Volvo XC40 Mild Hybrid Drive Review. Quintessential Scandinavian with purpose

Volvo has for long been the purveyor of unaffected cool. Making cars that are uber chic, intelligent, human centric, with a distinct Scandinavian persona. And the Volvo XC40 is as youthful and hip as it gets. We first reviewed the XC40 back in 2019, and remember walking away from the experience thoroughly impressed with the car’s nonchalant flair and urbanity. With Volvo giving the XC40 a mid-cycle refresh with some subtle design tweaks and under-the-hood changes, we decided to spend a week with the refreshed XC40 Mild Hybrid MY23, to see what Volvo has added to the already charming personality of its entry level model for the Indian market.

The design changes in the new XC40 start at the front, although even the most observant Volvo fans would struggle to notice them at first glance. The XC40 has always had a bold and aggressive stance, with sharp lines and a muscular profile that exudes confidence. The refreshed version gets a slightly altered front facia, with sharper and more angular front headlamps which house the signature “Thor’s Hammer” LED day time running lights. The fog lamp surrounds under the headlamps has also been redesigned, and the XC40 now gets a glossy black front grille with a grid design, replacing the vertical slats and chrome finish of the previous version. Down the side, the XC40 sports a new 5-spoke alloy wheel design which replaces the dual tone alloys seen on the previous version, and although the wheel design is simpler and more utilitarian than before, it gives the XC40 a more butch stance when viewed from the side. The rear exterior design of the car remains largely unchanged, except for the rear bumper insert which is now black in colour instead of silver. While the XC40 Mild Hybrid’s design changes are subtle, they do freshen up the look of the car. The design is almost 6 years old now, but its styling remains as youthful and eye-catching as ever. It stands shoulder to shoulder, and even outclasses some of the more recently introduced category competition from other luxe global auto brands. 

Inside the refreshed XC40, there is an air of tranquil confidence. A minimalist design philosophy prevails, with sleek lines, modern materials and impeccable finish, that create calming atmospherics. The materials used in the interior of the XC40 are of high quality, with soft-touch surfaces and a combination of gloss black inlays and brushed aluminium elements around the dashboard and door panels. We especially loved the open-pore wood inlays around the cabin and eye-catching Orrefors crystal gear shift knob by the legendary Swedish glassmaker, further adding to the quintessential Scandinavian appeal. Our test car in white came with a rather smart all-black leather interior with white stitching. There is a beige option available as well. The dashboard and central 9″ portrait style screen are angled towards the driver, which makes it easier to access and use the infotainment system’s features. The software has been updated for the refreshed XC40, and it now runs on an Android-based software with features such as Google Maps, Google Assistant and Spotify integrated within it. The operating system is easy to understand once you get used to it, and while newer offerings have crisper displays with higher resolution, the XC40 still holds its own against contemporary rivals. The only downside to the minimalist design of the XC40 cabin is the lack of tactile buttons for climate control, and fiddling with the touchscreen to change climate control functions can get a bit distracting sometimes. Also available is a sharp and easy to read digital instrument cluster, and although it incorporates the car’s inbuilt navigation system, Apple CarPlay integration in the digital instrument cluster is missing. 

In terms of other standout features, the refreshed XC40 comes with automatic climate control with a huge panoramic sunroof, a built-in PM 2.5 filter, wireless charging, a 14-speaker 600W Harman Kardon audio system, connected car features and an automatic powered tailgate. Apple CarPlay is available as well, although we had some issues with iPhone connectivity with our particular test car. Noticeably, the XC40 misses out on heated and ventilated front seats, which would have been a welcome addition at this price point, in addition to Android Auto, although the Google integration within the infotainment system sort of makes up for it. 

In terms of space and comfort, the XC40 meets all the requirements of being an able urban commuter, and then some. The front seats, which are electrically adjustable, provide ample support and bolstering, and they even have extended cushioning for under-thigh support. The rear seats are equally comfortable, and the wide stance of the XC40 means that three people can be accommodated at the back with ease. There’s also ample storage and AC vents for rear passengers. Storage at the front is even better, with roomy door pockets that are illuminated and lined with felt to ensure contents don’t rattle around. We especially love that Volvo has made sure to include storage and features for real world use, including a removable trashcan in the front, a little hook that extends from the glovebox to hang your shopping, and even a pen holder in the glovebox. It’s features like this that accentuate the human centricity of Volvo’s design. They always keep the users’ everyday needs in mind, and make it an extremely enjoyable car to live with.

