MY first drive in Volvo’s new XC40 SUV and it took no more than a few minutes to find out why it romped away with the European Car of the Year title.
Since that triumph back in January there have been 34 more awards and PR boss Mike Gale told me his dinner suit would be coming out for more awards before the end of the year.
Like its two big brothers (XC60 and XC 90) this baby SUV is brilliant in every way. Comfort, quality, styling, performance, the Swedes have nailed it again.
I could end this report here, well what else is there to say about a car that is pretty much spot on, but Mr Gale would like a little more than 120 words for taking the trouble to assemble XC40 and a handful of Volvo’s best for the likes of me to drive.
So what’s going on a Volvo? Basically Chinese money and Swedish know-how has produced a string of great new models that have catapulted the company from safe and ordinary to spectacular and desirable. The UK car market is still going through a mild depression with falling sales but come the end of the Volvo is confident its sales total will hit 50,000 an increase of 4,000 on last year. It could be even higher if the production lines could turn out more right hand drive cars.
In the US, Volvo’s largest market behind China, sales have rocketed by 50 per cent. May be we should switch to left hand drive (that’s me being flippant) but if we did there would not be a three month wait for a new XC40, the only negative point for potential buyers.
Back to the XC40. Along with XC60 it is leading Volvo’s sales revival and will be the top selling model next year.
The winning formula was laid down in 2010 by XC90, the car credited with turning around the Swedish company’s fortunes. The medium sized XC60 has kept the kettle boiling but it is clear the new smaller SUV will be the most influential model of the trio.
Volvo is gunning for the premium market with XC40 and has Audi Q3, BMW X1, and Mercedes GLA in its sights, but it should not forget there are any number of very capable rivals one rung down the ladder, Seat Ateca, Peugeot 3008, and Volkswagen T-Roc to name but a few.
Headline news is the arrival of the T3 petrol engine. This is the latest in a long line of three-cylinder petrol engines from a variety of car manufacturers pushing out seemingly impossible amounts of horse power.
Volvo has come up with a 156bhp 1.5 litre with the surprisingly good low down engine response we now expect from a modern day three-cylinder engine.
It’s smooth and punchy and should be good for 40+mpg on a run, an ideal choice for someone doing around10-12,000 miles a year.
Even though the Government is doing its best to drive us away from diesel XC40 will still get a lot of sales from the 150bhp D3 and 190bhp D4 engines. That said Volvo is still committed to offering hybrid or electric engines on every new car built from 2020.
The XC40s cabin has the now familiar soothing Volvo layout dominated by the tablet style digital driver display. I have driven plenty of Volvos but still struggle to master what is a fairly complex set up… until you get used to it.
Volvo has fined tuned the initial version to make it easier to select the most common functions like heating and radio but my advice is to get the hang of voice control, which isn’t difficult. You can control just about everything this way, including changing a radio station, heating levels and navigation destinations.
As with all Volvos safety figures highly and XC40 has a full suite of crash avoidance systems. I particularly like the city safety package with automatic braking for pedestrians, cyclists, large animals and, of course, vehicles.
There is a choice of three trim levels, two diesel and three petrol engines, six speed manual or eight speed automatic, with the R-Design expected to be the model of choice based on Volvo sales so far this year.
Price range: £27,610-£36,320