Plug and play - we're living with Volvo's XC40 electric hybrid crossover

Volvo's plug-in hybrid XC40 joins the HJ fleet. Dan gives his first impression.

Date: 27 July 2020 | Current mileage: 671 | Claimed economy: 117.5-134.5mpg | Actual economy: 67mpg

Meet our new car, the Volvo XC40 Recharge Plug-in Hybrid T5 Inscription Pro. Yes, the name is a bit of a mouthful, but the idea behind this car is simple - it's a crossover that promises to give you all of the fun and practicality of a small SUV but without the sky-high running costs and CO2 emissions. 

Like the standard XC40, the T5 plug-in hybrid is a great looking car that oozes class. The large grille and defined body lines really give the XC40 a notable road presence, while its minimalist but the luxurious interior will appease the most ardent supporter of car snobbery. Little wonder, perhaps, that the XC40 is a previous winner of the prestigious Honest John Car of the Year gong

The T5 plug-in hybrid is powered by a turbocharged 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol engine and an electric motor, which drives the front wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox. Officially, this car will return 117-134mpg and 47-55g/km of CO2, while its lithium-ion battery pack will cover 28-miles on pure electricity with zero emissions.

Prices for the start in the region of £39,000, which is a hefty markup on the £31,300 you'll pay for an entry-level XC40 petrol automatic. However, it's worth noting that hardly anyone actually buys new cars these days, which means the key to getting a good T5 Plug-in Hybrid will be dependent on finding a competitive PCP or monthly subscription rate. Company car drivers, however, will be pleased to hear that this plug-in hybrid has an affordable 16 per cent benefit-in-kind (BiK) tax rating.

Volvo XC40 5

Now we've got the boring numbers out of the way, what's this car like to live with? Well, in short, it's a very fine car. I've only been running the T5 Plug-in Hybrid for two weeks, but I'm already impressed with its comfort and all-round ease of use. 

Like the standard XC40, the quality of the interior is first class. The fit and finish of the trim is excellent and the cabin is filled with lots of nice touches, like miniature Swedish flags on the seats and a handmade crystal glass gearshifter. The leather seats are soft and supportive, too, which means they embrace you like a long lost friend. This really is a wonderful place to spend time. 

Unlike some of its plug-in hybrid rivals, the XC40 doesn't sacrifice any of its practicality for fuel economy. Far from it, you get the same level of head and legroom as the standard model. The boot is identical, too, which means you get 460 litres and an additional compartment under the boot floor for a space saver spare wheel and jack.

The big talking point is the Real MPG. Volvo's advertised 117-134mpg WLTP figures are based on the battery having a full charge, which means they are subjective. I've already run the XC40 on petrol-power alone a few times and seen the fuel economy drop to 35mpg on a few occasions. However, on a 100-mile journey, with a full charge, things average out at 67mpg. Will it improve as the engine runs-in? Time will only tell...

What happens if you don't charge a plug-in hybrid?

Thinking of buying a plug-in hybrid? Don't have anywhere to charge it? You'll pay a heavy price, says Dan.

Date: 10 August 2020 | Current mileage: 1409 | Claimed economy: 117.5-134.5mpg | Actual economy: 75mpg

Plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) tend to perform rather badly for Real MPG, with some cars missing their advertised fuel economy figures by huge distances. Drivers tend to blame their cars, while some vehicle manufacturers shift the blame towards the owners who refuse to plug-in and charge their cars. Personally, I think both are to blame. 

Plug-in hybrid cars are not designed to be driven without a full battery charge. And if you can't be bothered to charge up the battery then you're setting yourself up for disappointment. However, that said, I think thousands of PHEV buyers are left out of pocket because they are simply not being given the full facts about the pros and cons of plug-in vehicles from the dealers and carmakers. 

PHEVs are heavy cars - due to the fact they have large battery packs. The XC40 Plug-in Hybrid tips the scales around 1.8 tonnes, and this means the 1.5-litre petrol engine has to work overtime to keep things moving at a decent pace. Last week I took it on a 100-mile run, without any battery charge, and it returned a Porsche-911-rivalling 33mpg. The following week I did the same journey with a full battery and got 86mpg.

