THE planets are moving smoothly into line for premium car-maker Volvo.
Last year saw the Swedish brand celebrate its second best UK sales figure in 25 years.
And the next few months will witness the company continue its fresh model onslaught with the arrival of a new V60 estate.
First though comes the completion of Volvo’s SUV range in the shape of the compact XC40.
It slots into the line-up beneath the five-seat mid-size XC60 and full-blown seven-seater XC90 and costs from £27,905.
Powered exclusively by Volvo’s own range of Drive-E engines, the newcomer offers a choice of 2.0-litre T5 petrol and D4 diesel units from launch.
T4 petrol and D3 diesels will be in showrooms by May and a three-cylinder T3 1.5-litre petrol version should be on stream by July.
That’s not all. As part of Volvo’s plan to ensure all its vehicles are electrified in at least some way after 2019, plug-in hybrid and pure electric XC40 variants will follow.
Already voted European Car of the Year 2018, the XC40 is primed to give big-selling prestige rivals like the Range Rover Evoque, Audi A3, Mercedes-Benz GLA and BMW X1 a real run for their money.
Strikingly designed, the new compact SUV looks almost identical to the radical Volvo Concept 40.1 which was revealed in 2016 and pointed the way to the brand’s new direction for smaller cars.
It comes in three trim grades of Momentum, R-Design and Inscription, with added equipment Pro versions of each, while all have individual distinguishing features like different front grilles and bumper trims.
Compact may be the category but interior space isn’t an issue, and high seating positions ensure an extensive view for all.
As for carrying capacity the boot is both flat-sided and split-level, and pressing a button flips down the rear seat backs.
The result of that simple manoeuvre is a load area of an accommodating 1,336 litres while 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.
And with clean, modern design in mind the XC40 uses the same Sensus touchscreen control system as Volvo’s other new models – cutting the number of buttons in the process.
It provides the access to another of the car’s upmarket attractions – a 600-watt audio system by Harman Kardon with 13 speakers plus an air ventilated woofer to beef up the bass, though for most variants it’s a £550 option.
Style, quality, connectivity and generous standard equipment is all part of a smart strategy the Swedish company has put in place to maximise sales.
For instance the XC40 marks the introduction of the company’s new subscription service Care by Volvo which enables drivers to get behind the wheel for a fixed monthly payment.
Initially limited to customers within the M25 circle, the cost is £629 a month over two years and covers tax, insurance, maintenance and breakdown cover along with the use of another Volvo for 14 days a year.
The models available for test at the press launch in Scotland were a pair of top spec First Edition variants with D4 and T5 engines featuring eight-speed automatic transmission and with all-wheel-drive.
They were beautifully engineered and kitted out to the hilt, which was reflected in the prices of £40,055 (petrol) and £39,305 (diesel).
Both were exceptionally smooth and rewarding to drive though the best fuel return we could manage on a mix of urban roads and motorway from the T5 was 29.7mpg – fully 10 miles per gallon less than the claimed Combined figure.
The D4 diesel felt marginally more lively and returned only 36.0mpg compared to the official 56.5 figure from Volvo.
Those returns apart, the XC40 is an SUV with a big future – it looks classy, drives sweetly, is very practical and in time-honoured Volvo fashion has tons of safety features.
Prices are from £27,905 for a T3 front-wheel drive Momentum model rising to £40,055 for the T5 AWD First Edition. Diesels start at £28,965 for a D3 FWD Momentum manual.