Most compact SUVs tend to adopt a Russian doll approach to design and styling compared with larger models in their makers’ ranges, but Volvo has liberated the XC40 from the more sensible, formal design of the bigger XC60 and XC90. It’s a great deal funkier, chunkier, more outgoing and striking; perhaps the biggest diversion from Volvo normality since the 480 coupé – and certainly since the C30.

Beneath that skin sits a new Volvo vehicle platform, CMA (Compact Modular Architecture), which will also underpin every smaller Volvo from now on. There’ll be S40 and V40 models, and perhaps cars smaller than those, too.

Richard Lane

Road tester
Short, high SUVs can look block-sided. Volvo's technique is to put plenty of black plastic below to enhance ruggedness

As with the platform for Volvo’s bigger cars, CMA is a primarily steel monocoque, with a front-mounted transverse engine driving either the front wheels or, as tested, all four of ’em, and here through an eight-speed automatic gearbox. 

Later on, you can expect the range to grow to encompass more engines, transmissions and electrification mated to a three-cylinder petrol engine, but for now, there is a range of 2.0-litre four-pot motors. Our test car’s makes 188bhp at 4000rpm and its torque output is a healthy 295lb ft, generated from just 1750rpm.

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Although Volvo is happy to offer a diesel now, the cost and complexity of making diesel engines meet ever more stringent emissions regulations incline the company’s engineering chiefs to believe that, not long into the next decade, it’ll stop offering them on new cars, as ever reducing battery costs will mean that a petrol hybrid will be not just as efficient but also cheaper to make than a good diesel. Volvo’s diesels haven’t recently been as competitive as some rivals, but we’ll see how it goes here.

The four wheels that it drives are suspended by MacPherson struts at the front, and a multi-link rear that gets, unlike larger Volvos, coil springs rather than a composite transverse leaf. In the UK, however, you can’t get the adaptive Four-C dampers that are available in other markets.

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