Volvo XC40 Hybrid Review
The Volvo XC40 plug-in hybrid has all the good bits from the standard XC40 – smart looks, comfortable drive – alongside super-low running costs. But it’s expensive to buy and you’ll need somewhere to charge it up regularly to get the best economy.
What's not so good
Volvo XC40 Hybrid: what would you like to read next?
The Volvo XC40 is quite a looker, and the plug-in hybrid models have the eco-conscience to back up the looks.
The tough, chunky styling blends typically Scandinavian minimalism with eye-catching cues, like a four-wheeled version of Sweden’s Ice Hotel.
The XC40 Plug-in Hybrid also blends typical Volvo virtues like comfort and space with the high driving position and in-town manoeuvrability of a small SUV.
The XC40’s interior still delivers on the minimalist cool you’ve come to expect from modern Volvos, but in this case, there’s a more contemporary tone. Examples of this include the door trims, armrest and handles, which are made out of a single piece of plastic and have colour-coded felt-lined inlays. This design not only adds a dash of vibrancy to the cabin but also frees up space for larger-capacity door bins.
Cleverly thought-out storage solutions are a bit of a theme in the XC40 – the central armrest features a removable section that can work as a small waste paper bin, while the large, well-shaped boot offers a pop-up divider to help hold shopping bags in place. Both front-seat and rear-seat occupants will have plenty of space, too, and as a driver, you’ll find it easy to find an ideal driving position whether you’re small or tall.
XC40 looks cool and is certainly easy to drive, but enjoyment is definitely off the menu.
There are some imperfections, though. Poke around a bit and you’ll notice some trim pieces feel of poorer quality than you might find in an Audi Q3. And, while the portrait-style infotainment system may look smart, being a touchscreen, it isn’t as easy to use when you’re driving as the rotary controller you get in a BMW X1.
Speaking of which the BMW is the slightly more fun car to drive. Yet that doesn’t mean the Volvo XC40 leans like a listing ship in the bends – it handles as well as you need an SUV to handle. And it gets the basics spot on. It’s comfy over bumps, effortless in town, and relaxing on the motorway.
Volvo XC40 range and charging
There are two options, called the T4 and T5. Both have three-cylinder 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engines linked to electric motors; in the T4 the combination produces 211hp, and in the T5 it generates 262hp. Both powertrains produce CO2 emissions figures as low as 47g/km while economy is as high as 134.5mpg. Both can cover a maximum of 28 miles on electric power alone, which makes them great for short to medium-length commutes. However, you must keep in mind that you’ll get nowhere near the official efficiency figures unless you plug the car in pretty much every time you stop and get out of it.
If you use a three-pin plug, a charge to 80% is likely to take around 2.9 hours, while a charge to 100% takes 3.6 hours. However, a 7kW wallbox reduces these times to 1.2 and 1.5 hours respectively.
Company car drivers should have these Recharge plug-in hybrid models high up on their lists, because they have low BIK (benefit in kind) company car tax rates.
There are some upgrades worth considering. The Volvo XC40 is one of the safest new cars on the road as standard, but it is available with extra kit such as blind-spot monitoring. You can also get an advanced cruise control system which will keep you a safe distance from the car in front, will steer to keep you in lane and even work in stop-start motorway traffic.
Of course, all this adds to the price, but the XC40 is still quite competitive for a posh small SUV – but check out our Volvo XC40 deals to see how much you can save on one. Or click the links below to get offers on our recommended XC40 model.
There’s space for five adults and they’ll be able to bring along lots of their stuff, too. But others are roomier still.
One of the first things you notice when you climb aboard the lofty Volvo XC40 is that it feels like a proper SUV, so you can easily see over hedges and peer over lines of traffic from the comfort of the supportive seats – things the Audi Q2 isn’t quite so good at.
The XC40 feels like a big car then, but you should be able to get comfortable behind the wheel even if you’re small, because the driver’s seat adjusts for height and the steering wheel adjusts up and down, as well as in and out. Another bonus is that both front seats get lumbar adjustment as standard, so you can ease achy backs by beefing up lower back support on long journeys.
