The Volvo XC40 has become one of the most successful small SUVs in the world, and it holds its own in the Australian market too.
It was Australia’s favourite small premium SUV in 2022, edging the Audi Q3 for a photo finish to the year (5119 units v 5048 units) and a big part of the sustained success of the XC40 is the fact it’s available as an EV.
But this test isn’t of the facelifted Recharge Pure Electric – instead, we’re behind the wheel of the 2023 Volvo XC40 Ultimate B5 Dark, which runs a newly added mild-hybrid powertrain, adopts a slightly more angular look at the front, and adds the Recharge’s Android Automotive infotainment system.
This petrol version could be the last Volvo model to receive an update that includes petrol as an option. The brand has stated its intent is to go all electric in Australia by 2026, and that’s not all that far away. There’s no more plug-in hybrid model is no more locally, either.
So, is the newly added mild-hybrid petrol still worth making a fuss about? Or you should shell out the extra to get the EV? Read on, and you should be able to make that call.
Volvo has reworked its model offering, with new names and some spec adjustments for 2023.
As before there’s a choice of the petrol-powered models, which are now 48V mild-hybrid powertrains with the B suffix (B4 and B5 replacing T4 and T5); and then there’s the XC40 Recharge models – available with both single- and twin-motor drivetrains.
The XC40 Ultimate B5 Dark tested here has a list price of $64,990 plus on-road costs. That pegs it smack bang in the middle of the range. Read the What do you get? section below for a rundown of the entire range.
If you want to choose a colour other than black (Black Stone solid) you’re going to have to pay $1200 extra if you buy a petrol model. If you spend more to get an EV, metallic paint comes at no cost.
There are a range of new colour choices, though, including the one in these images, Fjord Blue metallic, as well as Sage Green metallic, Silver Dawn metallic and Bright Dusk metallic (N/A on Recharge). Those join the carryover Thunder Grey and Onyx Black metallic finishes, as well as Fusion Red (N/A on Recharge).
Other option packs depend on the variant. For instance: the base B4 Plus can be had with a surround-view camera and surround sensors with auto parking for $1050; petrol models can be optioned with a Harman Kardon stereo for $1300, or a panoramic sunroof for $2650, or tinted windows for $750.
If you want the stereo and sunroof, get the Lifestyle Pack for $2600. Heated front ($550) and rear ($380) seats are also optional on petrol versions, and so is a heated steering wheel ($380). Bundle the lot for $900 in the Climate Pack.
Our test car had the Lifestyle and Climate packs, as well as Fjord Blue paint, meaning it carried a sticker price of $69,690 before on-road costs.
Wondering about rival compact luxury SUVs? You could cross-shop this model against the Audi Q3, though it’s petrol only. The smaller Lexus UX has petrol, hybrid and EV models available, and is comparable in terms of luxuriousness. Then there’s the new BMW X1 and soon-to-arrive iX1 EV, which is more on the practical side of things, a bit like the larger again Mercedes-Benz GLB petrol and EQB electric offerings.
Country curious? Australian-spec Volvo XC40s are made in China.
2023 Volvo XC40 pricing:
- Volvo XC40 Plus B4: $53,490
- Volvo XC40 Ultimate B4 Bright: $60,490
- Volvo XC40 Ultimate B5 Dark: $64,990
- Volvo XC40 Recharge Pure Electric: $73,990
- Volvo XC40 Recharge Twin Pure Electric: $81,490
Prices exclude on-road costs
There haven’t been massive changes to the XC40’s interior design for this mid-life update, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
It still looks pretty sleek, with that minimalist ‘Scandi vibe fitting this size of car quite nicely. There’s no doubt about it though, people who really love the extroverted appeal of a Mercedes will likely find things a bit dour or dull in the Volvo’s cabin.
I don’t mind that, though – it has an air of ‘function over form’, and to me, that’s nice.
There’s still a standard 12-inch driver info display with some configurability to it, though some of us (me included) might struggle to get used to the controls for the display.
The same can be said for the 9.0-inch touchscreen media system, which is of the portrait/tablet style, and has a bit of learning required to get the gist of all the functions.
I like some elements – you can log in to the screen with your Google account, for instance – but to me it feels like the processor for this system is at its limit. It’ll take a good couple of seconds to load the climate control screen, for example.
That’s one of the reasons I hate having the important climate controls (fan speed, temperature and recirculation) through a touchscreen, and not by way of buttons.
It’s the same thing for the drive modes. A car like this doesn’t need a drive mode selector button, but you tend to find you’ll forget there even is an element of adjustability because the controls to make changes are behind a few swipes and taps.
