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REVIEW | 2021 Volvo XC40 T3 is let down by coarse, thirsty engine

24 June 2021 - 11:33 By Phuti Mpyane
The Volvo XC40 is a looker with its upright stance and large alloy wheels. Picture: PHUTI MPYANE
The Volvo XC40 is a looker with its upright stance and large alloy wheels. Picture: PHUTI MPYANE

There’s a fair spread of alternatives with similar premium compact SUV content available for similar money as the Volvo XC40, some cheaper and some costlier.

Obvious rivals will be the Mercedes-Benz GLA, Audi Q3, BMW X1 and for more outlay, Jaguar’s E-Pace and the Lexus UX.

Every Volvo SUV I’ve tried so far features a cabin with similar fundamentals of sculpted seats, a large touchscreen interface in the middle and a digital driver’s instrument binnacle. Analogue features are limited to a few menu buttons below the screen and on the multifunction steering wheel there’s also voice control.

The T3 can be had in three specification grades: Momentum, Inscription and R-Design. The latter package is fitted to my test unit and brings with it sportier and lavish looks, so I’d recommend it. The specification comes well equipped indeed, including a powered tailgate and keyless entry and start among a few.

The XC40 interior can be configured to your taste when it comes to seat materials and colour schemes and it is fairly spacious for its compact dimensions, and three adults sat comfortably at the rear.

The T3 nomenclature stands for a 1.5l turbo three-cylinder petrol engine with 110kW and 265Nm. It’s paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission driving the front wheels only. The engine sounds uncharacteristically coarse for the segment and sadly this isn’t the only fly in the ointment.

This car takes 10.1 seconds to accelerate from standstill to 100km/h and top speed is electronically limited to 180km/h. Also, Volvo reckons 806km of driving range and a 6.7l/100km average fuel consumption out of its 54l tank but it quaffed without any hope of realising any of these claims.

It was a struggle to get it to sip anything below 8.0l/100km, leaving me to conclude that it’s not the pick of the range. Perhaps the recently launched T4 with a more powerful four-cylinder motor will correct these shortcomings.

But it makes up for these foibles with a pillowy ride on its dampers and quieter operation when driven less vigorously in Comfort mode. You can also adjust the suspension for taller off-road height over minor obstacles but it’s not fitted with what I’d describe as suitable off-road rubber.

The cabin is well equipped and spacious. Picture: SUPPLIED
The cabin is well equipped and spacious. Picture: SUPPLIED

Select a lower dynamic stance when you want to drive it with verve but, as mentioned, it’s not a Koenigsegg. The other mode is Snow which is more relevant to its Scandinavian home or if you live in the Drakensberg.

In terms of safety and stylishness, the XC40 is on the ball. It’s your archetypical Volvo with hyperbolic concern for passenger safety and the quirky and boxy design with very thick C-Pillars could only really come from a company that can hold its own when it comes to avant-garde design.

In R-Design specification the XC40 T3 is well priced by compact premium SUV standards. It undercuts both petrol Audi Q3 35 S Line and BMW X1sDrive18i M Sport by less than 10K but it’s pricier than the Mercedes-Benz GLA 200 AMG line by about 4K. It’s a premium compact SUV I’d happily recommend to anyone, if not necessarily in T3 guise.

Tech Specs


Type: Three-cylinder petrol turbo

Capacity: 1.5l

Power: 110kW

Torque: 265Nm


Type: Eight-speed auto


Type: Front-wheel drive


Top speed: 180km/h

0-100km/h: 10.1 sec (as claimed)

Fuel Consumption: 6.7l/100km (as claimed), 7.9l/100km (as tested)

Emissions: 154g/km


Stability control, six airbags, traction control, ABS brakes, auto on/off lights, Xenon headlights, cruise control, keyless entry, rain sensor wipers, park distance control rear, Bluetooth, navigation, electric folding mirrors, suede-cloth + leather.


Warranty: Five years/100,000km

Maintenance plan: Five years/100,000km

Price: R683,900

Lease*: R14,625 per month

* at 10% interest over 60 months no deposit

Volvo XC40 T3 R-Dynamic


R-Design looks, build quality, luxury features


Coarse engine


A premium and good-looking urban romper


star rating





**** Handling


****Value For Money



Audi Q3 35 S Line, 110W/250Nm — R685,000

BMW X1 sDrive18i M Sport, 103kW/220Nm — R689,134

Mercedes-Benz GLA200 AMG Line, 120kW/250Nm — R679,040

Lexus UX 250h EX, 135kW/180Nm — R719,600

Jaguar E-Pace D200 AWD R-Dynamic S, 147kW/430Nm — R874,210


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