Volvo XC40 Recharge PHEV road test review: An electric car to help your conscience, but without the range anxiety.
IT has not been on our roads for a full four years yet – but the Volvo XC40 has certainly made its mark in one of the most fiercely competitive sectors of the car market in that relatively brief time.
Quickly becoming the Swedish brand’s biggest selling model in the UK, it has also become the nation’s most popular premium SUV, writes Lee Gibson.
A plethora of industry awards picked up along the way have reinforced this success, including recently being crowned What Car magazine’s Family SUV of the Year for a third time.
The XC40 is now also at the forefront of Volvo’s move towards emission-free motoring with the launch this year of the Recharge Pure Electric P8 version – the company’s first ever all-electric vehicle.
For those who are still fearful of range anxiety, however, the Recharge Plug-in hybrid represents an impressive compromise – combining a 1.5-litre, three-cylinder petrol engine with an 82hp electric motor.
Mated to a slick seven-speed automatic transmission this will propel the XC40 from 0-62mph in a brisk 7.3 seconds and on to a top speed of 112mph, so there is no shortage of pace on offer for most eventualities.
There is a little hesitancy when asking for sharp acceleration but otherwise progress is smooth and the car feels punchy and responsive in urban traffic and cruises smoothly and effortlessly at motorway speeds.
The hybrid powertrain also means that the XC40 can post official fuel economy figures of up to 134.5 miles per gallon and carbon emissions as low as 47g/km – which will offer welcome tax breaks for private and business owners alike as well as potentially low running costs.
In real-world conditions an all-electric driving range of up to 27.3 miles (depending upon battery charge, vehicle load and driving conditions) does mean that if you have regular access to charging facilities at home or at work you could potentially manage much of your local driving – daily commute, school run, weekly shop, etc. – without too much recourse to fossil fuels.
For longer motorway hauls, though, the reassurance of having the conventional engine to fall back on means you’re not constantly casting anxious glances towards the charge meter or having to plan your journey via the charge points en route – as you would if you opted for the fully electric version.
The driving experience is relaxed and uncomplicated, with the XC40 certainly set up for comfort rather than dynamism. That said, it handles well for a fairly sizeable, high-riding SUV. There is some lean in faster bends, but it never feels excessive and there’s grip enough to inspire confidence – even in front-wheel drive variants such as our test car.
There is plenty of room for four adults, and five should be OK on shorter journeys, while the boot, at 452 litres, will cope with most daily needs and features a low load-lip and commendably square cargo area.
As well as being comfortable, passengers also travel in some style in the XC40 – particularly with the high-grade Inscription spec of our test car. Volvo is now firmly established as a premium brand and interior quality is a match for anything the German brands which dominate the sector can offer.
While some of the available colour schemes may be an acquired taste there is no denying that the plush, soft-touch surfaces, wood inlays and leather-faced upholstery throughout the cabin give the XC40 a very upmarket feel, which is enhanced further by the impressive amount of high-tech gadgetry and creature comforts included.
Volvo’s now familiar portrait-oriented, tablet-style touchscreen dominates the dashboard, offering access to the infotainment, navigation, air conditioning and various vehicle settings, while other equipment on Inscription spec cars includes Apple and Android smartphone connectivity, automatic LED headlights with active high beam, digital driver’s display, automatic emergency braking, lane keep assist, rear-view camera, powered tailgate and power adjustable driver’s seat with memory function.
The XC40 is an easy-to-live-with family SUV in a stylish and luxurious package which, in plug-in hybrid form, should certainly be on your radar if you are looking to reduce your carbon footprint but not quite brave enough to go all-electric just yet.
Volvo XC40 Recharge Plug-in hybrid T5 FWD Inscription
Mechanical: 180ps, 1,477cc petrol-electric hybrid system driving front wheels via 7-speed automatic transmission
Max speed: 112mph
0-62mph: 7.3 seconds
Miles per gallon: 134.5
Insurance group: 32
CO2 emissions: 47g/km
Bik rating: 13%
Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles