What is it?
Volvo’s move into the small SUV market has proveb to be a success since of the launch of the XC40 in 2018.
In mid 2020 the Chinese-owned, Swedish-based brand launched a Plug-in Hybrid version (PHEV).
Aside from this mechanical change, there has been little else done to the XC40.
What’s it cost?
It’s listed at $64,990.
Our test vehicle however was priced at $69,760, thanks to options such as metallic paint at a high $1150, folding powered headrests on the rear seats at $230, with a cargo net included in that figure, and a climate pack which includes heated windscreen wipers at $700.
Otherwise it’s a squat, stocky, yet attractive looking small to mid-sized SUV, complete with the now signature “Thor’s Hammer” headlight inserts.
The only exterior change is the addition of a charge port located in the front left flank.
Naturally there’s oodles of safety features including City Safety: Pedestrian, Vehicle, Large Animals and Cyclist Detection, Intersection Collision and Oncoming Mitigation with Brake Support.
A small but crucial change has been made to the touchscreen and driver’s display.
It’s is a PHEV, after all, so now there’s hybrid info display to indicate the drive mode.
The touchscreen, all 9.0 inches of it, vertical rather than horizontal, has a tab where the driver can activate the engine to charge the battery.
That touchscreen, by the way, shares a problem common to all good touchscreens.
It’s a fingerprint magnet, and also loses clarity in sunlight at certain angles.
It sits in the middle of a dash design that looks for all the world alike a copy of a 1950s Cadillac’s rear.
It’s a full leather interior, as expected, and on a cold day the heating elements warm up quick.
But there’s no venting for warmer days.
Rear seat passengers do get air vents and a pair of USBs located at the end of the centre console.
Warranty-wise it’s five years with eight for the battery, excluding expected charge losses over time.
What’s it go like?
This is the important stuff.
Petrol feeds a super quiet 1.5-litre, three-cylinder engine.
On its own Volvo says that produces 132kW and 265Nm thanks to a turbo.
The battery powered electric engine churns out 60kW and 160Nm.
Considering the dry weight of the XC40 R-Design PHEV is 1730kg, a 7.3 second sprint to 100km/h is pretty good.
Economy is helped considerably as Volvo quotes 2.2L/100km from the 48-litre tank.
We saw 4.6L/100km as our worst figure.
On battery alone it’s good for 40-45km.
The driver can elect to start with pure electric drive, combination hybrid drive or the primary petrol engine.
The supplied charge cable is a bit of a heavy unit, but connected to a home system it charges the PHEV from empty to full in around four hours, as the battery is a smallish 10.4kWh unit.
It’s got some real squirt and is insanely quiet too.
In contrast to other hybrid makers (cough, Toyota) the petrol engine doesn’t kick in at 20km/h automatically.
Go hard on the pedal and, yes, it will, otherwise “normal” driving sees the PHEV roll quietly along.
Road noise is beautifully isolated, even with 245/45/20 Pirelli rubber doing the gripping.
Being a Volvo it’s a marvelously supple ride, perfectly balanced between Comfort and Sport in both drive modes and suspension.
The steering is also perfectly weighted, and there’s no torque steer under heavy acceleration.
But yes, there is a “downside”.
The regenerative braking system isn’t exactly user friendly, grabbing the discs like a toddler grabs a toy about to be taken away.
It’s rarely smooth and always disconcerting.
What we like?
- Volvo doesn’t make boxy cars
- Quick charge battery and great fuel economy
- Well sorted ride and handling
What we don’t like?
- Touchscreen fingerprint magnet
- No venting for the front seats
- Ummm . . .
The bottom line?
Volvo’s XC40 R-Design PHEV is a worthy opponent for other brands dabbling in, or getting serious about hybrid, petrol-electric cars.
Price is a bit . . . well . . . hybrid normal, but for that money you do get the Volvo badge, Volvo safety, Volvo build quality, and a bloody good car to drive.
There’s no surprise then that the XC40 sells very well, with more than 270 of them sold in October alone.
Book yourself a test drive. Yes, it’s worth it.
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Volvo XC40 R-Design PHEV, priced from $64,990
- Looks - 8/108/10
- Performance - 8/108/10
- Safety - 9/109/10
- Thirst - 8.5/108.5/10
- Practicality - 8/108/10
- Comfort - 8.5/108.5/10
- Tech - 8/108/10
- Value - 8/108/10