This might read like I'm stating the bleeding obvious but it's a message that is lost on some drivers. In fact, last week, I was chatting to some friends at my local running club and one guy proudly declared that he had a PHEV as his company car for the past 12 months, and he'd never so much as taken the charging lead out of the plastic bag it came in. 

Volvo XC40 122

Clearly more needs to be done to educate car buyers and drivers about PHEVs. Personally, I think they are the perfect halfway house between internal combustion engine cars and EVs (electric vehicles). For example, living in central Cambridge, I charge up the XC40 at home and use it as a pure EV in town. When I need to visit the HJ office in London I run it as a hybrid, which uses the battery charge to help the engine and boost fuel economy. 

Flicking through the drive modes is easy via a button below the touchscreen. There is also a 'power' mode which combines the 180PS petrol engine and 82PS electric motor to give the XC40 262PS and a 0-62mph sprint time of 7.3 seconds. Few people will bother with this function though - it drains the battery and fuel tank at a rapid rate and totally undermines the whole point of the car

Charging up the XC40 is simple: just lift the flap on the nearside wing and plug in the cable. A full charge takes around six hours from a three-pin plug or 2.5 hours via a wallbox. However, for the wallbox, you'll need to pay an extra £50 for the Type two cable - which is a tad disappointing on what's already quite an expensive family crossover.

Comfort is an area where I can find no fault with the XC40. Even on 19-inch wheels - standard on Inscription models - the ride quality is wonderfully smooth and relaxing. The spacious interior and soft leather seats make the XC40 a great place to unwind after a long day at the office, too. Just don’t forget to charge it up before you go anywhere.

Pack your bags we're off to Scotland

How will the XC40 cope with 1000+ miles in 10 days? Dan finds out with a road trip to the Scottish Highlands.

Date: 24 August 2020 | Current mileage: 2515 | Claimed economy: 117.5-134.5mpg | Actual economy: 60mpg

Being a car journalist you might think I'd want to take a break from driving when going on my holidays. But if truth be told I couldn't think of anything worse than being cooped up on a coach or plane. That's why I always book a trip that involves driving - and lots of it. 

This year I decided to head to the Scottish Highlands with my girlfriend and the XC40 plug-in hybrid. The trip would cover 1000+ miles and take us to Edinburgh, Loch Ness and the Isle of Skye. Would the XC40 be up to the challenge? And how much fuel would it use? 

Taking a plug-in hybrid on a long road trip has some obvious pitfalls because the moment the battery runs out of juice you are powering a 1.8-tonne car on a three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine. This means the economy takes a pounding.

What’s more, unlike some of its electric rivals, the XC40 Plug-in hybrid cannot be fast-charged. This means you can't recharge the battery at a motorway service - not unless you want to wait around for three hours. As a result, by the time we arrived in Edinburgh the trip computer was averaging at 50mpg.

Volvo XC40 11

Thankfully there were lots of recharging opportunities in the Highlands and this saw the fuel costs plummet. In some cases, on the Isle of Skye for example, the petrol engine was rarely needed as the 28-mile battery covered most of our travelling needs. The XC40 also has a regeneration 'B mode' on the gear lever which lets you increase the rate that energy is recuperated from braking and slowing down, which proved extremely useful when descending Scotland's huge hillsides. 

It wasn't all plain sailing. The XC40 is classed as a small SUV, but it's a very wide car - 2.1 metres when you include the door mirrors. This means it feels quite large on narrow roads. We had several occasions where we had to stop and pull over to allow even modest sized family hatchbacks and SUVs to safely pass.

Road tripping in the XC40 did give me a good opportunity to put the in-car navigation through its paces. All-in-all it did a good job, with well-judged audio instructions that provide you just enough time to prepare for a turn or junction. What's more, having a digital instrument display, the map and directions are also shown clearly in front of the drive which means you don't have to glance down at the infotainment screen to understand the route.

By the time we were ready to pack up and return home, the mpg was averaging at an impressive 115mpg. However, as with the drive up to Scotland, the return leg drained this back to 60mpg as the battery ran out and the petrol engine kicked in.

Calm and comfortable - this is how the XC40 will win you over

Smooth, relaxing and luxurious, the Volvo XC40 is our idea of the perfect premium crossover.

