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.
A useful indicator on the rev counter shows where the car will switch power sources, making it easy to balance making rapid progress with extracting better fuel economy.
Even in ‘sporty driving’ Power mode, the XC40 plug-in powertrain isn’t the last word in dynamic performance, but then you wouldn’t want it to be in this sort of car. However, it adds an extra layer of refinement to a car already well regarded for its refinement.
Should I buy one?
With our running limited to Volvo’s test track, we’ve yet to do enough mileage in the XC40 Recharge PHEV to offer a definitive verdict and so are withholding a star rating for now – but our first impression is that the new powertrain makes a strong package even more compelling. It keeps everything that ensures the XC40 remains one of our favourite small SUVs, and adds a compelling new powertrain option.
As ever with a plug-in, much will depend on what you’re buying it for, and how you intend to use it. Keep the battery topped up and make the most of EV mode and you’ve got an ideal city cruiser that can also cope effortlessly with long cruising journeys. Economics comes into it, too: the £40,905 price of the R Design model we drove compares with £36,585 for the most powerful 244bhp petrol variant in similar R Design spec (but offering all-wheel drive).