There’s a lot to like about the Volvo XC40, but by the time you’ve chosen a chunky engine and plumped for a few modest options, it’s not hard to find yourself staring at a price tag of forty grand.

Thing is, reign it all in and you can park a very desirable XC40 on your drive and still have change from £30,000.

Kicking off the range is a new 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine, badged the T3, and yours for £28,310.

For now, its 156 hp and 265 Nm of torque – served up from 1,850 to 3,850 rpm – is only available with front-wheel-drive and a six-speed manual gearbox, but that’s no bad thing.

Firstly, that’s because it helps keep the weight down, the T3 shaving up to 100kg off a chunkier diesel model, and that’s good for economy. Officially, a T3 is said to achieve up to 45.6 mpg on the combined cycle, while after a week’s testing we’d notched up a respectable average of 43.2 mpg.

And secondly, the manual gearbox has a pleasantly meaty and positive shift quality to it that means it’s no chore at all to rifle your way through its ratios.

That’s something you’ll need to do from time to time if you feel like pressing on. The T3 delivers its power over a broad spread of engine speeds, rather than in one huge turbo-induced wodge. That makes it feel docile and companionable, and it will happily lollop along in a high gear without complaining. But to press on or overtake, you’ll need to avail yourself of a lower ratio or two.

Rev the engine out nearer its red line and it offers up a pleasing, off-beat soundtrack that never sounds harsh or overworked. And as the revs subside, it settles into a distant, barely audible bassline and a supremely comfortable cruise.

Some might be reluctant to view it as anything other than an engine short of a cylinder, but in the real world it feels like a much larger powerplant. And there are absolutely no vibrations whatsoever.

By contrast, the standard Momentum’s suspension feels somewhat bobbly and unsettled. It’s never uncomfortable, but you’re soon conscious of your head jostling about more than you’d like. The sportier set-up of the R-Design models is far more tightly controlled, making the £1,850 uplift perhaps worthy of consideration. Alternatively, adaptive damping can be added for £750.

That said, standard Momentum spec is surprisingly generous with LED headlights with auto high beam, automatic wipers, dual-zone climate control, digital instrument cluster, Sensus Connect with navigation and lifetime map updates, Volvo On Call, and a typically Swedish array of safety goodies from traffic sign recognition to City Safety automatic braking.

All this and an interior filled with clever touches – the extra-large under-armrest storage, huge door bins, and clever curry hooks – matched only by its quality feel and sheer practicality.

In fact, far from feeling like the poor relation, the XC40 T3 manages to deliver a charm all of its own.

Tester’s Notes

  • T3 engine quiet, refined and with charming off-beat thrum when worked
  • Power delivered across broad rev range; feels like a larger capacity powerplant; satisfyingly vibration-free
  • Meaty, positive gearshift action; just as well, as downshifts needed for bursts of acceleration
  • Standard Momentum suspension a little unsettled; tighter R-Design set-up more controlled
  • 43 mpg on test
Entry-level Price£28,310Price as tested£36,310
Engine1477cc 3-cyl turbo petrolTransmission6-speed manual
Power156hp @ 5,000rpmTorque265Nm @ 1,850-3,850rpm
0-629.4 secsTop speed124 mph
Economy45.6 mpgCO2144 g/km
Dimensions4425 x 1910 x 1658 (LxWxH)Kerb Weight1497 kg

Alex

Editor

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