Unlike its recently launched Jaguar E-Pace rival, Volvo's XC40 makes no claims to be a sports SUV. It's softly sprung and set up, although the Dynamic adjustment allows you to select more sporting settings for the suspension, steering and drivetrain. While the tyres (20-inch diameter on the petrol, 19-inch on the diesel) will clatter over sharp-edged bumps, in general the ride beautifully balanced over typical UK roads – read terrible. The suspension 'breathes' over bumps allowing the long-travel suspension to cosset the occupants, although the 19-inch tyres are probably the best selection for those not fixated on appearance.
Not that the handling is a disaster and only on occasions does the XC40 feel underdamped, whereupon you can select Dynamic mode to sharpen it up. The steering is accurate but gentle in response and a little dead feeling. The body does roll, but it is well controlled and driven briskly, you can make good progress; it's only if you start throwing it around that the front rolls onto its outside front tyre and the car wants to go straight on. The brakes are powerful, but slightly over servoed and abrupt, so you need to exercise caution on first application.
As well as the normal purchase options, next year, there will be the new Care By Volvo alternative. This is effectively a hire scheme available to customers inside the M25. At £629 a month for a D4 or D5 Momentum over two years, it isn't cheap but offers use of the car and maintenance, insurance, roadside assistance, use of an alternative Volvo for 14 days a year and a concierge service.
Like Skoda's Karoq, the XC40 appears to have been set up for a typical day with a UK family rather than for a race track. Its engines are economical and powerful and the ride and handling compromise is well judged. The cabin and standard equipment list has been compromised compared to the company's more expensive and bigger SUVs, but these diminishments have been managed well and you shouldn't notice them too much. Add in this distinctive and characterful appearance, and the XC40 seems like an expensive if really rather desirable motor car.
Engine: 1,969cc, four-cyl, twin-turbo diesel
Transmission: eight-speed torque converter automatic, four-wheel drive
PS/Nm: 190 (187bhp) /400 (295lb ft)
Top speed: 130mph
Price as tested: £35,305