Volvo XC40 Recharge PHEV (2022) review

Luke Wilkinson

Staff writer. Unhealthy obsession with classic Minis and old Alfas. Impenetrable Cumbrian accent

View all Volvo Reviews

PHEV version of Volvo’s smallest SUV
► 1.5-litre petrol engine and electric motor
► Official fuel economy figure of up to 134.5mpg

The Volvo XC40 was quite a forward-thinking car when it was being designed, as it was destined to have both a plug-in hybrid and pure-electric powertrain on the drawing board. What’s more, Volvo made sure that neither electrified powertrain would impact the SUV’s design or function, which is more than can be said for the plug-in hybrid version of the Audi Q3.

If you fancy a plug-in hybrid Volvo XC40, you have a choice of two powertrains. Both use the same 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol engine and 80bhp electric motor – but there’s a low output T4-badged model with a combined output of 208bhp and a high output T5-badged variant with 258bhp.

Both options feature a seven-speed automatic gearbox, in which the electric motor is mounted. It’s also worth remembering that both versions of the XC40 PHEV are front-wheel drive only, so don’t get too enthusiastic about taking it off-road. This SUV is at its best on the tarmac.

Volvo XC40 PHEV head-on driving

Volvo restructured the XC40’s line-up in early 2022, ditching the car’s old Momentum, R-Design and Inscription specifications in favour of three new trims called Core, Plus and Ultimate. Prices for the cheapest 208bhp plug-in hybrid Core model start from £41,000.

Standard equipment includes 18-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster, a nine-inch infotainment system and a wireless smartphone charger, which means it’s slightly better equipped than the most basic petrol-powered XC40.

Opt for the more potent 252bhp T5 powertrain and Volvo’s fully rigged Ultimate trim level, and you’ll be handed a bill for more than £51,000, thrusting the XC40 hybrid into the same price bracket as the plug-in hybrid BMW X3. You do get plenty of equipment for your money, though, with 19-inch alloys, heated front and rear seats, a panoramic sunroof and a fancy Harmon Kardon stereo coming as part of the package. But is it worth ignoring the BMW for? Or, for that matter, Volvo’s own pure-electric XC40?

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What’s the Volvo XC40 Recharge PHEV like to drive?

Predictable and safe. The XC40 was the first car to be built on Volvo’s CMA underpinnings, which features MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link setup at the rear. Such hardware means it can hold its own in the corners, but the dead steering feel coupled with the sheer amount of driver assistance technology Volvo has crammed into the platform puts a damper on driving fun.

The traction control system has a heavy hand and is all too keen to kill the power if it senses the slightest bit of slip from the front wheels, which is a little irritating when overtaking. The lane-keeping assist system is also very eager to keep you in line, which can make driving down narrow country roads a chore. You spend a lot of time fighting the safety system.

It is comfortable, though. Volvo designed the XC40’s suspension to be supple rather than sporty, which means it breezes over rutted tarmac with greater ease than, say, a MINI Countryman or an Audi Q2. We’re particularly impressed by how settled the plug-in hybrid model is with its larger 19-inch wheels – alloys that size often ruin ride quality.

Volvo XC40 PHEV front cornering

The comfy suspension and non-communicative steering mean the SUV performs its best at a cruise, operating within the bounds of its safety systems. Don’t mistake this remark for criticism – it’s great to finally find a car in this class that isn’t trying to put on a false air of sportiness. The Volvo is unashamedly cosseting, and we respect it for that.

There are a couple of issues, though. The regenerative braking system isn’t particularly smooth. It works fine in isolation, but there’s a definite notch in the pedal travel during the changeover from regen braking to friction braking. It’s jerky and makes it difficult to drive the car smoothly.

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Volvo says also that both versions of the XC40 PHEV can drive for up to 28 miles on battery power alone, but we found that figure to be more like 20 miles in the real world. At least when the battery does run out, the changeover from electric to hybrid mode is quite smooth. It doesn’t kick you in the back like the less sophisticated system fitted to the MG HS.