Being a Volvo, the XC40 Mild Hybrid comes with a host of cutting edge safety features, including ADAS level 2 features. One of the standout safety features of the XC40 is its City Safety System, which uses cameras and radar to detect potential collisions with other vehicles, pedestrians, and cyclists, and automatically applies brakes when it detects an imminent collision. Another advanced safety feature is the XC40’s Lane Keeping Aid, which uses cameras to monitor the vehicle’s position on the road and can help steer the car back into its lane if it starts to drift out of it. The XC40 also features a Blind Spot Information System, which alerts the driver if another vehicle is in their blind spot via flashing orange lights on the ORVMs, and the Cross Traffic Alert system, which can warn the driver and automatically brake if it senses approaching vehicles when reversing out of a parking space or driveway. The automatic braking on the XC40 was quite abrupt and sometimes downright jolting, but it proved useful in real world use more than once. Other safety features of the XC40 include adaptive cruise control, a rearview camera, front and rear parking sensors, hill-start assist, hill-descent control, and a driver alert control system that can detect signs of fatigue or distraction and alert the driver to take a break.

When it comes to performance, the XC40 does not disappoint. One of the biggest changes to the refreshed XC40 is its Mild Hybrid system, which blends the familiar 2.0 litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol unit with a 48V electric motor. The new combination sees a bump of 7 bhp for a total power output of 197 bhp, while torque remains unchanged at 300 Nm. The Mild Hybrid system has increased the urgency of the XC40’s power delivery, and provides ample power and acceleration when you press the pedal. The electric motor works well to deliver an additional boost of power when needed, making instant acceleration quicker and smoother, and the XC40 a joy to drive. The car also comes with an eight-speed automatic transmission which shifts seamlessly, and while it takes a fraction of a second to kick-down under hard acceleration, the power delivery is smooth and linear. Although the gearbox does its job well when left to its own senses, we would’ve loved to see the addition of paddle shifters for those moments when you want to take control.

In terms of dynamics, the XC40 feels solid and planted on the road, with minimal body roll. Even under hard cornering, the XC40 provides ample grip. What left us incredibly impressed is the suspension setup on the XC40, with the car rarely allowing road imperfections to creep into the cabin. The XC40 feels surefooted and pliant no matter how bumpy the road surface is, and Volvo has done a great job at ensuring that the car fares well on unpredictable Indian road conditions. The steering is light and precise as well, making it easy to manoeuvre the car through tight spots and narrow streets. Volvo also allows you to opt for a firmer steering feel through the car’s infotainment system, although we would’ve liked to have the option of a Sport mode for a more engaging & enthusiastic drive.

While the Mild Hybrid system on the refreshed XC40 is supposed to help with fuel efficiency, our test of over 700 kms and a mix of highway and city driving returned an average of 10.6 km/l, making it an expensive everyday commute.

Having said that, the Volvo XC40 Mild Hybrid is a premium compact SUV that’s hard to dislike. Its sleek and contemporary exterior design has aged remarkably well, and the subtle changes that Volvo had made in this mid-cycle refresh freshen up the design. It still is a head turner on the streets and retains its youthful character. The luxuriously well built interior, along with a long list of user friendly features, means that the XC40 finds a place in your heart the minute you step into it. Volvo’s use of innovative design to create more utility for its users continues to create some of the most impressive automotive experiences in the world, and that’s exactly what’s on display with the XC40. Add to this the XC40 Mild Hybrid’s formidable performance and top-notch safety features, and the XC40 becomes an ideal choice for anyone who wants a stand apart with a stylish, urban set of luxury wheels that is both practical and enjoyable to drive. Priced at INR 46.40 lacs ex-showroom, it’s not exactly the cheapest SUV on the market, but XC40’s uncanny ability to make every drive feel special makes it well worth the investment.

More than it speaks of itself, the XC40 speaks about you. Subtly stylish, evolved in matters of tech, pro-planet and puts safety over all else.

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