Volvo has more or less accidentally discovered that it’s an SUV company. Perhaps that shouldn’t be a surprise, given that it’s a car maker founded on the virtues of strength and stability, but where once it was famed for its blocky, spacious estate cars, today those have given way to more dynamic-looking saloons and estates and the values of spaciousness and pragmatism are instead found more in its SUVs. 

Which is handy, given that 4x4s, crossovers or anything with a hint of rufty-tufty will likely find itself as one of the faster-growing and more profitable market segments there is.

Having long offered an XC90 and XC60 but benefiting from a vast and rapid range renewal under Chinese owner Geely, Volvo has an SUV range that now accounts for more than half of all the cars it sells: the benchmark at which it accepts it is primarily a maker of 4x4s.

Those two larger off-roaders are based on the same modular platform, which also underpins the S90 and V90, and continue the same theme – although with vastly more confidence – as the XC60 and XC90 always have.

This new car, though, promises something different. The big-three German car makers have had this section of the market – the premium compact SUV sector – pretty much to themselves until now, with cars that ape their larger siblings. They’ll soon be joined by the Jaguar E-Pace and the DS 7 Crossback, too, but the XC40 joins this ever-growing market with a car that’s wilfully different from its larger stablemates. This is a younger market – both of itself, and in regards to the people who buy cars in it – so Volvo allowed its designers to cut a little more loosely when it came to sculpting this 4.4m-long vehicle.

The XC40 will eventually be offered with three petrol and two diesel engines, and two-wheel or four-wheel drive, and with six trim levels, but from the off, you can get a well-loaded First Edition model. Our test car is one of those, powered by a 188bhp diesel and all-wheel drive.

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