Volvo XC40 T3 review

The Volvo XC40 is a new model for the company, and it's a crucial one. The compact premium SUV market is big business, and having a challenger in the mix can make a real difference to a manufacturer's levels of success. We test the XC40 in T3 R-Design trim to see how Volvo fares.

Review by Chris Lilly


Volvo's T3 unit in the XC40 is a new one, and the first time for years that the firm hasn't fitted a 2.0 litre engine beneath the bonnet. Joining core the 2.0 litre diesel and petrol blocks is this 1.5 litre three cylinder option, designed to be equally as flexible as the larger engines. In this state of tune, there is 156hp powering the compact XC40, enough for a 0-62mph time of 9.4 seconds and a top speed of 124mph. It's not the fastest model in the range - by some distance - with the T3 the entry point to the XC40 line-up in terms of petrol units. It's joined at the bottom of the ladder by the D3 for diesel. This test model is also relatively unusual since it's a manual, a transmission type that has started making its way back on to the Volvo range, after dominance from the eight-speed automatic transmission. This six-speed manual offers a crisp change, with a reasonably short throw, and allows the driver to get stuck in to the act of driving more than in many rival offerings. The pairing of entry level engine and manual gearbox is an interesting one, and not likely to prove too popular, but its a well matched combination. The driver is able to access the power quickly and easily, and the XC40 feels quicker than the times suggest. It's a willing engine, and revs eagerly when pushed, or settles down to a refined cruise in more relaxed conditions. The unit is well suited to town work, and although an automatic would be more relaxing, I get the impression that the manual allows greater access to the XC40's talents in town - I haven't tested an auto XC40 yet though. On faster roads, the XC40 responds well to being worked hard, and on the motorway, it's fairly relaxed considering this is the least powerful option in the range.


Volvo's speciality at the moment in terms of handling prowess is setting up cars that are decent to drive while remaining comfortable. The XC40 continues this trend and, thanks to less weight than its larger stablemates, it has better body control in the corners compared to the XC60 and XC90. I reckon its a fine blend between comfort and dynamism, with other options from the likes of Jaguar proving more engaging to drive, but unable to match the Volvo in town, on fast roads, or along a flowing B-road in terms of comfort. This capability in day-to-day life is a really appealing prospect for ownership, and although the XC40 doesn't feature the most exciting or headline-making set-up, it's potentially a far more attractive proposition for buyers. This, combined with the relatively tall ride height and compact footprint, means that the XC40 is a very agile car to manoeuvre around town, but with suspension supple enough to soak up the worst that the UK's city streets have to throw at drivers.


Although definitely a Volvo, the XC40 also looks distinctive enough in its own right to differentiate it from the rest of Volvo’s XC range. Some common themes are strung throughout the three SUVs, as you would expect, but there is no hint of ‘Russian Doll-styling’ - an accusation that can be pointed at some rivals. It’s a relatively boxy shape, but worked upon to ensure there are enough curves and creases to disguise the bulk on what is still a fairly large car. It makes for a stylish model, and one that stands out in its class. The floating roof-line helps with the styling, where many rivals have gone down a ‘coupe-like’ route, and compromised practicality, Volvo has kept the XC40 relatively squared-off, improving interior space. Boot space is one of the best in its class, and it’s a really useful load area, with a flat floor and no inconvenient protrusions into it. Rear occupant space remains good, with plenty of head, leg, and shoulder space for two adults in the back. Those up front are well catered for too, with more than enough space to keep people happy.


Volvo XC40 T3 interior

If the XC40's exterior is a variation on a theme, the interior is more of an identikit offering - or at least the dashboard is. This is no bad thing, since Volvo's interiors are some of the best around, and there is definitely evidence that Volvo has aimed the XC40 at a more youthful crowd. Lots of little Swedish/Volvo touches remain, but brighter colours have been added, and the storage bins around the cabin are both plentiful and spacious - even for items such as laptops. There's a clever folding floor in the boot too, which can act as a divider between sections, or be used to hang bags and the like from spurs. The central portrait touchscreen removes the need for most physical buttons, though a few remain for the audio controls. The Sensus system will be familiar to drivers of Volvo's from the current XC90 and those launched since, and it is a logical, well thought out one. Physical buttons are always easier to use when on the move, but the Volvo touchscreen system is one of the better ones in my opinion. The remaining controls are easily found and feel of decent quality for a car in this class. The feeling of quality for materials suffers a little from the success of the XC40's bigger stablemates, as in comparison to the likes of the similarly-styled XC90 for example, they come up short. It must be remembered that an XC90 is not a rival for the XC40, rather compact SUVs from the likes of BMW, Audi, Mercedes, and Jaguar are, and here the material quality stands up to scrutiny much better.


Official figures for the XC40's economy stats are 45.6 MPG and 144 g/km CO2. It's a reasonable set of stats, but the economy from the petrol unit can't compete with the headline figures from diesel options. Those that really rack up the miles will be better off with a D3 for example, which has stats that improve on the T3's by more than 10 MPG. However, as buyers turn away from diesel and clean air zones and the like look set to come in, the petrol will likely prove popular. In real world conditions, the XC40 T3 returned 38.9 MPG under my watch, worked out after 700 miles in the seat and over a variety of roads. To tax, the Volvo will cost £205 for the first year (included in the OTR) and then £140 thereafter. Company car tax will see the XC40 T3 rated at 29% this financial year, and then 32% next year.


With the petrol engine in place up front rather than a diesel, the CO2 emissions of the T3 are not comparable to the D3's 127 g/km. Instead, the 144 g/km is better in terms of other tailpipe emissions, and better to drive around town - though PHEV and pure-electric versions of the XC40 are on their way in future. The XC40 is the first to be built on Volvo's CMA - Compact Modular Architecture - platform, which has been designed, like the engine line-up, to allow for electrification from the off. It's also lightweight though stiff, reducing the amount of work engines have to do. Automatic stop/start is fitted, and Volvo offers a drive mode select, which allows the driver to select Eco for reduced throttle response and improved efficiency on gear changes. According to our calculations, the model tested has a Next Green Car Rating of 37.


The now familiar Volvo trim range is continued to the XC40, with Momentum topped by the more luxurious Inscription or the sportier R-Design. Each is supported by a 'Pro' version for a little extra kit as standard too. Standard equipment on the XC40 includes 18-inch alloys, 12-inch driver display, LED headlights, leather steering wheel and gear stick, dynamic chassis, drive mode settings, electric parking brake, cruise control, two-zone climate control, a superb suite of safety systems, and 9-inch Sensus touchscreen system with sat-nav, DAB, Bluetooth, and USB connectivity. R-Resign tested adds leather trim, sportier styling, LED foglights, leather key remote, and sports chassis.


Volvo is on a roll with its models at the moment, and the XC40 continues its success in creating a versatile, stylish, and practical machine designed for everyday life. The XC40 stands out in a crowded market in terms of design, and competed with the best in a number of areas. It's not the sportiest or most efficient in T3 specification, but it's a good all-rounder.

Volvo XC40 T3 rear

Model tested: XC40 T3 R-Design Pro Manual
Body-style: Compact premium SUV
Engine / CO2: 1.5 litre petrol / 144 g/km
Trim grades: Momentum, Momentum Pro, Inscription, Inscription Pro, R-Design, R-Design Pro

On-road price: From £28,965. Price as tested: £30,815
Warranty: Three years / 60,000 miles
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 4.0 Stars

Click here for more info about this model range

Chris Lilly

Author:Chris Lilly
Date Updated:19th Sep 2018

Related reviews