Clean living for new

entry level XC40

Volvo XC40, side static
Volvo XC40, rear action
Volvo XC40, front static
Volvo XC40, front action
Volvo XC40, front action 2
Volvo XC40, dashboard
Volvo XC40, dash detail
Volvo XC40, boot 2
Volvo XC40, boot 3
Volvo XC40, rear seats
Volvo XC40, front seats
Volvo XC40, boot

HOW times change. Just a few months ago Volvo reckoned most buyers of its smallest SUV would want a diesel doing the work. They don't think so any more.

Which makes the introduction of a smaller petrol engine option into the handsome - and European Car of the Year winning - XC40 about as timely as could be.

This new 1.5-litre three-cylinder engine is expected to take a fifth of all XC40 sales, helping push the range's combined diesel offerings into a minority 40 per cent of sales.

And to think that not so very long ago (mere months, actually) everyone wanted a diesel in their SUV because of the likely economy at the pumps.

Then the world changed and now we're supposed to hate diesels enough to want to ban them from city centres and think 'unclean, unclean' when one passes us on the motorway.

Well, there's good news on the economy front if you take the petrol route - the lively little T3 unit now on offer manages up to 45.6mpg in the official test and actually showed 47.0mpg in the real world on a mixed set of streaming roads for its road test debut.

That encouraging economy - backed up by 144g/km tailpipe emissions - is made to shine brighter still by a starting price of £27,350 for a Momentum trim level XC40, making it the least expensive way into the model range.

Paying less for your Volvo than many makes with less fancied badges charge for their rivals doesn't mean you face a life of slow lane misery without any of the goodies that help pass away the miles.

That little engine is near silent most of the time, only raising its voice to a distant and typically endearing three-pot thrum when asked to give its all.

Stirred along by a sweet six-speed manual gearbox - an auto is coming - it provides enough performance to pass muster as the family carry all, with a 124mph top speed and 9.4 seconds to 62mph.

Riding on 18-inch alloy wheels the XC40 made a fine job of levelling out some typically unkempt British minor roads and - wipers on fast as the heaven's opened - skimmed safely along the motorway.

That tempting price brings a Momentum grade car - and many won't want an upgrade after scanning a standard equipment list that includes satellite navigation, climate control, alloy wheels, cruise control, rear parking sensors and safety systems that parcel in fully automatic emergency braking.

Still fancy a bit more? Then you can move up through R-Design (sporty looks) to Inscription (luxury emphasis) and add Pro versions of each with bigger wheels, heated seats and more.

Diesels start at £28,750 for a D3 Momentum and XC40 prices top out for the moment with the £37,050 T5 Inscription Pro with all-wheel drive and automatic transmission.

The XC40's nicely restrained looks on the outside are different enough to distinguish this Swede (even if now Chinese owned and built in Belgium) from a clutch of its mainly German rivals which, you may think, are starting to look like peas from the same pod.

The same individual approach carries on inside, where Volvo is almost proudest of the practicality built in to every nook and cranny. Moving the big bass speakers from front doors to dashboard frees enough room for a laptop, tablet and water bottle. How very sensible and so Swedish.

It has also built in enough room for a couple of six-footers to sit comfortably behind a pair of similarly sized mates. The decently proportioned boot continues the cleverness with a parcel shelf that stores beneath the floor.

Specify your XC40 with an automatic gearbox and there's even space beneath the central armrest for additional storage - what more could you want?

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