The old XC60 was an incredible success for Volvo, but with the new XC60 now a premium proposition with a price tag to match, many felt that its spiritual successor had yet to be revealed.

Thankfully, the new XC40 took care of that, slotting conveniently into the price-point the XC60 had left behind, and adding a welcome shot of youthful energy into the mix while it was at it.

Perhaps not surprisingly, then, I ordered one myself.

And then so did about 80,000 other people.

It’s not hard to see why – it’s a bloody handsome thing. Much has been written about the Brit designer’s goal of creating a ‘tough little robot’ but for me it’s the details that are the most successful: the concave grille, the clamshell bonnet, the sharp creases and the deep recesses.

The much-photographed little Swedish flag on the side of the bonnet only exists on the first few hundred cars, unfortunately.

That success carries on in to the interior, too: the huge door bins thanks to the speakers relocated behind the dashboard, the optional wireless charging pad, the lift-out rubbish bin, the bag hook that pops out from the glovebox, and the funky lava orange carpet that creeps up the doors – a bit too orange for my liking, admittedly.

This is all followed up by the usual Volvo staples: the excellent media and navigation system, the clear digital instruments, the fabulously comfortable and supportive seats, and the wide range of adjustment in the driving position.

Headroom’s good, too, even with the optional sunroof. The boot’s a good size with plenty of practical touches such as the (optional) split-folding floor with integral bag hooks, while overall the interior feels closer to the 60-series Volvos in terms of spaciousness than you might be expecting.

It even drives like a Volvo should. We took our diesel D4 on a 600-mile roundtrip to Cornwall, a usually torturous journey thanks to the nightmare that is the A303, but which the XC40 tackled in the same soothing and unruffled way we’ve come to expect from its bigger brothers. It returned just under 42mpg while doing it, too.

The turbocharged petrol engines make for both quiet and rapid progress, and despite its useful 211mm of ground clearance body-roll is well controlled unless your driving style switches from ‘enthusiastic’ to ‘inadvisable.’

Keep things within the realms of decency, though, and the XC40 will deliver surprisingly keen turn-in, an engaging demeanour, and a ride that – although tinged with a sporty edge in R-Design models – somehow seems to fit the smaller Volvo’s more youthful character.

Then there’s the wealth of connected features – a smartphone app (even a Windows 10 version) that allows for remote start, locking, journey logs, maintenance info, etc. – plus perhaps the most extensive range of driver aids on the market, with Pilot Assist, City Safety, Lane Keep Assist, Driver Alert, and more.

In the UK the XC40 does not incorporate a parking heater, despite what the brochure suggests. While in winter you can start the car remotely, it will not heat the cabin to any appreciable extent. Nor can a start time be scheduled as it can in other markets.

Sure, it’s not perfect. Road noise over coarse surfaces can grate a little (particularly with our car’s 20-inch wheels), the diesel can be a touch hesitant and clattery at times, the fuel tank is a little small at just 54 litres, and the double-tap gear-lever is a solution in search of a problem.

The stop/start system’s response to the brake pedal isn’t quite calibrated correctly, either, leading to situations where the car jolts as it comes to a stop or can even roll backwards on inclines before the engine has restarted.

Niggles these undoubtedly are, but there is a bigger problem with the XC40, and it’s one that ultimately caused me to cancel my order:

You may struggle to get one.

The First Edition models sold out even before the car was launched, while a string of component shortages and production problems mean that anyone ordering an XC40 now will be lucky to see it within a year.

I ordered my XC40 in early March. Three months elapsed before it was assigned a build date – of late January 2019.  With delivery likely in February, that equates to a total of 11 months from order to completion.

It’s great that Volvo have such a hit on their hands, together with a mantelpiece full of well-deserved awards and accolades.  But this all counts for nought until customers can drive off the forecourt in one.

And with such extended and often open-ended lead-times, that might prove a challenge – particularly for those looking to renew a lease.

Perhaps by the time Volvo launches the T5 Twin Engine plug-in hybrid version, they will have found a way to resolve these issues.

Until then, the Volvo XC40 remains the best car on the market that you can’t buy.

Tester’s Notes

  • Petrol engines the better bet – quiet, punchy and smooth power delivery
  • Diesels torquey, but a touch hesitant and clattery at times
  • Stop/start brake pedal calibration not quite sorted, can roll back on hills before engine has restarted
  • Road noise over coarse surfaces can grate a little
  • Turn-in is surprisingly keen, rides well albeit with a sporty edge
  • Fuel tank a little small at just 54 litres
  • Double-tap gear-lever requires two movements to switch between Drive and Reverse; conventional lever would be more intuitive
  • Hard parcel shelf more difficult to stow than a retractable cargo cover
  • 42mpg on test
Entry-level Price £27,610 Price as tested £39,905
Engine 1969cc 4-cyl turbo diesel Transmission Eight-speed auto
Power 190hp @ 4,000rpm Torque 400Nm @ 1,750-2,500rpm
0-60 7.9 secs Top speed 130 mph
Economy 56.5 mpg CO2 133 g/km
Dimensions 4425 x 1910 x 1658 (LxWxH) Kerb Weight 1735 kg

Alex Kefford

Editor

Freelance journalist, ex-offroad driving instructor and long distance road-tripper. If you have any questions about this piece, feel free to hit me up on Twitter.