By Mike Torpey on 2021-03-27 - Driving Force news editor and responsible for organising our daily output. He was staff motoring editor of the Liverpool Echo for 20 years.
Volvo XC40 Recharge
Plug-In Hybrid T5
THERE'S a warm, enveloping sensation of well-being you experience from driving a Volvo - especially during the depths of winter.
It could be due to the luxury level fit and finish of the cabin, or the raised seating position with its all-round visibility, or the knowledge that you are aboard one of the safest cars on the road.
Or it may be down to something a lot more simple, like the heated seats and chunky heated steering wheel that keeps your hands nice and toasty.
But there's another very important reason for small SUV fans to take serious notice of Volvo's entry level - in terms of size at least - XC40 model.
When it arrived last summer the XC40 was the first plug-in hybrid car to hit the premium compact SUV scene, making Volvo the only manufacturer to offer plug-in hybrid variants across its complete product range.
Understandably there are those who are keen to embrace hybrid technology and do their bit for the environment, but can't be bothered with the faff of plugging in.
All well and good. The difference, however, is palpable in that plug-in variants can travel significantly further on electric power alone, in the XC40's case up to 28 miles.
Beyond that the petrol engine takes over with some extra assistance from the electric motor as it gently recharges from energy created through braking.
Motor manufacturers will always come up with lofty figures but in real world driving you should be good for around 55 miles per gallon from the XC40 - pretty smart for a vehicle of this size and weight.
Charging is straightforward using a fast charge cable and takes 150 minutes or you can use a standard three-pin plug, which takes an hour longer.
The XC40, which was honoured with the European Car of the Year title not long after its launch in 2018, slots into Volvo's SUV line-up beneath the five-seat mid-size XC60 and full-blown seven-seater XC90.
It costs from £24,100 for an entry grade D3 diesel model, though Recharge plug-in hybrids like our tested variant start at £38,350 for an R-Design version.
The latter pairs a 1.5-litre three cylinder petrol engine producing 180bhp with an 82bhp electric motor, driving the front wheels via a smooth seven-speed auto gearbox.
The driving experience is relaxed, well balanced, surefooted and safe, made all the better by the technology and practical touches on board.
You can also switch between the four drive modes of Hybrid (for everyday use), Individual (for personal driving preferences), Power (sporty driving) and Off Road (rough surfaces), at the touch of a button.
That trademark Scandinavian effect brings lots of piano black, cream leather and shiny alloy finish to the cabin while the dash is dominated by a large vertical Sensus touchscreen control system. It's easy to use and cuts the need for numerous buttons.
And music fans will love another of this model's upmarket attractions - a 600-watt audio system by Harman Kardon with 13 speakers, plus full smartphone connectivity via Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
With carrying capacity in mind the boot is both flat-sided and split-level, and pressing a button flips down the rear seat backs - the result being a load area of 1,336 litres.
Further practical touches include storage space beneath the driver's seat, a removable parcel shelf, shopping bag hooks, slots for credit cards plus a central area specifically designed to hold a box of tissues.
Volvo XC40 Recharge Plug-In Hybrid T5 Inscription
Mechanical:180bhp + 82bhp, 1,477cc, 3cyl petrol engine driving front wheels via 7-speed automatic gearbox
DESPITE a challenging marketplace, Volvo increased its UK car sales by four per...
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