THERE are two diesel engines and three petrol units in the Volvo XC40 line-up, and while I would have no reservations in recommending any of them, I reckon I have just driven the pick of the bunch.

Sitting comfortably between the D3 diesel and T5 petrol options is the one that in my opinion is just right.

The T4 petrol version is not only achingly smooth and with decent acceleration and fuel economy figures but also provides for a hushed and cossetted ride better than anything else I have driven in its class.

Available only with the excellent eight-speed auto gearbox, it will hit 62mph in 8.5 seconds and travel just under 40 miles on a gallon of fuel.

Yes, the T5 will accelerate faster, and, yes, the D4 will not only sprint more quickly but provide a fuel economy figure in the mid-fifties, but the T4 is such a smoothie that you cannot help but be won over by its charms.

The XC40 solved a big problem for the Swedish firm. As the maker of the redoubtable XC60 SUV in the medium sector and the larger XC90, it had two cars that could take on anything in those classes.

But when it came to the compact sector, customers were forced to look to the likes of Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Range Rover.

Now they are looking at the XC40’s bold design – particularly the R-Design model tested here - cutting-edge connectivity, ingenious interior storage and industry-leading safety.

Its outstanding comfort, quality and safety features and array of excellent engines make it the most compelling buy in the sector. It is even very well priced.

Available with front and all-wheel drive, it comes with a manual or automatic gearbox and is built on the company's new CMA (Compact Modular Architecture) platform.

Three petrol and two diesel engines are available, with power ranging from 150 to 250 hp. All these engines are 2.0-litre, four-cylinder units: there are 156 hp T3, 190 hp T4 and 247 hp T5 petrols, and 150 hp D3 and 190 hp D4 diesels. The T3 is available with front-wheel drive, while the D3 is offered in front or all-wheel-drive form. The T4, T5 and D4 come with all-wheel drive and an automatic gearbox. An automatic gearbox is also available on D3 versions.

If you want the fastest, then go for the T5 – which sprints at hot-hatch speeds – but I suspect the top sellers will be the D4 and T4 for reasons of price and economy.

Even the entry-level Momentum versions include including Volvo's Sensus nine-inch touchscreen that works in tandem with the voice-activated control system.

The On Call smartphone app and emergency assistance package is also fitted to every XC40. This allows you to control various functions of your car remotely from your smartphone.

Also standard are LED headlights, dual-zone climate control, a 12.3-inch driver's information display and rear parking sensors. Alloy wheels are 18-inch as standard, with up to 21-inch wheels available as an option.

Safety equipment includes City Safety, Volvo's automatic emergency braking system that can detect pedestrians, cyclists and large animals, and Oncoming Lane Mitigation, which warns you if you move out of your lane into the path of an oncoming vehicle and provides steering assistance to guide you safely back into your lane. You will also appreciate the 360-degree camera that helps drivers manoeuvre their car into tight parking spaces.

R-Design versions add a host of sporty touches, including a gloss black front grille and front and rear lower bumper sections, a black roof and door mirrors, and dual integrated exhaust pipes. They also get 18-inch diamond cut/matt black alloy wheels. On the inside, there's leather/nubuck upholstery, front seat cushion extensions, a perforated leather steering wheel and gear knob, and aluminium dashboard inlays.

R-Design versions have more dynamic suspension settings than other XC40s. This includes stiffer springs, thicker anti-roll bars and monotube rear shock absorbers that react more quickly than traditional ones, providing more direct body control.

Inscription versions focus on luxury and come with leather-faced upholstery, a power-operated tailgate, front parking sensors, a powered driver's seat, driftwood interior inlays and chrome exterior highlights.

The only reason why you would opt for the bigger XC60 and XC90 is if you need a bigger load area or towing power. Otherwise, this is without doubt the best Volvo SUV to go for.


Volvo XC40 T4 AWD R-Design

Price: from £35,050 (XC40 range from £27,610)

Engine: Four-cylinder 2.0-litre petrol, producing 190hp

Transmission: 8-speed automatic driving all four wheels

Performance: 0 to 62mph in 8.5 seconds; top speed 130mph

Economy: 40.9mpg combined

CO2 emissions: 161g/km


Performance: ****

Economy: ***

Ride/Handling: *****

Space/Practicality: *****

Equipment: *****

Security/Safety: *****

Value For Money: ****