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.