Just testing: Volvo XC40 R-Design T3 Automatic FWD

Volvo XC40 R-Design T3 Automatic FWD

Volvo’s baby SUV is sharply styled, but does it have the substance to match?

By Tim Gibson

Aw, gee. The Volvo XC40 was the biggest disappointment of my motoring year. Given that it’s early January, this may not sound like much of a claim. So let me be precise: it was my least favourite test car of 2019.

    In the abstract, it seemed like the perfect vehicle: stunningly well-styled, brilliant interior, good use of space, decent engine.  

Granted, I didn’t drive anything from Fiat or Nissan in that period, but even so. You wouldn’t expect a Volvo to take the golden raspberry. Especially not from me. Normally, I love Volvos. Can’t get enough of ‘em.

Perhaps that’s the problem. I had high hopes for the XC40. Spent the morning of its delivery pacing the office, counting down the seconds until the driver arrived. In the abstract, it seemed like the perfect vehicle: stunningly well-styled, brilliant interior, good use of space, decent engine.

And yet. Within a few moments of driving it I realised the car just wasn’t doing it for me. It felt clunky, with a surprisingly hard ride that was certainly exacerbated by oversized R-Design alloys and low-profile tyres (not standard on the Momentum or Inscription models).

And the interior, pretty much identical to the interior on every other Volvo and one that I’ve long admired, well… it just lacked a bit of magic.

The problem is that I expected the car to feel like a premium product, but my eye kept spotting cheap-looking plastic. Round the glove box, for instance, and on the underside of the dashboard. Even the carbon-fibre-effect inserts on the doors looked a bit, erm, tacky. Not what you’d expect from a Volvo at all.

Volvo XC40 R-Design T3 Automatic FWDAs for the engine, let’s just say it didn’t float my boat – or the XC40’s for that matter. With an official output of 163 horsepower, it should be plenty strong enough to haul the car along at a decent speed. But it felt sluggish, as if the gearbox was always hunting for a suitable gear. Its get and go had got up and gone.

That was a problem around the narrow country lanes where I live. I never felt as if the XC40 was up to the job of traversing them. Given that it’s a full-on SUV (even though the version I tested was only two-wheel drive), this is disappointing. Drive a vehicle like this around the back roads and you expect to feel like master of all you survey. I felt like someone who’d bought a gymkhana pony to the Boxing Day races.

Never mind. Things would be better on the motorway, right? Well, no, actually. The XC40 still felt wheezy, its engine sounding thrashy and ill-mannered at anything above 65mph. And the ride was twitchy, unsettled. Not the relaxing experience I’ve come to expect behind the wheel of a Volvo.

    ...it is semi-autonomous driving at its very best, making lengthy journeys pass with more ease than a well-greased oyster...  

There are good points. The onboard tech is peerless, with Pilot Assist continuing to amaze. Most manufacturers now offer a combination of lane-keeping and adaptive cruise control, helping to keep you on the straight and narrow and maintain a constant distance from the car in front. But Volvo smashes the function out of the park: it is semi-autonomous driving at its very best, making lengthy journeys pass with more ease than a well-greased oyster down a millionaire’s gullet.

Like its larger Volvo SUV siblings, the XC40 is blessed with a fantastic sound system, great Bluetooth interoperability and a decent sat-nav. It’s dead easy to find a comfortable driving position, though I have to say the seats didn’t feel as if they offered the head-to-knee support that I’ve come to anticipate from Volvo’s orthopaedic-surgeon-designed components. I certainly didn’t feel like extending any journeys just to spend a bit more time in the car, which has very much been the case when I’ve driven the XC60, XC90 and V90 Cross Country.

On balance, it is by no means a bad car. Not by any stretch of the imagination. And lots of people commented on how good it looked. But if I want a car that draws attention, I’ll buy a Range Rover Evoque, which feels better than the XC40 in every way.

Here’s the rub. People don’t choose a Volvo to look flashy. They choose one because they want a doughty car that is elegant, comfortable and delivers the readies. In this guise at least, I’m not sure the XC40 quite fits the bill.

Volvo XC40 R-Design T3 Automatic FWDBut I ought to say one more thing before concluding. Engine choice is a major factor when evaluating Volvos, as is spec. If, like me, you crave wafting luxury from your motor, then the sporty T3 R-Design XC40 is probably the worst of all worlds. A diesel-powered top-speccer, on the other hand, could be just the ticket: gutsy engine, plenty of soft leather on the seats, a calmer ride.

So I tell you what. Here’s my resolution for 2020. Before the year’s out, I’ll try to test an XC40 Inscription D4.

Who knows? Maybe it will end up being my car of the year…

On test

  • Volvo XC40 R-Design T3 Automatic FWD
  • 163HP
  • 43.5mpg combined (official figures, though I didn't get anything like this from the car)
  • 0-62mph in 9.6 seconds
  • 147g/km CO2 emissions
  • Price: £32,365 on the road

Tim Gibson has written about cars for 25 years. His work regularly appears in The Daily Telegraph and other national media.

© 2019 Just Recruitment Group Ltd

Published: 7 January 2020

If you enjoyed this article, you may like: Just testing: Range Rover Evoque D180 First Edition

You may also enjoy: Five ways to make your car ready for winter

Jobs currently available

New job
Electrical Wireman
Sector: Engineering and Manufacturing
Salary: Discussed on application
Location: Braintree
Role: Full Time
Contract: Permanent
Job ref: 910175
About the role

Just Recruitment is recruiting for an Electrical Wire person on behalf of a company based in Braintree, Essex.

The role will involve mechanical and electrical assembly, wire and electrically test distribution and MCCB boards, cabinets and cable harnesses. The role also has the potential for new product development by building prototype boards and testing boards before product launch.