Date: 7 September 2020 | Current mileage: 3887 | Claimed economy: 117.5-134.5mpg | Actual economy: 76mpg

There is something deeply satisfying about driving a comfortable and refined car. It's a bit like that feeling you get when you manage to peel the entire label off a beer bottle without tearing it. It’s simple but weirdly rewarding feeling. 

The XC40 Plug-in hybrid doesn’t have any labels for you to peel off, but it does have a silky smooth powertrain that wafts you along in near-silence at low-speeds. This, I find, is a wonderful way to off-set the hustle and bustle of driving around a busy city like London.  

I usually have to drive into the capital at least once a week to attend meetings at the HJ office, but the XC40 takes the stress out of the journey. The navigation system is excellent, the ride quality soft and the excellent cabin soundproofing keeps noise to a minimum. Even the old clattering diesel taxis can’t disrupt my zen-like commuter calm.

Finding parking in London in anything larger than a Ford Fiesta is always an unpleasant experience. Thankfully, the XC40 measures 1.7 metres high and this means it can slip into all underground car parks with ease. The only time things become a little heated is when navigating width restrictions, with the 2.1-metre wide Volvo proving a tight fit.

Volvo XC40 9

Away from the city, this Volvo continues to impress with low-fuel costs and excellent all-round useability. Last weekend I took the XC40 to the Peak District. The drive-up on on the Friday evening was a breeze, thanks to Volvo's Pilot Assist system, which maintains a sensible distance from the vehicle in front and adjusts the steering automatically to ensure you don't drift out of your motorway lane.

However, being front-wheel drive and rather heavy, I was a little worried about the XC40's ability to navigate wet and slippery B-roads. My holiday in Scotland had been thankfully rain-free and the Peak District was the first time I'd met some challenging weather and loose gravel single track roads. But as with most things, the XC40 takes it all in its stride with safe and predictable road-handling and lots of supple road comfort. 

Again, the XC40's broad shoulders provided a few nervous moments when I met anything coming the other way. What's more, being heavy and front-wheel drive, I wasn't keen to venture off the tarmac in case I got stuck. 

Fuel economy for the past two weeks is averaging at 76mpg, but I don't think this tells the whole story. On quite a few occasions now the XC40 is averaging 80+mpg when I use it for 50-60-mile journeys with a full battery charge. On long journeys, however, it'll drop to 30-40mpg once the battery is empty and it starts to rely on the petrol engine.

360-degree surround view parking - why it's the best car option of them all

In a world of endless and often pointless car options, Dan thinks he's found one that is actually worth its weight in gold.

Date: 21 September 2020 | Current mileage: 4067 | Claimed economy: 117.5-134.5mpg | Actual economy: 74mpg

What is the best optional extra for my car? It's a question we get asked a lot at ASK, and it's a topic that always generates a lot of debate in the HJ office because it's such a subjective question to answer. 

Over the years I've probably sampled some ridiculously expensive optional extras but very few have really stuck in my mind as essential. However, since living with the XC40, I've come to the conclusion that the 360-degree camera is one of the most useful bits of tech a modern car can have. And I take no hesitation in recommending it, despite its £700 cost.

Why is it so brilliant? Well, as the name implies, it gives you an eagle eye 360-degree live view of the car. This means you can see pedestrians, bollards, vehicles and everything else nearby without having to bob your head around like a pigeon trying to check every mirror and angle when parking.

What's more, unlike rearview cameras, Volvo's 360-degree system doesn't become useless in the winter months because it's covered in grime. What's more, if you combine the 360 camera with Volvo's Intellisafe Pro - an extra £1500 -  you will get a camera system that will also warn you of approaching cars when reversing out of a parking space or narrow driveway.   

Volvo XC40 3

Now before you start sending angry emails, I  admit £2200 is a LOT of money to spend on a Fancy Dan camera system. However, before you grab your pitchforks and torches, take note that the Intellisafe Pro pack also includes Volvo's semi-autonomous Pilot Assist system and adaptive cruise control. And with some hard-nosed bargaining, I would argue that you'd get the whole lot for a lot less than the £2200 list price. 

