Cons Only so-so to drive, not as spacious as some
Volvo’s first attempt at a compact sibling for its established XC60 and XC90 SUVs is a real success, and in the XC40, the Swedish marque has given us a car with the sort of instant kerbside appeal you’d expect of the class-leading act that it very recently still was.
With a design sufficiently charismatic and alluring to bring younger family buyers into Volvo showrooms, the XC40 backs up its funky exterior with a cabin of laudable richness, comfort, usability and quality. While this isn’t the most practical car in the small SUV class, it certainly has plenty of luxury car ambience, not to mention all the in-car technology you’d hope for.
There’s a choice of two plug-in hybrid models, a couple of mild-hybrid petrols, an entry-level T2 and a T3 petrol and the fully electric Recharge version, which is available in 228bhp single-motor and 402bhp dual-motor guises – the former switching from a front motor, front-wheel drive layout to a rear-mounted motor and rear-wheel drive for 2023.
The XC40’s ride and handling represent Volvo at its best and the small family 4×4 at its most relaxing. Rather than chasing other premium brands for driver appeal, the XC40 is happy to play the comfortable, refined, convenient and easy-to-use option – and it’s an effective one. If an SUV’s mission is to lift its driver above the hustle and bustle and filter out the pain from the daily grind, few do it better.
3. Mazda CX-5
Pros Good to drive, excellent interior, comfortable over distance
Cons Straight-line performance not always up to snuff, can be loud at a cruise
This is easily one of the best-looking SUVs on the market and is objectively much more refined than its predecessor, with respectable fuel economy and an unusual level of handling verve for this class.
The CX-5’s interior is solid and quietly stylish, and it offers plenty of passenger and boot space. Although it’s now a bit older than some of the other entrants on this list, the CX-5 hasn’t lost any of the handling pep that has made it one of our favourite compact SUVs.
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