There are a couple of buttons below the screen, including a home button for the infotainment, but maybe it says more about the Scandinavian market than Australia that there are defog buttons instead of more useful ones – yes, I know we still need those here in Oz.
The XC40’s gear selector got a few comments over my time with the car. It’s a crystal shifter from Swedish brand Orrefors, and it’s a bit extra for my tastes.
Thankfully though, it’s not annoying like the shifter in the larger Volvos, which essentially requires you to move the shifter twice to engage the gear you want. Like double clicking on a website – who does that anymore?
Otherwise the quality of the materials, fit and finish and the perceived quality are all terrific.
There are good storage bins in all four doors, and they’re lined with a lovely thick carpet flocking. The rear seat scores a pair of mesh map pockets and a fold-down armrest with cup holders, while the front has two cup holders, a small centre console bin and glovebox.
It could with a little bit more loose-item stowage, as you may find yourself loading up the cup holsters with your phone and wallet – and then where will you put your caramel soy latte?
Space for occupants is quite good, even with a six-foot (182cm) adult in front, those in the second row will have enough leg and head room to feel comfy. If you try and fit three across there may be some discomfort, but as a four-seater, it’s family friendly.
There are dual ISOFIX anchor points in the rear window seats, and three top-tether restraints across the second row. I fit a forward-facing 0-4 child seat and there was definitely enough space in front for someone my size to be comfortable.
The boot is a big tick – not literally, that’d be weird. The cargo capacity is 460 litres for the petrol versions, which is good but not class-leading, but the boot area shape is good for bulky bits. Recharge EV models have less space (418 litres) but they also score a 31L front boot or ‘frunk’.
As mentioned already, the Volvo XC40 has a range of powertrains available; now including petrol mild-hybrid and all-electric options.
The base B4 runs a 48V-assisted 2.0-litre turbo-petrol engine producing 170kW (4800-5400rpm) and 300Nm (1500-4200rpm). The B4 Plus is front-wheel drive, with a 0-100km/h time of 8.4 seconds; the B4 Ultimate gets all-wheel-drive with the same outputs, but also adds a tenth to the 0-100km/h claim, likely because it’s about 60kg heavier (1700kg v 1760kg).
The B5 Ultimate here gets standard all-wheel drive, with its mild-hybrid 2.0-litre turbo-petrol engine producing 183kW and 350Nm, which Volvo claims can help slingshot this small SUV from 0-100km/h in 6.4 seconds. This one tips the scales at 1752kg (tare). All petrol models run an eight-speed automatic transmission.
As for the Recharge versions, the base Pure Electric is front-wheel drive only, and has a 170kW/330Nm motor at the front axle, and the brand claims a 0-100km/h time of 7.4 seconds. It’s a hefty 2001kg.
The dual-motor Twin has a smack more grunt, with 300kW and 660Nm, which is a huge amount for a car like this. But it’s even heavier, at 2158kg, though the massive increase in grunt sees its 0-100km/h sprint time drop to a staggering 4.9 seconds – not that long ago, this was the realm of Mercedes-AMG and BMW M cars.
Electric driving range is stated at up to 510km for the single-motor, with claimed efficiency of 20.9kWh/100km. The Twin quotes EV range of up to 450km, with the stated efficiency being 25.5kWh/100km. That’s quite inefficient by class standards – a Kia EV6 GT-Line AWD has claimed efficiency of 18.0kWh/100km, though is down on grunt.
The XC40 doesn’t really do anything drastically wrong in terms of the drive experience, though it’s not quite a standard-setter in any particular way, either.
The engine is certainly perky enough in B5 form for most people’s needs, but my family of three (plus two dogs) had zero concerns with grunt when we loaded into the car.
The only thing I noticed was that it can be a little slow to react at lower speeds; when slowing down and then pulling away from a stop, which likely has something to do with with the mild-hybrid 48-volt system attempting to to coast before needing to re-fire the engine.
The eight-speed auto doesn’t require much thinking about either, as it shifts gears without fuss or hesitation. And unlike other Volvo models, the shifter is a “you only need to shift it once” affair.
The steering is decently weighted and responsive enough, and the 20-inch wheels and Michelin Pilot Sport 4 SUV tyres certainly offer immense grip.
But it’s not what you’d call a corner carver – it gets through the bends with confidence and control, but is not the last word in outright dynamics. Though, I don’t think that’s necessarily a Volvo trait.
The ride is fine, but can be a little sketchy over broken surfaces. I don’t think Volvo really nails this element of the drive experience in any of its models, to be frank, but the XC40 is hardly offensive in the way it handles with potholes and pockmarks – it just can feel a little jumpy at times over sharp-edged bumps.
