What is it?
The latest version of Volvo’s hugely popular XC40 both completes one chapter for the company – and starts a new one.
The XC40 Recharge Plug-in Hybrid T5, to give it its full name, completes the Swedish firm’s goal of offering a plug-in version of every model in its line-up. It’s also the first Volvo to use the new Recharge branding unveiled at the launch of the full-electric version of the small SUV last year. The moniker will be used on all future plug-in hybrid (PHEV) and full-electric models - any Volvo you can plug in and charge, basically.
While Volvo’s other plug-in models, built on the SPA architecture, feature an electric motor that drives the rear wheels, the XC40 twins the three-cylinder 1.5-litre engine with a front-mounted electric motor, powering the front wheels only. Both motors are driven through a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox.
The XC40 PHEV is due to reach the UK shortly, but we were given a short early introduction at Volvo’s Gothenburg base in Sweden.
What's it like?
Aside from the charging port near the front wheel arch, you’d be hard pressed to spot the difference between the plug-in XC40 and purely combustion-engined versions. And that’s no bad thing, given how well resolved the design of Volvo’s smallest SUV is.
It’s a similar story inside, with the same level of quality, well-finished interior as other versions. You wouldn’t even notice this is a PHEV by looking in the boot: unlike some plug-ins, the XC40 has the same boot capacity as the regular version. But the moment the XC40 accelerates from standstill on a soothing push of electric power, there’s no doubt that a hybrid powertrain propels the car.
The reason the boot is unaffected is because the whole powertrain is located under the bonnet. The three-cylinder engine produces 178bhp, with the electric motor adding 80bhp. The electric unit draws power from a 10.7kWh lithium ion battery, which is located in the central drivetrain tunnel of the car, and allows for a claimed 31 miles of electric-only running.
It’s a well-honed package, offering effortless electric-only running in Pure mode – one of four drive modes, which include an off-road setting, accessed via a button just below the touchscreen. In the standard Hybrid mode, the transition from electric to petrol motor is seamless and the refinement of the three-cylinder unit can make it hard to tell when it has cut in.