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First Drive

First Drive: Volvo XC40 PHEV

The story:
Volvo has completed the plug-in hybrid versions of its entire model range with the PHEV version of its smallest SUV
Category:Premium small SUV
Key rival:BMW X1e
VOLVO XC40 RECHARGE PLUG-IN HYBRID T5 INSCRIPTION PRO
Price:£42,250
MPG:141.1 mpg
Emissions:38g/km
On sale:Now

The final car in Volvo’s range to get a plug-in hybrid model is probably its most important PHEV.

The premium compact SUV market (as the brand calls the sector its XC40 slots into) is still growing quickly, and the XC40 is now Volvo’s biggest seller despite being the newest addition to its range. Combine that with the fact that this month’s company car BiK tax changes mean that plug-in cars are incredibly attractive from a tax point of view, and Volvo is expecting big things from its XC40 Recharge plug-in hybrid.

First Drive- May 2020-Volvo XC40 PHEV- Image 2The key numbers are as follows: a 180hp 1.5-litre petrol engine combines with an 82hp electric motor to offer an official range figure of up to 28 miles from the 10.7kWh battery, and a CO2 emissions figure of between 47g/km and 49g/km, depending on the trim level.

There are two trims – R-Design and Inscription (the T5 Twin Engine model isn’t offered in entry Momentum specification), with a higher-specced Pro package also available on each.

Predictably, the plug-in hybrid looks expensive next to equivalent petrol or diesel XC40 models, costing almost
£7000 more than the 190hp T4 petrol, and the D4 diesel is almost £4000 cheaper, although that is only available in four-wheel drive, rather than the front-driven plug-in hybrid.

But the PHEV regains the lost P11D price ground when it comes to whole-life cost, because the significant fuel economy gains (provided it’s run on battery for significant portions of its usage) and National Insurance benefits in particular pull the numbers back in the plug-in’s favour. Then there’s the company car driver’s BiK payments, which sit at £85 per month for a higher-rate taxpayer on this Inscription Pro model, or £475 a month on the D4 diesel.

First Drive- May 2020-Volvo XC40 PHEV- Image 1From a packaging point of view, Volvo says there are no compromises due to the batteries being positioned under the floor beneath the front seats, leaving the same 460-litre luggage space intact. There’s also space underneath the boot floor to stash the charging cables.

The T5 PHEV is comparatively down on power and therefore significantly slower than the likes of the new plug-in hybrid BMW X1e, Mini Countryman PHEV, Peugeot 3008 and Vauxhall Grandland X, but performance is adequate next to that of the diesel XC40, despite the PHEV carrying nearly 200kg more. The bad news is that all of those faster rivals are notably cheaper than the Volvo.

There’s a surprising lack of brake energy regeneration, and even switching to brake mode on the seven-speed automatic transmission doesn’t increase the regen significantly, which is a bit of a shame. Nevertheless, it’s pretty easy to keep the car within the boundaries of EV-only mode using the informative dashboard readout.

Otherwise, the interior is fully up to the usual exemplary Volvo standards of build quality and comfort.

paul barker

The verdict

It’s a pricey option, but our 2020 Compact Premium SUV of the Year is a high-quality and good-looking vehicle that is now available in its most tax-efficient form.