The Volvo XC40 Recharge Plug-in Hybrid T5 offers chunky SUV styling, all the refinement and comfort of a Volvo, and an electric driving range of 26-28 miles.
Volvo has enjoyed success with its new model range over recent years, and it has also laid out its goals for an electric future, with the journey including plug-in hybrids; the XC40 Recharge is the newest addition to its plug-in hybrid range.
The Volvo XC40 Recharge Plug-in Hybrid T5 has a 180hp 3-cylinder, 1.5-litre petrol engine and an 82hp/160Nm electric motor powered by a 10.7kWh lithium-ion battery. There’s a 7-speed automatic transmission, and despite the ‘Tonka toy’ SUV looks, this XC40 is just front-wheel drive rather than four-wheel drive.
The XC40 looks wide, short, squat and boxy; however there’s decent amounts of space inside, with good rear legroom – except for the middle rear-seat occupant, who has no legroom due to a large ‘transmission tunnel’ (which is in fact the battery). There’s a good-sized boot, and there’s even space under the boot floor for a space saver spare (a good thing, and very unusual for a plug-in hybrid) and there’s even a compartment to fit two sets of charging leads.
The dashboard will be familiar to anyone who has driven another model in the current Volvo range – ie. it’s high quality, minimalistic, with virtually all controls on the central touch screen.
The main impression that you’re left with when driving the XC40 is the high quality, premium feel, which is evident at all times, however driving in electric mode ensures that the car is more refined than when using the petrol engine. Despite only having a 3-cylinder, 1.5-litre engine, the power delivery is smooth, even if there isn’t huge performance. If you do put your foot down in Power mode, there’s a (synthesised) sporty exhaust note.
Volvos are generally tuned for a comfortable rather than a sporty ride, and this is also true of the XC40 – and the decent ride quality is achieved despite its fairly huge wheels and low profile tyres. Handling is definitely SUV-like rather than sports car-like – with the fairly hefty 1,741kg kerb weight having an impact here. In fact it feels like the XC40’s whole driving experience has been engineered to give an SUV feel (to match its looks). But unlike some SUVs, lots of adjustability of the steering wheel and seat allows a good driving position.
Although the huge wheels and decent ground clearance give the impression that the XC40 could negotiate a rock-strewn mountain, this is only a front-wheel drive SUV.
The brakes have a different feel to those of a conventional petrol car – the braking feel isn’t as linear, as you can feel the system changing between mechanical and regenerative braking.
The automotive transmission has D and B settings – the latter for increased brake regeneration – but there are no steering wheel-mounted paddles and there’s no way of manually changing gear using the selector. So it’s a good job that the gearbox does a good job of changing gear by itself.
So overall the XC40 offers a very nice, refined driving experience and there are few areas of weakness. Except one – and in our eyes, it’s a real schoolboy error. If you buy a plug-in hybrid you should be wanting to drive on electric power for the maximum amount of time, so when you start up and drive away, you want the car to be running on electric, with no operation of the petrol engine. However the XC40 has drive modes – accessed by a switch on the right hand side of the centre console – in the following sequence: Hybrid, Individual, Power, Pure, Off Road. This means that if you get in the car and want to select Pure for all-electric driving, you have to press your way through Hybrid, Individual and Power modes first, which invariably means that the petrol engine comes on before you get to electric. The only way around this appears to be to press the drive mode button four times very quickly to get to Pure mode before the engine fires up. It would be so much more sensible to instead have the drive mode sequence as Pure, Hybrid, Individual, Power, Off Road.
It would also be good to have a clearer indication in the instrument display about when the car is running on petrol or electric power. Although there’s a digital needle which moves to the area of a ‘lightning strike’ symbol when running on electric, and there’s a ‘liquid droplet’ symbol to reflect that the petrol engine is in use, this is all very subtle and can be easily missed.
The dashboard is essentially similar to other current Volvo models, in other words it’s minimalistic, with most controls on the central touchscreen, which you can swipe like an iPad to access further menus and sub-menus.
The normal Volvo key remains, complete with its lock/unlock buttons being virtually indistinguishable, particularly in the dark.
The official WLTP combined fuel economy for the Volvo XC40 Recharge Plug-in Hybrid T5 is 119.1-139.4mpg, with CO2 emissions of 47-55g/km, and it has an official electric driving range of 26-28 miles. During our week with the car it delivered an average real-life electric range of 27 miles, and average economy of 74.0mpg. It also offered a range of 400 miles on the petrol engine.
The XC40 Recharge Plug-in Hybrid T5 has a low Benefit in Kind (BIK) company car tax liability of 16% for 2020/21.
The XC40 isn’t the most aerodynamic of shapes, which impacts on its efficiency.
The Volvo XC40 Recharge Plug-in Hybrid T5 FWD Inscription Pro costs from £42,305. Our test car had a number of options including Xenium Pack – Power Glass Tilt and Slide Panoramic Sunroof with Sun Curtain, Parking Camera 360° Surround View, Park Assist Pilot with Autobrake − Automatic Parallel and 90° Parking (£1,600); Intellisafe Pro Pack – Autodimming Exterior Rear View Mirrors, Intellisafe Assist, Intellisafe Surround (£1,500); Convenience Pack – Power Operated Tailgate, Power Folding Rear Seat Headrests, Driver Side Under Seat Storage, Keyless Drive with Remote Tag plus Handsfree Tailgate Opening/Closing and Puddle Lights
(£400); Sensus Connect with Premium Sound by Harman Kardon (£550);
Smartphone Integration (£300); Wireless/Inductive Mobile Phone Charging (£175); Dark Tinted Windows – Rear Doors and Cargo Compartment (£350); 4.5m Type 2 / Mode 3 Charge Cable (£50); Tempa Spare Wheel and Jack (£150) and Premium Metallic Paint (£850), taking the total price to £48,230.
Looking for a pure electric Volvo XC40 rather than a plug-in hybrid?:
The Volvo XC40 Recharge Plug-in Hybrid T5 offers a very refined and premium driving experience, especially when on electric power. It feels like a comfortable SUV to drive rather than a car with more sporting or agile pretensions. The official 26-28 mile electric range is on the low side compared to some of the latest plug-in hybrids, and the lack of an efficient aerodynamic body shape doesn’t help with maximising the electric range. The interior feels like a quality and well-designed environment, with the exception of the drive mode switch sequence, which really needs to be reconfigured so it starts off in electric mode, rather than having to toggle through different petrol-powered modes to get to electric power. The Volvo XC40 Recharge Plug-in Hybrid T5 gains a Green Car Guide rating of 8 out of 10.
Our standard advice about plug-in hybrids remains: plug-in hybrids are designed to be driven primarily on electric power, with occasional use for longer journeys. If they’re used in this way, you could potentially enjoy 100mpg+. However if you primarily drive a plug-in hybrid SUV on long journeys on petrol power without charging then you’re more likely to experience around 30mpg in real life.
It’s also worth noting that the all-electric Volvo XC40 is due on sale very soon.