seats, power tailgate and an 8-speaker stereo system.
The XC40 Plus builds on this and gets Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) and Cross Traffic Alert, rear camera, front parking sensors, heated rear seats, keyless entry, hands-free powered tailgate and powered driver seat with memory.
Plump for the XC40 Ultimate and you get larger 19-inch alloys as standard, as well as leather upholstery, powered front passenger seat, Premium Sound by Harman Kardon, tinted rear windows and a panoramic roof.