Duties:

  • Build and test distribution and MCCB panels to the standards specified by the latest electrical regulations: BS EN 61439 and BS7671 including energy metering and surge suppression devices.
  • Read, understand and work from technical electrical CAD drawings and wiring diagrams.
  • To pick and check all component quantity and quality before each job.
  • To build and assemble wiring loom kits using a variety of cable crimp hand tools.
  • Electrical testing, fault finding and resolution.
  • Production of Test Certificates.
  • To work using own initiative with limited supervision.
  • Maintain manufacturing records including: copy test certification, wiring diagrams, layout drawings and production sheets.

Requirements:

  • Previous strong experience in Low Voltage panel building environment.
  • Knowledge of metering requirements and installation.
  • Attention to detail.
  • Flash Testing Certified.
Read more
Graphic Designer
Sector: Marketing, Advertising and PR
Salary: Discussed on application
Location: Colchester
Role: Full Time
Contract: Permanent
Job ref: 910168
About the role

Just Recruitment is recruiting for a Graphic Designer on behalf of a company based in Colchester, Essex.

They are looking for an enthusiastic and skilled Graphic Designer to join their team.

This is a fantastic opportunity to join an exciting company as they rapidly expand nationwide.

Duties will include:

  • Designing and producing marketing material for nine businesses across the UK
  • Each business has their own distinct brand identity, so you must be willing to adapt as the situation demands
  • Manage the production of their 300 page brochure
  • Design other promotional material; for example posters and flyers; for use in their sites
  • Liaising with 3rd parties to design and produce physical promotional materials
  • Negotiating prices
  • Experience with website design is preferable
  • Experience with running business social media accounts also preferable

Experience in a similar role or relevant qualification is a must for this opportunity

  • Relevant extensive experience in design programs - for example, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Dreamweaver - is required
Read more
Designer
Sector: Engineering and Manufacturing
Salary: discussed on application
Location: Chelmsford, South Woodham Ferrers
Role: Full Time
Contract: Permanent
Job ref: 910167
About the role

Just Recruitment is recruiting for a Designer on behalf of a company based near South Woodham Ferrers.

This is a fantastic opportunity if you have a Product Design background and can offer Retail or POS Design experience.

Duties and responsibilities:

  • Create new products, including 3D designs, prototyping and testing
  • Execute robust design process and continuous improvement
  • Take client brief either from Account Manager or Client
  • Time management and planning workload with Head of Design
  • A ‘can do’ attitude

Qualifications:

  • Excellent level of knowledge using SolidWorks
  • Good level of knowledge using Adobe Suite
  • Experience with the POS sector would be advantageous
  • Product Design degree would be preferred
  • Good problems solving skills
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Good Word & Excel skills
Read more
Administrator
Sector: Public Service and Administration
Salary: £16,500 - £17,000 per annum
Location: Needham Market
Role: Full Time
Contract: Permanent
Job ref: 910164
About the role

Just Recruitment is working with one of Suffolk’s most promising mortgage companies. Established in 2014, this company is looking to take on a skilled Administrator to support its rapid expansion.

Your duties will include:

  • Supporting the mortgage brokers in their day-to-day activities
  • Electronic Filing and record-keeping
  • Checking and submitting mortgage applications
  • Progressing cases
  • Speaking to members of the public, both in-person and over the phone

Ideally, you will:

  • Have experience in an administrative role
  • Possess an excellent telephone manner
  • Be diligent and detail-oriented
  • Be highly computer literate, including familiarity with Microsoft Packages
  • Have a great sense of humour

Working hours:

35 per week – Monday to Friday, 9am until 5pm, with an hour off for lunch

Read more
Warehouse Operator
Sector: Transport, Logistics and Shipping
Salary: To be discussed on application
Location: Sudbury
Role: Full Time
Contract: Permanent
Job ref: 910163
About the role

Just Recruitment is recruiting for a Warehouse Operative on behalf of a company based in Sudbury Suffolk.

Your daily duties will include:

  • Ensuring that the warehouse is kept tidy and organised
  • Unloading and checking of deliveries in
  • Checking in goods
  • Putting away products within the warehouse
  • Picking products as per customer orders
  • Checking orders, ensuring accuracy
  • Packing orders to ensure safety in delivery
  • Loading deliveries
  • On occasions take responsibility for the locking up procedure for the Warehouse/Site

Working hours:

Split shifts: 6.00am – 2.30pm / 2.00pm – 10.30pm

You will have the following skills and experience:

  • Suitable applicants will ideally have current Forklift licences for Counterbalance, Pallet Truck and Flexi
  • Good level of Numeracy and Literacy
  • Intermediate PC skills
  • Preferred NVQ Level 2 Warehousing or equivalent
  • Prior knowledge of Warehouse Management Systems
Read more
Equity Release Advisor
Sector: Accountancy, Banking and Finance
Salary: Discussed on application
Location: Needham Market
Role: Full Time
Contract: Permanent
Job ref: 910156
About the role

Just Recruitment is recruiting for an Equity Release Advisor to join an established company based in Needham Market.

Operating for over 20 years, our client has a great reputation in the local area. They are looking to take on someone with a real hunger to succeed within the industry.

  • A CeMAP / Equity Release qualification
  • Experience within mortgage broking or Equity Release
  • Great communication skills
  • A detail-oriented nature
  • Experience of dealing with clients, both in-person and over the phone
  • Strong market awareness
  • Great knowledge of Microsoft packages and be generally computer literate

In return, you will receive a competitive base salary plus commission.

Please get in touch if you would like to be considered for this exciting new opportunity.

Read more