Moving up the range buys you extra comfort – Momentum Pro and R-Design Pro models add heated front seats and a driver’s seat that adjusts electrically (and has a memory function to return the seat to your position after someone else has driven the car). Inscription Pro models, meanwhile, add an electrically adjustable passenger seat.
Thankfully, decent rear passenger space comes as standard. The Volvo XC40’s back seats have room for two six-footers – even if two more six-footers are sitting in the front – and you can have them heated for not much extra.
Isofix child-seat mounting points come as standard, though, and the Volvo’s raised body means you don’t have to bend your back when you’re fitting the chair through the car’s reasonably sized back doors.
You’ll be happy to hear that Volvo has been almost fanatical about providing a number of smaller interior storage spaces.
For example, the Volvo XC40’s front door pockets will swallow the usual bottles of water (several two-litre bottles, actually), but are also big enough for a laptop. To make that possible, large bassy speakers in the doors have been replaced with high-frequency tweeters – the bulk of the sound coming from speakers in the dashboard.
On top of that, the space under the front centre armrest is big enough for a small handbag or, if you want that full-blown minicab feel, a large box of tissues. There’re also a couple of cupholders between the two front seats, a card holder next to the steering wheel and a tray for your phone. Wireless charging is a cheap option across the range.
All Volvo XC40 PHEVs have a 452-litre boot that’s larger than that of the Audi Q2, but slightly it’s smaller than both the BMW X1 and Mercedes GLA.
You’re unlikely to miss those extra litres though, because the XC40’s boot is well designed with a large opening, a square load bay that won’t snag awkward luggage and no boot lip, so heavy objects can be slid into place. A boot that opens and closes hands-free is a relatively cheap option.
With the rear seats down that could amount to rather a lot of shopping – or 1,328 litres worth, to be exact. It means the XC40 can carry a bike with both its wheels attached or carry enough flat-pack furniture to fill a small living room.
The XC40 PHEV has the potential to cost very little to run, which is good because it isn’t much fun.
If you have good access to charging at home or work and you plan to run an XC40 as a company car, you should seriously consider the T4 or T5 Recharge plug-in hybrids. They’ll travel around 28 miles on purely electricity when fully charged, but also have a 1.5-litre three-cylinder engine to call upon when that runs out. The T4 Recharge has 211hp and the T5 Recharge 262hp, making it the most powerful XC40 you can buy.
All this power is put down through a seven-speed twin-clutch automatic gearbox, which is pretty quick and smooth to change.
The Volvo XC40 is designed to be very comfortable so has none of the sporty aspirations of models such as the Audi Q2 or BMW X2.
That said, it doesn’t wobble like a blancmange in corners and the benefit of the softer setup is that the suspension absorbs bumps so well you could mistake it for an expensive air-sprung system rather than conventional springs.
Adding adaptive dampers gives you control of how stiff you’d like the suspension, how reactive you’d like the Volvo XC40’s throttle and gearbox and the weight of its steering, but in truth, in such a relaxed SUV it hardly seems worth adding.
Out on the motorway, Volvo’s optional Pilot Assist provides comfort of a different kind, relieving you of the monotonous concentration required for long motorway journeys.
Using a mixture of cameras and sensors, it accelerates, brakes and steers the car for you; all you need to do is set a speed and keep your hands on the steering wheel. It’ll even steer the car through long, sweeping corners without any assistance. Buy Pilot Assist and you also get a blind-spot warning system and rear collision mitigation that’ll help protect your passengers if someone runs into the back of you.
In town, the Volvo XC40’s standard automatic emergency braking can save you from low-speed front-end shunts and the raised driving position gives you a better view out the front of the car than you get in the lower Audi Q2. The only downside comes in the form of two large pillars at the back of the car that obscure your over-the-shoulder visibility.
They’re only a problem when you’re pulling out on the motorway though, because all Volvo XC40s come with reversing sensors that make parking a doddle.
If you really hate squeezing into tight spaces however, it’s worth paying for the – pricey – Xenium Pack that adds a 360-degree camera (it gives you a bird’s eye view of the car’s surroundings) and park assist that’ll reverse park the car for you. The pack also includes a panoramic glass sunroof.
The Volvo XC40 interior is cool and high-tech, but look closer and there are a few slightly iffy plastics on show.