2023 Volvo XC40 B4 Mild-Hybrid Review: Can this Mild Mannered Swede Take the Fight to the Germans?

Volvo’s baby XC40 is now equipped with mild-hybrid tech, but is it enough to make it relevant in a segment that’s now crowded with newer and more modern rivals? The petrol derivative of the Volvo XC40 is a classic case of being caught between a rock and a hard place.

By Shivank Bhatt | on May 26, 2023 Follow us on Autox Google News

The petrol derivative of the Volvo XC40 is a classic case of being caught between a rock and a hard place. On one side, it has the German trio of Audi Q3, BMW X1, and Mercedes-Benz GLA to tackle with. And, on the other, its very own green-and-mean sibling – the XC40 Recharge – has conveniently taken the limelight away from it, thanks to the latter’s electrifying performance and tempting price tag.

Now, to get it out of the tough spot, Volvo spruced things up a little for the gasoline-powered XC40 late last year by stuffing it with more features, along with mild-hybrid tech. So, can the petrol-powered XC40 still make a case for itself? 

Volvo XC 40 Rear Three Quarter

Volvo XC40 Design & Interior Updates

For a design that has been around for nearly seven years, the XC40 has aged rather gracefully. With its compact shape, taut lines, and chic design, the XC40 draws attention without trying too hard. That said, the 2023 update has, quite surprisingly, taken some of its sheens away instead of adding more. You no longer get the R-Design trim, meaning no dual-tone paint scheme or diamond-cut gloss black alloy wheels. Instead, you get plain (read ‘boring’) looking 5-spoke silver-finish alloy wheels, which seem to belong in 2013 rather than 2023.

Volvo XC 40 View Of Steering Console And Instrumentation

There are, however, new design elements, which include re-profiled LED headlamps, a more angular bumper, and a slightly different fog-lamp design. Around the sides and back, not much has changed, except for a new B4 badge in place of the T4 of the old model. So, there’s no mistaking this little Volvo for anything else.

Inside, the updates are slightly more prominent. While the dash design and overall layout are more or less unchanged, it now gets an Orrefors crystal gear lever, like bigger and more expensive Volvos. Another new addition is the in-built Google-powered OS, which means you’ve got Android Auto running by default in this vehicle all the time. So, be it Google Maps, Apps, or Voice Assistance Systems, you’ve got it all. And everything works seamlessly.

The 9-inch touchscreen is unchanged and is still one of the best in the business – it’s crisp and high-definition. However, it still has the same old problems. First, it’s a bit difficult to get the hang of it. and second, the touch AC controls aren’t very practical. Also, while Apple CarPlay is available, it’s not wireless. A bit of a miss, I’d say, for a car that costs Rs 50+ lakh. However, the audio quality of the 14-speaker Harmon Kardon sound system will certainly help boost your mood.

Volvo XC 40 Air Bag

Being a Volvo, the XC40 has a strong safety suite and also gets driver assistance systems, such as adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, pilot assist, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert with forward and rear collision mitigation. For a change, these features don’t feel as intrusive as they used to earlier, so it seems some effort has gone into making this system India-friendly.

The quality and fit-and-finish levels are unimpeachable. Although, the all-black interior does look a little drab. You can, however, spec the XC40 with a lighter beige / grey theme. The front seats are large and accommodating, although I didn’t find them comfortable just after a day of driving. At the back, the space is decent, but the rear bench has virtually no under-thigh support and is criminally poor – it feels like a compromise if I’m honest. 

Volvo XC 40 Infotainment Screen

Volvo XC40 Engine Performance: Putting it Mildly

Under the hood, the XC40 B4 gets the same 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine as earlier, albeit with a ‘mild’ update in the form of a 48V battery, along with an ISG or integrated starter generator. As a result, there is a small bump in the power output, as the engine now produces 194bhp (+7bhp), which is transmitted to the front wheels via an 8-speed automatic. Torque remains unchanged at 300Nm.

Right off the bat, you can sense the mild-hybrid tech at work. At idle, the XC40 is electric-car silent with next to no noise filtering into the cabin. As you set off, you’ll feel a bit of push or assistance from the electric architecture to the petrol engine. However, it isn’t enough to mask the turbo lag of the engine below 1,500rpm.

Once the turbo spools, the petrol engine takes complete charge, and it does that job well. The power delivery is smooth and linear. The acceleration isn’t exactly punchy as you would find in some of its rivals, but it’s adequately brisk. The 8-speed auto is smooth, although it’s a bit relaxed in nature. Let’s just say that it won’t lose its sleep over shaving off a tenth or two from your timed acceleration runs! Paddle shifters aren’t available with this auto tranny, and I for one missed it sorely, especially while driving in the ghats of Lonavala.

Volvo XC 40 Instrument Cluster

What impressed me the most was the fuel efficiency. Over the course of the entire trip, I managed to get nearly 14km/l from this engine. Of course, if you drive like a hooligan, it drops substantially. But settle in for a steady cruise, and it rewards you with astonishing fuel economy numbers.

In terms of ride or handling, there isn’t anything remarkably different from the previous iteration. The ride quality is pliant – there’s a touch of firmness at low speeds but not to the extent of becoming objectionable. At high speeds, the stability is phenomenal, and it takes everything from bumps to potholes in its stride with aplomb.

The handling is neutral, the grip is adequate, and the steering is a bit numb but precise. Overall, the XC40 remains well-behaved for the most part. Only when you push it hard around hills that you notice that it isn’t quite a willing companion for such antics. It tends to understeer and struggle for grip quite early on in such scenarios. 

Volvo XC 40 Side Profile

Volvo XC40: Verdict

On the face of it, the updated XC40 may look like a mere nip-and-tuck job, but it has more (new) substance underneath. Not to mention, despite being based on an old platform, it somehow manages to look and feel up-to-date. What’s more, it also undercuts its main rivals by a fair margin. What pulls it back slightly, though, is its dismal rear-seat comfort, an average driving experience, and Volvo’s limited reach. However, if those things aren’t of any concern to you, the XC40 is still the ideal entry-level luxury SUV.   

  • Volvo XC40 B4

Engine: 1,969cc / Inline-4/ Turbocharged

Transmission: 8-Speed Automatic/ Front-Wheel Drive

Power: 194bhp @ 5,000rpm

Torque: 300Nm @ 1,300rpm

Price: ₹46.40 Lakh (Ex-Showroom, Delhi)

X-Factor: Stylish, modern, and frugal, the XC40 still makes a strong case for itself.

•  Styling

•  Efficient

• Not engaging to drive

Also read,

XC60, XC40 Recharge & More Help Volvo Car India Record 38% Growth in Q1 2023 

Audi Q5 vs BMW X3 vs Lexus NX 350h vs Volvo XC40 Recharge: Comparison

Tags: Volvo Volvo XC40

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