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Volvo XC40 engines, driving and performance

How does the Volvo XC40 drive?

You might expect the Volvo XC40 to shirk away from providing driving thrills, but there are definitely some to be had. The petrol engine we tried felt lively and responsive, which helped the car feel more positive than some rivals.

The steering is accurate and mostly well weighted, and it’s not adverse to some quick direction changes. But the XC40 does lean, which scrubs some of the keenness and will soon make your passengers feel a bit seasick. Best to save the B-road blasts for when you’re alone – or get a BMW X1, which feels sporty without the body roll.

We really enjoyed the XC40’s smooth powertrain. Its automatic gearbox does a fantastic job of blending into the background, with almost unnoticeable gearshifts and no feeling that you’ve woken it up when you ask for more acceleration.

The brake pedal feels like you’ve surprised it, though. It doesn’t need a strong press at all to get strong braking power, which can make it hard to come to a smooth stop. You’ll probably take a while to stop jolting your passengers’ heads forward when slowing down.

Is the Volvo XC40 comfortable?

It’s very comfortable. The XC40 is a top motorway cruiser – it feels long-legged and expansion joints are dealt with very well indeed. Comfort is clearly a higher priority than sportiness, which is what we’d hope for from a family SUV. 

Like some of its rivals, the XC40 filters out big jolts really well but lets a bit of patter through over sustained poor road surfaces. You’ll soon get used to it and chances are you won’t even notice it on most journeys.

What’s the best engine to get?

Whatever your driving habits are, there’s an engine to suit in the Volvo XC40 lineup. Buyers with an average annual mileage and who tend to do a mix of motorway and town driving are well catered for by one of the petrol engines. Front-wheel-drive versions are said to manage up to 42mpg, while picking a four-wheel-drive one sees the official figures drop by only 2mpg.

Earlier XC40s were also available with a coupe of diesel engines, which will appeal if you want better fuel economy on long journeys or need a small SUV with lots of grunt for towing – the D4 with four-wheel drive can tow 2.1 tonnes.

Plug-in hybrid XC40s are expensive for new buyers, but should prove appealing to used buyers who can charge at home. The electric motor helps the petrol engine under acceleration, while the fully charged battery enables a 27-mile zero-emission range – perfect for commuting to the next town without using a drop of fuel.

The fully electric XC40 – now called the EX40 – launched with a twin-motor powertrain shared with the Polestar 2. Its 408hp is pretty brawny for a small family SUV, and actually feels a bit much. The 228hp single-motor versions still feel more than punchy enough for most situations.

Volvo XC40 performance

It helps that the XC40 serves up a lot of its power quite early on, so it feels pretty quick off the line. Even the entry-level B3 petrol engine sparks from 0-62mph in a little over eight seconds, while the B4 is a second quicker. Look out for the rare T5 petrol, which has a hot-hatch-matching 6.2-second 0-62mph sprint.

As is common, electric versions are among the quickest. The single-motor, rear-wheel-drive XC40 matches the B4 petrol but feels quicker off the line, while the twin-motor four-wheel-drive range-topper gets from 0-62mph in a faintly ridiculous 4.8 seconds.

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