If truth be told, the infotainment system in the XC40 is rather brilliant. The nine-inch touchscreen system is easy to use and fitted as standard on every XC40. It features lots of pinch and swipe features - like a smartphone - and it also shows up all of the fuel economy figures, with a snazzy real-time graph (pictured above). 

Another feature that's standard on all versions of the XC40 is a digital instrument binnacle. The 12.3-inch display shows the speed, rev counter and trip readouts. You can also adjust the layout so it suits your mood or need.

However, the digital screen comes into its own when navigating around a busy town or city, because you get a map placed between the dials. This means you just need a simple glance down to check your route or next turn. The system will also automatically reroute you to avoid traffic, but this has some problems because it'll usually send you down narrow streets which may not always be compatible with your 2.1-metre Volvo...

Can you fit a bike in a Volvo XC40?

Will the Volvo XC40 carry a full size mountain bike? Dan rolls up his sleeves to find out.

Date: 5 October 2020 | Current mileage: 4600 | Claimed economy: 117.5-134.5mpg | Actual economy: 68mpg

Can the Volvo XC40 carry a bike? Well, as the picture shows, the answer is a big muddy yes. In fact, at a squeeze, the XC40 can carry two bikes stacked on top of each other, although this does limit the car to a two-seater - because you can only do this by flattening the rear seats. 

Cycling is one of my favourite hobbies and this means I always need a good-sized car that can carry at least one adult-sized mountain bike. As you can see, the Volvo does this with flying colours. The rear seats can be flattened with the clunk of a large button (on the top of the second row) and you get a completely flat load space.

In hindsight, I should have specified the XC40 with a towbar. Admittedly, it adds £1150 to the list price, but the electrically foldable towbar pops out at the press of a button. It also includes Volvo's Trailer Stability Assist system and electric hook-up, which means even a novice can become a towing pro - with the system automatically applying the brakes if it detects the trailer starting to snake out of control.

If I had added the tow bar, I'd be able to carry my bikes on my Thule bike rack. I used it almost every week when testing the Skoda Karoq in 2019 and I've been kicking myself for not thinking about it when ordering the Volvo.

Volvo XC40 Muddy

Of course, I could have bought a roof rack - the XC40 does have roof rails after all. But I've never been a fan of carrying bikes on a tin top. Lifting the bikes onto the roof is awkward. And it’s painfully easy for a bike to slip from your fingers and leave a mountain bike imprint on your car’s topside. 

That said, the XC40 has proven itself to be a competent cycle companion. The carpet floor and seatbacks are quite posh and covered in an expensive-looking carpet, which means I've had to cover them with an old sheet before loading my bike in. But once covered and loaded up, the Volvo has made it easy for me to transport my bike for Saturday cycling trips in and around Cambridgeshire. 

Being a plug-in hybrid, with a huge lithium battery bolted to its undercarriage, the XC40 isn't as durable off-road as the Karoq Scout. This Volvo tips the scales at 1800kg and this means it can get a little bogged down in the mud.

Thankfully the front-wheel drive set-up has an off-road driving mode that optimises the traction control system that prevents you from getting stuck. But even with the electrical jiggery-pokery, I've had a few nervous moments with the wheels struggling for traction in wet and muddy country lanes.

How to deal with the XC40's plug-in baggage

Travelling with a 4.5 metre charge cable can present its problems, especially when it comes to storage.

Date: 19 October 2020 | Current mileage: 5010 | Claimed economy: 117.5-134.5mpg | Actual economy: 62mpg

Volvo Plug-In Hybrid top tip - always put the charging cable and its little bag under the boot floor. The XC40 has a decent level of space around the spare wheel well and it's perfect for hiding the bulky bag and its 4.5 metre lead. 

If I'm honest, it took me a couple of months to work this out. Why? Because the bag for the charging leads is carabiner clipped to a hook in the boot and I naturally assumed this was Volvo's way of telling me that where it should stay. 

Thing is, over the past few months, the charging cable bag has become a pain in the proverbial. Not only does it eat up valuable boot space, but the zip broke within days of the XC40 being delivered and this means it has become impossible to zip it closed. 

