Robin Reviews…The Volvo XC40 T3 Inscription

Certain cars just make you feel good inside, whether you’re behind the wheel or not. Premium offerings possess a curb presence like no other, and people looking in know that whoever is inside has everything in their life in order. This brings me to the XC40. Just a bit of history – it is the first-ever Volvo model to win the European Car of the Year award. Together with its larger XC60 and XC90 siblings, it completes the Swedish automaker’s global line-up of premium SUVs.

Unless you’re a seasoned campaigner, you can’t immediately tell whether it’s a T3, T4, or T5 model just by looking at it other than by going to the back and looking at the bottom right of the boot lid. A significant attention grabber is the LED daytime running lights (also dubbed ‘Thor’s Hammer’) and chrome grille duo. Combined with the Onyx Black Metallic paint (an optional extra for R2 950), it makes for one hell of an intimidating SUV – this is just the baby of the range, remember?

The Swedish firm has built a reputation on building the world’s safest vehicles, and while that is not even a question, the designs of their older boxier models haven’t always made people sit up and take notice. Decades later and the brand is breaking new ground not only with their unique Compact Modular Architecture (CMA) platform but in electric mobility, where they aim to put one million electrified cars on the road by 2025, while every new model launched from 2019 onwards will have an electric motor. That notion is reinforced that allows local motorists to choose from a slew of XC Recharge models.

A Swedish chariot

Behind the wheel is a nice place to be. You feast your eyes on the leather-clad Charcoal tailored steering wheel, fully digital instrument cluster, crystal Orrefors automatic gear lever, and (Apple CarPlay and Android Auto-equipped) infotainment touchscreen. The latter is the hub of everything technological, where the driver can toggle between various driver and safety assistance systems with a simple tap. In reverse, the infotainment screen turns into an innovative 360-degree camera. There are no unnecessary buttons and knobs on the dashboard that also features Driftwood inlays because everything is touchscreen controlled. The interior is full leather, where the driver’s seat can be electronically adjusted, and for an extra R6 500, the passenger can have theirs just as fancy.

The cargo area can handle an appreciable 460-litres of your travel luggage, a figure that can be expanded to a whopping 1 336-litres with the rear bench folded down. Where rivals and sales are concerned, the XC40 competes against like the Audi Q3, BMW X2, Lexus NX and Volkswagen Tiguan in the local market.

How does it drive?

Having driven the T4 (also in Inscription trim and packed with a host of optional extras), the main difference is felt in the drive. While the T4 employs a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder unit (figures of 140kW and 300Nm), the T3 is the entry-level petrol version and comes equipped with a peppy turbocharged 1.5-litre three-cylinder, generating total outputs of 110kW and 265Nm. The XC40 is the first Volvo model to use the brand’s three-cylinder engine, the first in its 91-year history, and based on the same modular design as its four-cylinder engines.

Upon initial start-up and idel, the engine does have a diesel-like growl which can confuse, let’s say, petrol attendants, but you can tell very quickly that its not an oil burner. For those interested in the go-fast technicalities, the XC40 does the 0-100km/h sprint in 10.1-seconds and runs to a top speed of 180km/h. As far as aftersales service goes, the range comes standard with a five-year or 100 000km warranty and maintenance plan.

Fortunately (or unfortunately), I took (temporary) delivery of the XC40 with basically a brand-new engine (not even 7 000km on the clock), and this meant that fuel consumption would be much higher than average. Normal driving conditions saw the fuel consumption figure linger near the 10-litre mark (Volvo claims an average figure of 6.7-litres). However, after considerable driving in and out of town, I managed to lower it to 7.9 at one point, with the majority of driving done in either Eco or Comfort modes. Bouts of driving were also done in Sport mode, and granted; the SUV feels like it has a nostril unblocked and makes for a fun drive with the added power on tap.

The small yet punchy three-cylinder petrol engine powering the XC40 T3

The XC40, in T3 trim at least, is not the fastest, but that doesn’t mean there is little power to use. I was surprised that a relatively ‘tiny’ 1.5-litre had no trouble propelling a chassis that had a kerb weight of nearly 1 500kg with no strain from behind the wheel and when loaded with occupants too. The Geartronic transmission is (in my opinion at least) faultless, and thank goodness Volvo didn’t decide to fit paddles to the steering wheel as it would’ve detracted from the premium feel. The drive is as smooth as you’d expect of a car that costs more than R700 000 – the retail starting price for the Inscription T3 model is R728 339. The 19-inch wheels and 211mm ground clearance help absorb the uneven road surfaces, and wannabe potholes punches thrown at it.

The XC40 makes you feel suit and tie even though you’re rocking PJ’s, morning slippers and a grubby-looking beard. (Onyx) Black Metallic is the colour of choice to be had – hands down.

As is the case with all good things, they must come to an end at some point. The XC40 might be the smallest of the range, but is comprehensively packaged with a host of nice-to-have tech features. People buying this car have money so they won’t even feel the adding of optional extras (like the equipped panoramic sunroof) available.

Now that you’ve got the knowledge, it’s time to shop! Head to or your Gumtree app (click for Apple & Android), and don’t forget to use your location settings to find local automotive vehicle information close to home.

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