Volvo XC40 T5 Plug-in hybrid test drive

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    Yesterday we took out an XC40 for a test drive. We currently have a BMW X1 X-line S-drive 20i which is due back at the end of July and are looking at the Volvo T5 Recharge Inscription Pro hybrid as a possible replacement. It will be that or another X1.

    We have settled on wanting electric seats with memory, a reversing camera, tinted glass and a sunroof on whichever car we choose.

    To get a new X1 to that spec would mean adding Comfort Pack, Tech Pack, and Panoramic roof options. The Volvo would just need tinted glass and the panoramic roof added. Given the discounts available on the BMW, the combined cost of AP and extras are very similar for both cars.

    Running costs are not too much of a consideration in making a decision as our best guess given our pattern of use once MrsW starts commuting to work in September is they will be much the same, with perhaps the Volvo coming out slightly ahead. On long journeys once the battery has run down, the Volvo will be using more fuel than the BMW but for local journeys obviously very much less, if any, as we can recharge overnight.

    So, to the Volvo. The one we borrowed was a brand new R-Design with leather/nubuck seats, the only extra being a reversing camera. This was not the Pro model, so was lacking the power seats. The dealers demonstrator Inscription Pro car wasn’t available but will be hopefully on Monday, so we’ll have a try in that then and check the leather seats out and the softer suspension.

    First impressions coming from the X1 was that it was higher to get in but MrsW had no problem and she said the passenger side was more roomy, partly because the dash seemed further away or maybe that you sit higher in relation to it. Most stuff is handled by the touch screen so there’s no clutter of buttons and control knobs as in the X1. Is that a good thing? Generally I’d say, yes. The things you need most – radio, satnav, phone, and HVAC are all there on the main screen, and this screen is really close up next to you and easy to prod. The satnav display is much better than the BMW and also shows in the digital dashboard between the dials. One oddity was when we asked for a destination using voice control and it asked us to choose from a list – we couldn’t see a list anywhere..

    On balance the interior is about on a par with the X1, plastics on the dash not as nice, but face level air vents, although a strange shape, are well engineered with metal rotary knobs giving very good control of airflow and direction, unlike the not so easily controlled and rather cheap plastic jobs on the X1. Good storage space around the centre console for keys and phone etc which the X1 lacks and the door bins are big. Standard sound system is ok, not as good as the X1 though and it comes mostly from the front of the doors and the dashboard whereas on the X1 it’s more around you with speakers under the seats. We didn’t play with the audio settings.

    MrsW found the R-Design seats comfortable, liked the better support of the backrest bolsters to the X1 seats when cornering. I didn’t, getting a numb bum after a couple of hours – possibly more trial and error with the adjustments would have fixed it, but not a concern as the Inscription Pro seats are different.

    So, driving. The hybrid system works very well moving from electric to petrol seamlessly, the DCT gearbox is good. Even with a depleted battery the car moves off on the electric motor and the engine takes over at about 15-20 mph if you go gently, as you would in town traffic. The engine does show itself up in hard acceleration. The BMW three pot has a nice growl to it, the Volvo one sounds like a bag of nails when pushed hard – no contest there, but it’s quiet in the cruise. I could live with it.

    On picking the car up, it had a full battery and a fully petrol tank. The battery claimed to be good for 24 miles. I took the car home to pick up MrsW so she could practice getting on and off the drive and she drove the first stint in “pure” mode, i.e. battery only. In town as you’d expect smooth and quiet going as far as the traction went. Disappointingly the suspension thumped and hammered at low speed in places where we know the X1 doesn’t. The R-Design has a “sport chassis” and 45 profile tyres whereas the Inscription doesn’t and is on 50 profiles. When we test one it’s going to need to be much better. Pure mode was good for 60mph on the way out of town, but the range was rapidly reducing. The big bugbear of the X1 is road noise and the XC40 is better, but disappointingly not massively better. MrsW wears a hearing aid which she removes in the car because various noises get amplified too much. She said the noise level in the Volvo affected it less than the BMW but she’d still  take it out on a journey. The concrete road of the Puddletown bypass still caused the Volvo tyres to howl but a more subdued howl than the X1.

    Even with the sports chassis the XC40 is no X1 when it comes to handling, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it. The steering is light but very precise and has a confident feel. Snicking round roundabouts, the turn in and exit are very tidy at the sort of speeds MrsW complains about when I’m driving. Hopefully the softer Inscription will still be good enough there.

    Towards the end of the three hour drive I liked the car more than at the beginning. We had to get through slow rush hour traffic and it is a really easy to drive car in those conditions. Moving off is very smooth, the electric motor does all the work up to about 15 or more mph and you need to listen for when the engine takes over. The brakes are smooth and progressive too. In the sort of commute MrsW will be doing it’s just right. The other consideration, relevant to short commutes is the ability to precondition the car, especially in the winter when household current can heat the seats and the interior and defrost the windscreen. Although it’s MrsW’s car, I’m the one who goes out, starts it and scrapes the ice before she sets off to work. So it’s a choice between another X1 or an XC40 and that may just be the deciding factor.



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    Glos Guy

    Hi Glos Guy (and everyone else) I have the 2017 X1 (25d) and will stick with BMW as they drive so well with a great engine and auto-box – so after much consideration, no Volvo XC40 for me! You mention the X1 has a facelift – is the current X2 as upto date, or is it lagging behind? Did you consider the X2? I will be very happy to grab an X1 or X2 with 2oi engine and xDrive – before they may possibly be removed

    Hi David. That’s where I ended up. I think that the X1 and XC40 are both excellent, but suit very different people who want very different things out of their cars. I’m afraid that I can’t answer your question about the X2 as I didn’t look into it as it is a bit smaller and the X1 is already at our limits, size wise. I also wanted the luxury spec of the xLine rather than a Sport model. Joss has one though and can hopefully answer.

    The 25d engine is a peach and sadly no longer available, but I have driven a few 18d’s recently and they certainly don’t lack power! I’ve gone for the 20i 4WD one though whilst we are still allowed such indulgences!

    I wasn’t taken with the X1 when we last changed in 2018 but the facelift has much improved it, particularly in so far as interior quality is concerned. The leather look dash and lower trim plus the larger iDrive screen both make it look far less budget BMW IMO. I stumbled across a 2018 X1 price list the other day and was surprised to see that the facelift model has around £2,500 of kit as standard now that were all options in 2018. It has lost the sliding rear seat, but thankfully my wife’s wheelchair fits in the boot fine, so no need to add it as an option (the recline function remains as standard).

    It’s worth keeping in mind that an all new BMW X1 is currently testing and will be out next year. Doubtless it will have a digital dash and hopefully they will address the road noise on the current X1. However, there’s no guarantee that it will appear on Motability at launch and, as you say, we may not be allowed the top spec trims or engine as we are at present.

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