As a result, things have a habit of falling into the bag and becoming lost among the cables. Last week I found a packet of dried paste and two cans of tomatoes hidden in there. However, packing the lead away under the boot floor means I can enjoy all 460-litres of boot space and not have to worry about my Saturday lunch vanishing mid-transit. 

Volvo XC40 Spare Wheel

On the topic of spare wheel wells, I should point out that the XC40 Recharge Plug-in Hybrid T5 does not get a spare as standard. I think that's a bit poor, from Volvo. Especially when you consider the fact that the XC40 Recharge Plug-in Hybrid T5 starts at £42,305.

Volvo will no doubt argue that £150 is a small price to pay for a space saver spare wheel and jack, but I think it is reasonable to expect something as important as a spare wheel to be fitted as standard. Especially when you consider Volvo's steadfast dedication to safety. 

When it comes to everyday useability, I have no complaints. The XC40 is a really practical car. The boot opening is wide and the load sill is low, which means it's painless to load in heavy things like bits of furniture or mountain bikes. You also get a pair of handy side pockets, with retainers, which can hold bottles of water or valuables. It’s a load space that’s clearly well-thought-out.

Of course, being practical and useful are key Volvo traits. The Swedish carmaker is, after all, the company that made estate cars cool and indestructible. And while the XC40 can't match an 850 for space, it does a respectable job of coping with pretty much everything I can throw at it.

Why the XC40 PHEV is proof that hybrids can be fun and fast

The XC40 might be designed for frugal motoring, but look under the metal and you'll find it has some serious hot-hatch rivalling numbers.

Date: 2 November 2020 | Current mileage: 5409 | Claimed economy: 117.5-134.5mpg | Actual economy: 65mpg

The XC40 PHEV is a car that's full of surprises. Compact and practical, it punches above its weight when it comes to carrying people and cargo. It also has some super frugal fuel figures, with 100+mpg easily achievable over a 40-mile journey with a fully charged battery. But the XC40's true party piece is found under the bonnet. 

The XC40 Plug-In Hybrid might be designed for frugal car buyers and tax-savvy company car drivers, but it also has a few surprises hidden under the metal - particularly when it comes to performance. Indeed, thump the throttle and this smart Volvo will whirr its way from 0-62mph in just 7.3 seconds. 

The XC40's hot hatch-rivalling performance has a habit of catching you out because it's soft and refined nature will trick your mind into thinking you are driving a sleepy hybrid that's designed for frugal motoring rather than outright fun. 

Yet, its 180PS three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine and 82PS electric motor will quickly transform this sleeper into a potent straight-line weapon. And one that provides a considerable 262Nm wallop of torque from 1500rpm.

XC40 Drive Mode

If you want to unleash the XC40's full 262PS then you can activate the 'power' driving mode, but don't expect the battery charge or fuel level to remain stable - power mode drains both at an alarming rate. However, as an occasional treat, the XC40 is a fun car to point at the horizon and thump the throttle. 

Things are not as rewarding in the corners. If anything, it feels like the memo from Volvo's powertrain department got lost in the post because the XC40's soft and wallowy road handling feels decidedly at odds with the thumping straight-line performance. 

Most of the problems lie with the fact the XC40 is a very heavy car with overpowered steering. You particularly feel it in the corners, with the weight causing a fair bit of body roll as the suspension struggles to balance the scales. The overly soft steering feel also makes it difficult to get a full feel of the front-wheel drive set-up, too.

It's an odd combination and one that probably explains why the Volvo has added a less powerful and cheaper 211PS T4 model to the XC40 PHEV line-up. However, as a straight-line rocket, the T5 is a car that will always entertain. But for most people the T4 will make more sense, compared to the unnecessarily powerful T5.

Is the Volvo On Call app worthwhile?

Want to control your Volvo XC40 with your smartphone? Well now you can, thanks to the latest On Call app.

Date: 16 November 2020 | Current mileage: 5871 | Claimed economy: 117.5-134.5mpg | Actual economy: 83mpg

The Volvo XC40 Plug-in Hybrid is a compact SUV that's bustling with tech and gadgets. One of my favourite features is the Volvo On Call app. It's an optional service that gives you a range of useful smartphone services for £35 a year.

