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Richard Bush samples the Business Car Award-winning Volvo XC40 D3 Momentum Pro
Volvo has been chipping away at its 'uncool' reputation for the last ten years or so, introducing new sophisticated tech and curvy exteriors in an attempt to challenge the ever-so-sensible preconception of its brand.
Models like the V90, XC60 and XC90 were all huge stepping stones, but being large, expensive, exec-style vehicles that prioritise luxury and comfort, meant that they were still very much ticking the old Volvo boxes.
Then, in 2017, the XC40 came along - and although it sits below two large SUV siblings, it sets itself apart, with this 'SUV for the city' prioritising style and locking horns with the Jaguar E-Pace, BMW X1 and Audi Q3.
The XC40 doesn't put all of its eggs in one basket, though. Fear not - it takes itself seriously, without taking itself too seriously, which is to say it's cool, hip and happening, but with just the right amount of Swedishness.
New outside, familiar inside
The go-to MO for manufacturers that want to create a smaller SUV, is usually the cookie cutter, Russian doll approach - same look, just smaller. Volvo has gone another way.
The XC40 is totally unique in its exterior appeal, and although it has a familiar grille, the designers have plastered quirky lines, curves and accents along its flanks. And there's even the availability of colour splash wheel, mirror and roof trim - we had the Ice White Pack.
This originality is largely thanks to the all-new compact modular architecture it sits on. Compared to its similar-sized competitors and their respective sister models, it arguably offers the most distinguishable flair.
On the inside, Volvo has kept things familiar, with a clean, no-nonsense layout adopted from the XC60 and XC90. This familiarity is welcomed however, as the minimalist style, along with a brilliant nine-inch central touchscreen and a 12.3-inch TFT driver information display behind the steering wheel, give a sophisticated but clean look. And both these screens come fitted as standard. Sat-nav, Bluetooth, rear parking sensors and dual-zone climate control are also fitted as standard. You can actually have an etched City Map inlay fitted to the dash, free of charge, further testament to Volvo's new taste for style.
The Momentum Pro equipment level we tested adds the likes of heated seats, cornering headlights and an electrically adjustable driver's seat.
Although it has small SUV dimensions, space all round is excellent, with an abundance of head and leg room in the rear. Boot space is generous too, at 460 litres with the seats up and 1,336 litres with the seats down. Most importantly, it has a distinct, easy to fill, square shape.
Sensible, but satisfying
There is a 1.5-litre petrol, and 2.0-litre petrol and diesel derivatives available with the XC40, with power ranging from 150hp to 247hp. Along with the offering of AWD and FWD, it's clear Volvo is trying to appeal to both those that will munch up motorway miles, and those more agriculturally inclined. There are even hybrid and electric models in the works.
We tested the FWD 2.0-litre 150hp D3 diesel mated to the six-speed manual transmission. For casual town driving and motorway cruising, the XC40 is pretty flawless, with a supple suspension, road-domineering high-riding position and loads of safety kit for peace of mind, from emergency autonomous braking to lane keep assist - which are thrown in as standard. The diesel can get a bit husky when you bounce the rev counter and the ride will be slightly better if you stick with the standard 18-inch wheels, but the XC40 clearly has comfort on its mind and it doesn't disappoint.
Throw a few corners its way though and the XC40 manages to avoid feeling lackluster. It doesn't feel sporty, but it certainly doesn't feel like a clunky SUV, or in any way nervous on winding country roads.