You can also make the most of the available charge by putting a destination into the sat-nav system. Then, the battery will meter out its available electricity gradually throughout the journey rather than using it all in one big hit, improving overall efficiency. You can also choose to keep some charge in reserve if the final leg of your trip is in a busy city.

Is the Volvo XC40 Recharge PHEV practical?

Very. The XC40 has one of the most spacious interiors in its class, loaded with deep storage cubbies and door bins large enough to swallow laptops, phones and large water bottles whole. There’s also loads of headroom everywhere and lashings of leg room for those in the rear, even with the front seats pushed all the way back.

The PHEV’s boot is unchanged over the standard petrol-powered XC40’s. There are 452 litres of space available with the rear seats in place and 1,328 litres on offer if you fold the bench flat. These figures are average for the class, though – the Mercedes GLA’s boot can hold 495 litres, while the Range Rover Evoque’s can carry 591 litres.

Volvo XC40 PHEV dashboard

Some drivers will lament the lack of physical controls on the dashboard. Everything – the climate controls, driver assistance technology, sat-nav, media functions and even the heated seats – is routed through the car’s 9.0-inch portrait infotainment system, which takes some getting used to.

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There are an endless number of submenus to scroll though, so we suggest you set everything up before you start your journey, as it can be quite distracting on the road. However, safety-conscious Volvo has thought of that and designed a voice control system that allows to alter all these settings without letting go of the wheel.

Volvo XC40 Recharge PHEV: verdict

The Volvo XC40 is a nice place to be. It rides well, the cabin is stunning and the infotainment technology is clever enough to amuse you even after months of ownership. But there are quite a few caveats to the car.

First off, it’s rather expensive. Prices start from around £41,000, but you easily can spend more than £51,000 on one by the time you ticked the option boxes for the more potent powertrain and the range-topping Ultimate trim-level. For that money, you could have the electric XC40, which is arguably a more well-rounded car.

The plug-in’s electric range also isn’t as good in the real world as Volvo says it is. And, although the cabin is spacious, there are rivals out there that offer more room in the boot, which could prove more useful depending on your family’s circumstances.

As such, the XC40 PHEV a hard car to recommend. If you’re fortunate enough to be able to use its electric range often, the price won’t seem as steep as you won’t be filling up as regularly. But, if your lifestyle allows for that, you’re probably better off with the electric model anyway.

Volvo XC40 PHEV rear three quarter cornering


Price when new: £41,150
On sale in the UK: Now
Engine: 10.7kWh battery, 1477cc three-cylinder plus e-motor, PHEV, 258bhp @ 5800rpm, 196lb ft @ 1500rpm
Transmission: 7-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
Performance: 7.3sec 0-62mph, 127mph, 117.7-134.5mpg, electric-only range 28.6 miles, 47-55g/km CO2
Weight / material: 1812kg/steel
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 4425/1910/1658mm

  • Volvo XC40 PHEV front three quarter driving
  • Volvo XC40 PHEV front cornering
  • Volvo XC40 PHEV rear driving
  • Volvo XC40 PHEV dashboard
  • Volvo XC40 PHEV front three quarter static
  • Volvo XC40 PHEV headlight
  • Volvo XC40 PHEV charging port
  • Volvo XC40 PHEV digital gauge cluster
  • Volvo XC40 PHEV infotainment system
  • Volvo XC40 PHEV rear seats
  • Volvo XC40 PHEV head-on driving
  • Volvo XC40 PHEV rear three quarter cornering

Luke Wilkinson

Staff writer. Unhealthy obsession with classic Minis and old Alfas. Impenetrable Cumbrian accent

About Mia Rodriguez

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As a social media expert, Mia has a deep understanding of how to create engaging content for various platforms. She specializes in creating social media strategies and managing social media accounts for businesses. She has experience working with both small and large companies and has a background in marketing.

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