It’s quieter than most on the open road, and that’s a good thing on coarse-chip surfaces that so commonly make up Australian roads, and in town it gets around without much in the way of noise intrusion into the cabin, too.
The safety technology all seems to work very well. Adaptive cruise control errs on the side of cautious when it comes to keeping a gap, but thankfully you can also change it to be ‘standard’ cruise control. And, it’ll stay that way the next time you get back into the car too.
That’s one of the greatest things about the safety tech in Volvos – disable lane-keeping, for example, and it will stay undone the next time you drive. I like that a lot.
XC40 Plus B4 highlights:
- Power tailgate (NEW)
- Manual front seat cushion extension (NEW)
- Power passenger seat (NEW)
- Power-folding second-row headrests (NEW)
- 18-inch five-spoke silver alloy wheels (NEW)
- Wireless phone charging (NEW)
- 9.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system
- Android Automotive operating system (NEW)
- Google Automotive Services (NEW)
- Volvo Cars app (NEW)
- DAB+ digital radio
- Automatic LED headlights
- Automatic high-beam
- Rain-sensing wipers
- Hill-descent control
- Dual-zone climate control
- Keyless entry and start
- Leatherette upholstery
- Power driver’s seat with memory
- 8-speaker sound system
XC40 Ultimate B4 Bright adds:
- 19-inch Y-spoke matte graphite alloy wheels (NEW)
- Air purifier (NEW)
- Surround-view cameras (NEW)
- Leather-accented upholstery
XC40 Ultimate B5 Dark adds:
- 20-inch double-spoke black alloy wheels
- Alcantara-accented upholstery
XC40 Recharge Pure Electric gets:
- Panoramic sunroof
- 19-inch alloy wheels (NEW)
- Heated front and rear seats
- Heated steering wheel
XC40 Recharge Twin Pure Electric adds:
- Dual-motor drivetrain
- All-wheel drive
- Pixel LED headlights
- Surround-view cameras
- 14-speaker Harman Kardon sound system
- Sustainable upholstery
It wouldn’t dare wear the Volvo badge and be unsafe now, would it? The XC40 still runs its existing five-star ANCAP safety rating from testing in 2018, and remains very well equipped when it comes to standard safety technology and equipment.
All models received an adult occupant protection score of 97 per cent, child occupant protection score of 84 per cent, vulnerable road user protection score of 71 per cent and a safety assist score of 78 per cent.
Standard safety features include:
- AEB incl. vulnerable road user detection
- Lane departure warning
- Lane keep assist
- Blind-spot monitoring
- Rear cross-traffic alert
- Adaptive cruise control
- 7 airbags incl. driver’s knee
- Front, rear parking sensors
- Reversing camera
XC40 Ultimate models score a 360-degree camera system as standard equipment.
The Volvo XC40 is not the most fuel-efficient small SUV, especially given the company has made its “mild-hybrid” smart alternator with start-stop tech a bit of a talking point for the petrol versions.
The B5 AWD model has official combined fuel consumption of 7.2 litres per 100 kilometres, and CO2 emissions of 165g/km.
But you’ll be doing well, or doing lots of calm freeway driving, to achieve 7.2L/100km. I didn’t get close – my real-world fuel consumption readout was 9.2L/100km. It has a 54-litre fuel tank, so at least you should get more than 500 kays between fills.
When it comes to longer-term cost considerations, the Volvo XC40 range comes with a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, and eight years of roadside assistance. You also get eight years of warranty for hybrid and EV batteries.
There are a couple of options when it comes to servicing. You can pay as you go, but it’s going to save you money to get one of Volvo’s pre-paid maintenance packs, available in either three-year/45,000km ($1750) or five-year/75,000km ($3000) variations.
If you’re financing your new car purchase, that should work out to just a couple of take-away coffees per week in your payments. Not bad, really, though not as affordable as some.
And if you choose one of the electric XC40s, you get free servicing for three years which includes some wear and tear items such as wiper blades and brakes as well. That goes some of the way to helping justify the expense of choosing the EV, eh?
If you want a compact luxury SUV that is easy to live with, reasonably priced and has the option of petrol or electric, then the XC40 could be the perfect choice for you.
It isn’t the most efficient – both in ICE and EV guises – but it is easy to overlook that because it’s such a pleasing and practical little SUV that also happens to be very comfortable and luxurious.
Even with an increasing amount of competitors, as well as newly-refreshed ones, it’s easy to see why the XC40 remains a sales favourite Down Under.
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MORE: Everything Volvo XC40