The very Swedish Volvo XC40 midsize SUV is now offered as a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, the PHEV T5 Recharge.

These days Volvo is one of world’s automotive style leaders and in our opinion the XC40 is the best shape from the company in many years. With a chunky, almost cheeky, look it has an upright slightly-concave grille, deeply sculpted lower sections of the doors and upward swept D-pillars.

We like the fact that the Volvo XC40 can be bought in two-tone paint. Check the Volvo Oz website for details of the mixing and matching offered. Our test T5 Recharge for the two weeks over Christmas and the New Year has a black roof, with the rest of the body being white. Though black on top doesn’t seem logical in that you would expect it to attract the sun, there was no noticeably high interior temperature when we got into the XC40 during summer on the Gold Coast.

The XC40 is a bit larger than others in its class, at 4425mm long, 1863mm wide and 1652mm high. Every cubic centimetre of the interior space is put to good use. It has seating for five, but four adults and a child makes more sense. The centre tunnel in the hybrid houses the battery so is wider than the tunnel in the conventional models. This can be a pain if you’re carrying three grown-ups in the back.

Volvo’s new Clean Zone two-zone climate system removes harmful pollutants and particles from outside the cabin to deliver what Volvo calls, “Scandinavian-fresh air on the inside”.

The Scandinavian styling is simple almost to the point of being minimalistic in the dashboard area.

There is lots of storage space in the door pockets as Volvo avoided taking up space in this area with audio speakers.

There’s also out-of-sight stowage in drawers underneath the front seats.

Volvo XC40 PHEV has a three-cylinder 1.5-litre turbo-petrol engine that produces 132 kW. And an electric motor with 60 kW. Maximum torque is 265 Nm (petrol) and 160 Nm (electric).

The front wheels are driven through a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.

We certainly enjoyed the clarity of the Harman Kardon Premium Sound system.

The portrait shape of the infotainment 9-inch inch screen makes more sense than landscape ones because you can see much further ahead on the sat-nav map.

Volvo Cars’ driver infotainment system (Sensus) provides smartphone integration with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

There are three USB connections as well as induction phone charging.

The Swedish company’s approach to safety has never faltered over the many years it has focused on this vital feature. A host of features in the PHEV help avoid a crash, or minimise injuries if one does occur.

The 360-degree camera system in our test car provided an overhead view of the Volvo and its surrounds – it’s almost as though a small drone with a camera is hovering over you.

The front seats are large and comfortable. Even in the rear I can sit ‘behind myself’ (I’m 180cm tall) with room to spare.

Selecting gears is simple – you move the lever with a double-tap to Drive or Reverse – just like the double-tap you use on many other electronic devices.

Acceleration is instant thanks to the electric motor having maximum torque from one rpm upwards. We managed 49 kilometres on purely electric power on the run from Volvo in North Brisbane down the M1 towards our home on the Gold Coast.

Petrol-electric consumption averaged five to seven litres per hundred kilometres.

Around town it was seldom fully charged as we live in an apartment and didn’t have access to a full-on charger. So, we used 10amp outlets which typically take about four hours to charge it right up.

The three-cylinder petrol engine is smooth in operation. The automatic transmission was almost invariably in the correct gear and it works well when juggling between the twin powerplants.

Cleverly the stop-start system looked at the outside temperature and chose not to work during the day. It did kick in during the cool of the evening.

Handling is excellent, with steering that almost seems to read your mind.

Some road surfaces created more tyre noise than we anticipated, particularly course-chip roads. The sounds from the noisy concrete surfaces on the M1 motorway between the Gold Coast and Brisbane were kept to a minimum.

Volvo is very serious about the future of our planet and the XC40 PHEV is an excellent step in the right direction. It’s relatively expensive at this stage, but prices are likely to come down as sales increase.

A financial helping hand from Australian governments wouldn’t go awry …

XC40 T4 Momentum: $46,900
XC40 T4 Inscription: $46,900
XC40 T5 R-Design: $56,990
XC40 PHEV: $64,900
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Volvo dealer for drive-away prices.

SPECIFICATIONS (Volvo XC40 Recharge PHEV 1.5-litre turbo-petrol electric hybrid SUV)

Capacity: 1.447 litres
Configuration: Four cylinders in line
Maximum Power: 132 kW @ 5800 rpm
Maximum Torque: 265 Nm @ 1500 rpm
Fuel Type: Premium unleaded
Combined Fuel Cycle (ADR 81/02): 2.2 L/100km
CO2 Emissions: 50 g/km

DRIVELINE: Seven-speed dual clutch automatic

Length: 4425 mm
Wheelbase: 2702 mm
Width: 1910 mm
Height: 1658 mm
Turning Circle: 11.4 metres
Kerb Mass: 1712 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 48 litres

Front: Ventilated disc
Rear: Solid disc

Five years / unlimited kilometres

About Ewan Kennedy

Ewan Kennedy, a long-time car enthusiast, was Technical Research Librarian with the NRMA from 1970 until 1985. He worked part-time as a freelance motoring journalist from 1977 until 1985, when he took a full-time position as Technical Editor with Modern Motor magazine. Late in 1987 he left to set up a full-time business as a freelance motoring journalist. Ewan is an associate member of the Society of Automotive Engineers - International. An economy driving expert, he set the Guinness World Record for the greatest distance travelled in a standard road vehicle on a single fuel fill. He lists his hobbies as stage acting, travelling, boating and reading.
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