We have the Volvo XC40 T3 Momentum Pro in for review and test, Volvo’s entry-level T3 with manual gearbox and 1.5 litre three-cylinder engine.
Volvo’s first foray in to a more compact SUV market than they’ve traditionally competed in – the Volvo XC40 – has been a real success story so far, garnering praise and plaudits from the motoring press and owners alike.
But, until very recently, the choice of XC40s has been a bit limited by the lack of trim levels and engine options available, with most of the XC40s at the high end of the range. But not any more.
Now there’s a full range of XC40 Momentum, Inscription and R-Design models available – and with Volvo’s top-up ‘Pro’ options too – and, for the first time in a Volvo, a new 1.5 litre three-cylinder engine option too.
Add together those 2018 arrivals and you end up with the car we have here – the 2018 Volvo XC40 T3 Momentum Pro – complete with a hefty dose of optional extras and a manual gearbox.
Does a small, three-cylinder petrol engine and manual gearbox – with a more modest trim level – still make the new Volvo XC40 an appealing choice?
XC40 T3 Momentum Pro Inside and out
Volvo has been very clever with the new XC90 and XC60, managing to make them look familiar enough to buyers of the previous incarnations to keep them onboard, but fresh enough to look cool and modern. And they don’t look like ‘Russian’ Doll’ cars either.
But with the new XC40, Volvo are not just entering a space they’ve never been in before, but they’re aiming at a younger demographic too. So the XC40 needs to not look like a ‘Dad’ Volvo. And it doesn’t.
Sitting on Volvo’s new Compact Modular Architecture Platform, the XC40 has familiar Volvo elements – like the grille, the ‘Thor’ headlights and the upright tail lights – but its blunt face, flat bonnet, sculptured flanks, swept-up back windows and cohesive tail make it look a bit funkier and a bit chunkier than Volvo’s bigger SUVs.
This XC40 also has one of Volvo’s (optional) funky paint jobs, with the back body getting a white contrast roof, mirrors and black and white 19″ alloys. It may cost an extra £700, but it got more (positive) comments than anything else from the car park curious. It’s a good look.
Inside, the similarities with Volvo’s bigger SUVs is more evident, with the big, easy to use (yes, it is) tablet screen front and centre, a handful of buttons only, mostly nice to touch plastics, good seats, more stylised vents and a clear and easy to use digital instrument panel.
This may be an almost entry-level XC40, but Volvo has titivated it with a chunk of options for the interior including very nice red leather seats, glass roof, Park Assist and 360 Camera (Xenium Pack), adaptive cruise, Pilot Assist Intellisafe Pro, Keyless and much more. They add up to a significant £7,150 and do make the XC40 more appealing, but even the standard spec is pretty good.
Space up front is good, and even in the back there really is enough space to take a couple of adults without complaint, although the seats are a bit short and you do end up with your knees a bit higher than you’d like. But headroom’s also okay, and the boot is a decent size, if not actually class-leading.
XC40 T3 Performance and on the road
Volvo is on the road to a diesel-free future, so the engine in this T3 is Volvo’s three-cylinder 1.5 litre petrol with 154bhp and 195lb/ft of torque. It’s also the engine which will provide the ICE bit when Volvo delivers a plug-in XC40.
It’s a decent little engine, sounding quiet and refined on the move (although it can be a bit noisy at idle) and with a decent amount of pull for such a little lump dragging around a chunk of SUV
But the downside of a petrol three-pot instead of the diesel four-pot you could have expected just a couple of years ago is that you do have to have it in the rev sweet spot – really, a chunk over 2000rpm – to get it to be appealing and lively, and you do end up stirring the gearbox (yes, this is a manual Volvo XC40) rather a lot.
That’s not a big problem because it’s quite a decent manual gearbox, but that constant stirring and higher revs don’t do anything for economy. After a week and a chunk of miles we’d averaged 29.1mpg, Which isn’t brilliant.
But, just like its bigger brethren, the XC40 is good to drive, not in a ‘it goes round bends like it’s on a rail’ way, but in a beautifully judged balance of comfort, refinement and ability.
It feels quick to respond to steering inputs (which might be down to the lighter engine up front), the brakes are good and easy to modulate, it goes round bends very competently and without a lot of roll and, most of the time, it makes light work of pitted road surfaces.
Just like its bigger siblings, it’s a great balance.
2018 Volvo XC40 T3 Momentum Pro Verdict
You’d have thought Volvo had been in the business of building compact SUVs for ages judging by the XC40. It really is very good.
Volvo has managed to deliver a car with all the kudos a ‘Premium’ compact SUV should offer, with chunky and appealing styling, a decent amount of room, a properly appealing cabin and more than enough to turn the heads of those tempted by the German (and Jaguar) competition.
Volvo has also managed to imbue the XC40 with the same ‘feel’ as its bigger siblings, with a car which makes driving a real pleasure for the 99 per cent of the time your hair’s not on fire.
But even when you do want to press on hard with a back road blat, the XC40 still acquits itself well, perhaps not as dynamically as some of its rivals but always in a way which offers reward.
We shouldn’t be surprised that the new 1.5 litre petrol engine under the bonnet isn’t exactly an economy star in the real world, because it’s having to work quite hard to push along what is still a lump of SUV. But a sub-30mpg average is a bit disappointing, although owners should see the right side of 30mpg.
But if you do want an entry-level compact premium SUV, the 1.5 litre three-pot is still decent to drive – if a little more effort is needed to keep it humming – and the money you save on the list price will easily make up for the disparity between it and a diesel version in the first three years.
So yes, an entry-level Volvo XC40 with a 1.5 litre petrol engine is still a very appealing car.
2018 Volvo XC40 T3 Momentum Pro Review Quick Specs
- Engine: 1477cc, 154bhp
- Performance: 0-62mph 9.4 seconds / Top Speed 124mph
- Economy: 40.4mpg – Official / 29.1mpg – Test
- Emissions: 144g/km
- Price: £29,160/ Price as tested £36,310
- Test car supplied by Volvo UK