WHEN did Scandi chic become so popular? The Scandinavian design movement has been a ‘thing’ for more than half a century but it’s never been more popular than right now - and I’m not talking about Ikea.

We can’t get enough of the sleek and pure lines of Scandi furniture, the brilliant minimalism and the quality materials. Park your bum in a posh restaurant and the chances are you’ll be sitting in a chair designed by Hans J Wegner, and you can’t move in Manhattan for new skyscrapers by Bjarke Ingels.

It’s the same on TV. What would the Beeb and Channel 4 fill their schedules with if it weren’t for Nordic Noir?

And then there’s Volvo.

Sweden’s only car manufacturer after General Motors binned Saab in 2010 - not a smart decision with the benefit of hindsight - has been doing very nicely of late.

Armed with a substantial R&D war chest courtesy of its Chinese parent, Geely, has Volvo achieved widespread sales success by doing its own ‘Scandi chic’ thing rather than trying (and failing) to copy the Germans. It has refined its range, successfully developed a range of three- and four-cylinder engines plus hybrids, and introduced a line-up of massively popular (and profitable) SUVs.

The XC40 is the third Volvo off-roader. It is the smallest and also the most important because it’s pitched into Europe’s fastest growing sales segment - the premium compact crossover class. Started by the Range Rover Evoque nearly a decade ago, the compact premium segment is defying the general European sales gloom to record impressive sales growth. New entrants from Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Lexus and Jaguar all confirm the segment’s importance.

So where does the XC40 fit in? Right at the top of the heap, it would seem.

With sales currently running at 2,000 cars a month, the XC40 has immediately become the most successful Volvo new model launch ever in the UK.

These remarkable figures are especially significant because the XC40 is already taking conquest sales from the likes of Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Range Rover.

Volvo is shaking up the market in other ways, too. It’s Care By Volvo subscription package aims to make running a car as hassle free as owning a mobile phone.‘Care by Volvo’ subscription service.

After ordering online, Care by Volvo customers will be able to drive away in a new Volvo without having to worry about the traditional extras such as down payments, insurances, taxes, service fees and geographical or customer age related differences.

XC40 drivers will also be the first Volvo customers who can share their car with friends and family This feature comes as standard for Care by Volvo customers.

At first glance the XC40 doesn’t look much smaller than the XC60. It’s only when they are parked next to each other that you can clearly see the larger car’s extra length. The smaller XC 40’s compact dimensions are good news if you’re a keen driver - less weight equals better handling.

So although it borrows the butch styling of its bigger brothers, the XC60/90, the XC40 feels much more agile to drive. The chassis doesn’t roll, there’s plenty of bite from the front tyres and the chunky steering wheel feels good in your hands. This is the sportiest crossover Volvo has made to date.

Soon you won’t be able to buy a diesel Volvo. For now the diesel version of the XC40 is your best bet for long distances. Although the D4 engine is rather gruff from cold, it quickly settles down and on the motorway engine din is barely perceptible. The automatic gearbox is a smooth shifter, although sometimes a bit laggardly off the line.

The XC40 takes a laid back approach to handling. If it lacks the ultimate sparkle of a BMW it makes up for it with a relaxed demeanour that’s conducive to covering lots of miles in comfort.

Volvo has successful applied the same minimalist design themes that make the XC90/60 so popular, albeit with a stylish twist.

Your eye is drawn to the large portrait-style touch sensitive colour screen but there are lots of neat touches everywhere you look such as the unusual ovoid air vents and the silver concave cut-out which runs across the dashboard. You don’t get some of the poshest bits of the 60/90 duo (like the crystal jewel starter switch) but I guarantee you’d never feel shortchanged. This is a high quality interior.

There’s an impressive amount of space in the cabin. Five adults can get comfortable with no need for compromise. Leg and knee room in the rear is outstanding. If you have no need for a third row of seats, I can’t think of many instances when the 40 would be found wanting compared to its costlier siblings

The 9.0-inch infotainment screen is similar to the award winning system used in larger Volvos. You can pinch and swipe the screen like a smartphone and the main menu conceals a bewildering array of set-up options. Unless you’re familiar with its larger siblings I’d recommend spending ten minutes to familiarise yourself with all the various systems.

However, it’s good to see a big on/off volume knob for the DAB tuner/receiver. Adjusting the volume is a straightforward twist of the knob away - doing away with the need for fruitless finger stabbing.

Safety and driver-assistance features on the XC40 include Volvo Cars' Pilot Assist system, City Safety, Run-off Road Protection and Mitigation, Cross Traffic Alert with brake support, and the 360° camera that helps drivers manoeuvre their car into tight parking spaces. With that lot keeping watch while you drive it’s probably marginally more dangerous to stay in bed.

The XC40 doesn’t share a common platform with the larger 60/90 series. Instead it sits on Volvo Cars' new modular vehicle architecture (CMA), which will underpin all other upcoming small-to-medium Volvos, including fully electrified vehicles.

However, the XC’s wheelbase is only 72mm shorter than an XC60 so although it’s a smaller vehicle you don’t take all the hit in the cabin.

There’s functional storage space in the doors and under the seats, a special space for phones (including inductive charging), a fold-out hook for small bags and a removable waste bin in the tunnel console.

The 432-litre boot is long, but rather shallow, and the parcel shelf was at the perfect height to smack my head every time I leant in. An electric tailgate release makes loading easy even if your hands are full. There’s a hidden underfloor storage area and a useful power socket.

A capless fuel filler allows you to fill up the XC without delay, but the design - a hinged plastic flap covers the filler neck - isn’t the best solution. I always ended up with diesel dribbles no matter how careful I was with the pump nozzle.

On the motorway the diesel returns upwards of 50 mpg. Running around town cuts that by 10 mpg. Short journeys where the engine doesn’t warm up are the worst. You can expect to see no more than 35 mpg in such conditions.

Residual value experts predict you’ll hang on to more of your investment with an XC40 than the equivalent BMW X1 and Audi Q3. A D3 Momentum in manual guise is estimated to be worth 43 per cent of its cost new price after three years and 60,000 miles according to Cap Hpi. That compares with 36 per cent for the equivalent Audi Q3 Sport and 38 per cent for the equivalent BMW X1 SE respectively.


Since it was launched, the XC40 has won the European Car of the Year award and a raft of magazine accolades. Given its lively performance, quality, style, comfort and safety that’s no surprise. The Scandi chic success story goes from strength-to-strength


Engine: 1,969cc/four-cyl/diesel

Power:190 bhp

Torque: 400 Nm

Top speed: 130 mph

0-62mph:7.9 seconds

Fuel cons: 51.4 mpg on test (800 miles)

Price: £39,905