Running on optional 20in wheels and fitted with the stiffened suspension that R-Design models have as standard, our test car was about as sporty as it’s possible to make the XC40, but neither its ride nor its ease of use seemed any the worse for it.
Volvo’s claim may be that the car’s handling is more energetic and invigorating than that of either of its bigger SUV siblings, but it also lets on that it would never have seriously contemplated positioning the XC40 among the most driver-focused SUVs on the market.
Instead, it has cleverly engineered in just enough grip, body control, directness and handling agility to make the XC40 feel usefully sharper, smaller, fleeter of foot and easier to place than its bigger relations around junctions and down country lanes – but not a shred so much as to disturb the settled calm of the cabin or to make the car in the slightest bit physically or mentally trying to drive.
The steering is, therefore, ever consistent with its medium pacing and weighting, and light on feedback but thoroughly isolated from the influences of bump and traction. Its body control is good, although it permits more body roll than some; typically, though, only enough to help you gauge how hard the chassis is working rather than to adversely affect grip or balance. The suspension is supple and works well to keep the body level and settled at A-road and B-road pace.
There’s a bit of lateral fussiness to its ministrations over rutted urban roads, which can cause an occasional moment’s unwanted head toss and slightly excitable under-damped feel to the wheel control, but it’s fleeting.
On the motorway, meanwhile, the XC40 has an excellent, fluent and quiet ride to match its impressive cabin sealing, and its Pilot Assist lane keeping and radar cruise control systems work as well as they do on Volvo’s bigger cars to very effectively and discreetly help you to keep the car centred in its lane and governed at a safe distance from the car in front, taking the strain out of a long-distance commute better than almost any other manufacturer’s equivalents.
On our ride and handling track, the XC40 is a game and fairly tenacious car to harry along – and, critically, much more so than you’d have believed a Volvo SUV could be 10 years ago.
That it rolls harder than some rivals may discourage some drivers from fully unearthing how much grip is to be found under its wheels, but there is plenty. The steered axle is incisive enough to allow you a second bite at the apex once the car’s body has settled on its outside wheels and to carry plenty of speed.