It’s a useful bit of tech that lets you check the battery/fuel levels and pre-program the seat and steering wheel heating  You can also send your destination to the car’s navigation system, which means you can map out your trip from the comfort of your sofa with your phone and then have it ready and waiting in the sat nav for your journey.

The app helps you locate the XC40 in a car park, too, by showing its exact location on a map. If you are really stuck, you can flash the headlights and activate the horn. This really is a car that's impossible to lose. 

Smartphone apps for cars are nothing new, I admit, but Volvo's On Call system is one of the easiest to use. Not only does it provide a host of useful tools, but it will also allow you to calculate average fuel economy and check on the battery status. You can also set your favourite charging locations and save them to the navigation system.

Volvo XC40 1

Another useful feature on the app is the parking function; this makes it easy to find local car parks and check the hourly costs. What's more, most importantly of all, it lets you find free parking with the swipe of a finger.

As I approach month five of the XC40's six month long term loan, I've really found myself appreciating the stress free nature of Volvo's compact SUV. Everything is simple to master, and I think it's one of the best-looking cars in its class, too. 

Average fuel economy is averaging around the 80mpg marker, with most of my journeys being around 40-50 miles with a full battery charge. As mentioned in previous updates, it's vital that you charge the battery on a daily basis. Failure to do so will result in sky high fuel bills, with the XC40's average economy dropping to a painful 30-35mpg.

However, for my daily needs in and around the city of Cambridge, I've found the XC40 Plug-in Hybrid to be perfect for my needs. It's efficient, comfortable and surprisingly practical. In short, it's the complete hybrid package.

Fast charging pains with our plug-in hybrid

Dan bemoans the Volvo XC40 Plug-in Hybrid's lack of fast charging capability.

Date: 30 November 2020 | Current mileage: 6348 | Claimed economy: 117.5-134.5mpg | Actual economy: 89mpg

Regular readers will have noticed that I've become quite fond of the Volvo XC40 Plug-in Hybrid. Handsome, easy to drive and super efficient, it's a fantastic - if somewhat pricey - family car. However, it does have one issue that tends to annoy me. 

The problem is the time it takes to recharge the battery. Like many plug-in hybrids on sale right now, the XC40's lithium-ion battery system doesn't have any form of rapid charge capacity. This means you'll be facing a 2.5 hour-wait for a full charge.

Some electric car owners can hook their vehicles up to a fast charger and add up to 80 per cent to the battery in around 40 minutes. Sadly, for me, there is no such option available on the plug-in hybrid Volvo. The Type 2 connector will accept up to 22kW, but the system in the car is designed to a maximum of 3.7kW.

This means you'll be waiting around for a full charge from a public charging point. Which is fine if you have a lot of shopping/walking/coffee drinking to do when you venture into town, but it means long journeys in the XC40 can be quite expensive because the mpg drops to around 30ish when the battery is empty.

Volvo XC40 Street Charge 2

For me, the XC40 is perfect. Most of my journeys are 40 miles or less and this means a full battery charge will enable the electric motor to work in perfect harmony with the engine and return an average of 80-90mpg.

The XC40 is a hugely rewarding car to drive, too. The electric hybrid system is smooth, quiet and surprisingly punchy when it comes to performance. And there is something undeniably satisfying about driving an SUV that moves along in near silence.

Sadly the XC40's silent operation causes some issues with cyclists and pedestrians, because they don't hear you coming. As a result, when the electric motor is running on battery power alone, you have to be on your guard when whirring around a city centre like Cambridge because some people tend to step out into the road before thinking of the Green Cross Code.

Thankful this Volvo is packed to the brim with safety tech, which means it can detect other vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists – day or night - and apply the brakes if it thinks you are a tad slow on the brake. It is a smart bit of kit. It's just a pity you have to wait so long to get a belly full of electricity.

Can you fit a Christmas tree into a Volvo XC40?

The Volvo XC40 is put through the ultimate season test with a five-foot Christmas tree.

Date: 14 December 2020 | Current mileage: 6890 | Claimed economy: 117.5-134.5mpg | Actual economy: 91mpg

The Volvo XC40 is a small SUV that's packed with big surprises. Just like putting an old jacket on and finding a £20 note in one of the pockets, the Volvo inevitably finds a way of bringing a smile to your face, no matter what else may be going on in the world. 

