Volvo XC40 Recharge T5 hybrid review

The Volvo XC40 T5 brings PHEV technology to the smallest car in Volvo's range, but it may be worth waiting for the fully electric version

£40,905 - £42,305
Plug-in hybrid

Pros

  • Good performance
  • Useful electric range
  • Free electricity offer

Cons

  • No four-wheel-drive option
  • Interior quality lacking in places
  • Infotainment beginning to date
Car type Electric range Fuel economy CO2 emissions
Plug-in hybrid 28 miles 141mpg 41g/km

Plug-in hybrid technology has so far been reserved for Volvo’s T8 Twin Engine models but has been conspicuously absent from one of its most popular offerings, the XC40 SUV. That’s all changed with the new XC40 T5 Recharge – a new plug-in hybrid and the first to use the Recharge name. It’s the latest step in the Swedish manufacturer’s plan towards electrifying its entire range – and for 50 per cent of those to be all-electric by 2025. It also represents something of a final piece in Volvo’s PHEV puzzle, as every one of the brand's models is now available with a plug-in hybrid drivetrain.

An all-electric XC40 Recharge will arrive in the latter half of 2020 (boasting a claimed 240-mile range), but for now only this plug-in hybrid variant is available. The T5 Recharge pairs a 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol engine with a 10.7kWh battery and an electric motor; it’s front-wheel drive only and uses Volvo’s familiar seven-speed automatic transmission. Total power is 262bhp and there’s an impressive 425Nm of torque.

Volvo claims a three-hour charge time for the battery (using the optional £50 Type 2 cable) and an all-electric range of around 28 miles with Pure mode selected; Power mode combines both power sources in the name of straight-line speed and overtaking punch, while Hybrid mode shuffles automatically between the petrol and electric power as it sees fit.

The resulting economy and emissions figures are encouraging – 41g/km on average is good news from a tax point of view, and while you won’t get near the claimed 141mpg in real life, the plug-in should still beat its non-electrified siblings in this area if its battery is kept topped-up. In our test, we found that an electric range of 20 miles is probably more realistic, and we’re yet to put Volvo’s official economy figures to the test.

The system does a good job of automatically selecting the right power source at the right time, with a smooth transition between the two. The T5 remains quiet around town at slower speeds and is very refined under acceleration, too; the three-cylinder engine only makes its presence known at the top of its rev range and otherwise stays nicely isolated. However, the Volvo’s regenerative braking system could do with being a little smoother, especially when drawing to a complete stop.

Performance is more than adequate, however; 0-62mph takes 7.3 seconds in Power mode. It’s not especially inspiring to drive though – lifeless steering and some body lean detract from the fun, but at least there’s lots of grip. The T5 is much less about outright driving thrills and is geared more towards being a relaxed, swift and comfortable SUV – not surprising given that the XC40 now weighs 1,800kg thanks to its batteries and extra tech.

That extra weight means the XC40 Recharge’s ride suffers a little, feeling a little lumpier than its lighter, internal-combustion-only counterparts.  The T5 remains comfortable nonetheless.

Elsewhere, it’s the usual story with what is a well-designed, practical SUV. The XC40 was always intended to get hybrid power so there’s no reduction in boot space to accommodate the batteries; the same 460-litre load space remains. The XC40’s cabin is as comfortable and spacious as before, with great seats and a clear view out being particular highlights; it’s very well designed but there are some plastics that can’t match the quality of rivals from Audi or Land Rover, for example.

Volvo’s infotainment system works well but is starting to feel a little dated next to more sophisticated offerings from the likes of BMW and Mercedes; as with other Volvo models, you’ll need to pay £300 for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. We’re looking forward to seeing Volvo’s forthcoming Google-powered system that’s due to be introduced on the all-electric XC40.

Safety is a major concern for Volvo and its XC40 is claimed to be its safest model yet – the plug-in version benefits from extra strengthening measures to protect its batteries in a crash, while the usual array of active and passive safety and driver assistance systems are present and correct.

The XC40 T5 Recharge may look pricey at just over £40,000 (the larger Vauxhall Grandland X PHEV is around £4,000 cheaper) but Volvo has promised to throw a year’s worth of electricity into the deal to cover Recharge customers’ use – an attractive proposition if you plan to do most of your charging at home. It’s also worth noting that the XC40 is the first plug-in hybrid option in the compact premium SUV class – we’ve yet to see similar offerings from BMW or Audi, while the new Mercedes GLA 250 e doesn't arrive until May. So for now, the Volvo is the most worthy of your attention in this bracket.