The body of the car measures just 4.4 metres in length, yet it provides lots of useful storage. For example, all of the doors have deep pockets, while every passenger gets a cup and water bottle holder of some description. You also get a useful ski hatch in the rear seats.

The Volvo proved its mettle last week with perhaps the toughest task of all - transporting a Christmas tree from the garden centre to my home. However, while other car owners were busy tieing their Xmas trees to their roof racks, I found the XC40 could swallow one large tree in a single sitting. 

You see, this Volvo is deceptively large. With the rear seats in place, you get a load space that measures 36 inches long and 52 inches wide (behind the rear wheel arches). The rear seats have a handy button which means they thump down to provide a flat load space that measures up to 72 inches long - six-foot - when you nudge the front seats forward a couple of clicks. 

Volvo XC40 Tree 2

The XC40 has lots of handy features, too. The rear headrests, for example, automatically fold down when you lower the rear seats. And the heated windscreen and rear window automatically switches themselves on when the temperature dips below a certain temperature. 

Fuel economy is averaging at 91mpg. What's more, with my electricity tariff, I find that the plug-in hybrid powertrain returns around 6p-per-mile. 

As previously mentioned, the charging times can result in a bit of frustration. The XC40 has no rapid charge function and this means you can't 'juice up' the battery from zero to 80 per cent in 40 minutes like you can with electric cars. And if you use a three-pin plug you may be waiting up to five hours for a full charge.  

Sadly my time with the Volvo's popular SUV is drawing near to a close. But the experience has been extremely positive. Easy to drive, stylish and practical, the XC40 is a very capable and user-friendly car. It'll be a sad day when the Volvo collection driver appears at my door and attempts to prize the key away from my hand.

XC40 Plug-in Hybrid - should you buy one?

After six months and 7502 miles the time has come for Dan to hand back his Volvo. Would he buy one? Should you buy one? Dan reveals all.

Date: 28 December 2020 | Current mileage: 7502 | Claimed economy: 117.5-134.5mpg | Actual economy: 91mpg

After six months and several thousand miles, the time has come for me to say goodbye to the Volvo XC40 Recharge Plug-in Hybrid. It's been a fantastic experience, but I'm not sure I'd be prepared to part with £42,305 to buy one. 

Let's kick things off with all of the stuff I love about this car. It's stylish, comfortable and wonderful to drive. The plug-in hybrid system is, quite simply, one of the smoothest out there. And you'll easily get 90+mpg when travelling around 50 miles with a fully charged battery. 

Like all models in the XC40 range, the interior is superb. The build quality is top-notch and the seats are wide and supportive. You also get lots of storage and a huge boot. In fact, the XC40's 452 litres is far better than the 434 you'll find in the Peugeot 2008 or the 427 litres you'll get in the Audi Q3. What's more, the Volvo has a useful underfloor storage compartment that can hold a space-saver spare wheel and a bag that holds all of the car's recharging cables.  

The 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol engine also packs a punch, thanks to its turbocharger, which means you get 180PS from the engine and 82PS from the electric motor. This results in a 0-62mph time of 7.3 seconds. However, while this XC40 has teeth, it wins you over with its smooth, efficient and refined nature. 

Volvo XC40 Bridge 2

So, what's bad about the XC40 Recharge Plug-in Hybrid? Well let's address the £40,000 elephant in the room, shall we? Because this car costs £15,000 more than the entry 129PS T2 petrol version of the XC40 with a manual gearbox. And that's a heck of a lot. 

If you are a company car driver then you'll not care a huge amount about the list price. The XC40 plug-in hybrid has some affordable company car rates and this will be the deal clincher whem it comes to monthly payments. However, if you are not a business driver, that £15,000-sized pill may be a bitter one to swallow. 

The second issue lies with the car's weight and small petrol fuel tank. The XC40 plug-in hybrid weighs a considerable 1.8 tonnes, which isn't so much of an issue when you are driving 40 or 50 miles with the battery chipping in. But venture further afield and the Volvo's portly body will kill fuel economy when the battery runs out of charge.

However, as a package, the Volvo XC40 Recharge Plug-in Hybrid is a very good car. If you can afford its lofty price tag then you won't be disappointed.