Review: Volvo XC40 vs BMW X1 vs Volkswagen Tiguan

Review: Volvo XC40 vs BMW X1 vs Volkswagen Tiguan
Review: Volvo XC40 vs BMW X1 vs Volkswagen Tiguan

Can the new small SUV from Volvo further excite an excitable sector?

With the XC90 and XC60 clearly demonstrating a new chapter for Volvo, can the XC40 follow in the family footsteps? Those with longer memories will raise an eyebrow at the thought of a Volvo exciting any sector of anything, but times and companies change, and there’s no doubt that Volvo has definitely got a bit of a swagger on recently.

But there’s plenty of competition for the Swedish brand, coming, in this case, from Germany. Both BMW and VW are big in SUVs, and they’re not going to roll over and have their tummies tickled by Volvo. The claws are out.

Driving

Volvo XC40 2.0 D4 R-Design Pro

Price: £36,555
Engine: 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, diesel
Power: 187bhp
Torque: 295lb ft
Gearbox: 8-spd automatic
Top speed: 130mph
0-60mph: 8.2sec
Economy: 56.5mpg
CO2 emissions: 133g/km

And it’s game over at the first test as the most powerful vehicle here, the X1, zips off into the distance. With 228bhp nailing all four wheels to the road, it’s well clear of the other two, who can offer 187bhp apiece. However, none of these three has a faultless transmission, with each having a foible or two in the effort to feed the four-wheel drive systems they all carry.

And more power equals more noise in this case, with a rowdy engine in the BMW making a racket that is joined by road and wind noise – road noise particularly, not helped one bit by the standard run-flat tyres. The VW Tiguan is far from peaceful but it’s not as bad, whereas the Volvo is rather more refined apart from noticeable road noise intruding into the cabin.

Those run-flats also mean the BMW has a rather firmer ride than is ideal, and that’s with the addition of adaptive suspension, a £150 option. This just isn’t a comfortable vehicle to drive in for long periods. The Tiguan isn’t great either with very firm R-Line sporty suspension meaning you definitely feel what the road is up to – falling apart usually. Which leaves the Volvo as the epitome of calm here, with a gentler, more comfy ride and handling which may be softer than the others, hence with a bit more lateral movement, but it’s never sloppy.

Interior

Volkswagen Tiguan 2.0 TDI 190 4Motion R-Line DSG 


Price £37,100
Engine: 2.0-litree, four-cylinder, diesel
Power: 187bhp
Torque: 295lb/ft
Gearbox: 7-spd dual-clutch automatic
Top speed: 131mph
0-60mph: 8.4sec
Economy: 49.4mpg
CO2 emissions: 149g/km

While the other two handle a little sharper than the Volvo, that doesn’t really make up for the indiscretions in the ride quality of the German pair. And it’s the Volvo with the better driving position, with more adjustment in this trim, and the highest seating position. SUV drivers usually want a commanding view, and this the XC40 delivers, unlike the BMW which seems determined to try to hide the fact that it’s an SUV as much as possible.

However, the BMW does feel like it has a premium cabin – not that the Volvo is left behind, with a rather more characterful but equally high-quality interior. The VW Tiguan feels well put together but it’s also a step away from a premium cabin. The Tiguan comes with an eight-inch infotainment screen which is crisp and easy to use plus you get a three-year subscription service for weather, news and fuel pricing. BMW responds with an excellent 6.5-inch system that makes up in quick, intuitive responses what it lacks in outright size. The nine-inch tablet-like screen in the Volvo is pretty smart but actually there’s so much to get at through the screen that it can be distracting and fiddly.

 BMW X1 xDrive25d M Sport

Price £37,780
Engine: 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, diesel
Power: 228bhp
Torque: 332lb/ft
Gearbox: 8-spd automatic
Top speed: 146mph
0-60mph: 6.8sec
Economy: 56.4mpg
CO2 emissions 132g/km

All three cars have plenty of space up front and, really, nobody would complain in the rear of any of them. However, only the Volvo doesn’t come with standard sliding and reclining rear seats, a facility which allows you to make a balance between cargo and people, and which some will find very useful. Behind the seating is space for decent amounts of luggage in all the vehicles, although the absence of any boot underfloor storage area in the VW marked it down against the more load-absorbing BMW and Volvo.

Costs

And so to money. If you’re looking for the most vehicle for the least money then at first sight the Volvo looks a bad deal as you can get discounts on the other two, but not on the brand new XC40. However, it should depreciate the slowest plus it’s the cheapest to get on PCP finance, or to lease, and it will make the cheapest company car.

Verdict

This test ends virtually as a reversal of how it began. Not because we’re going to start writing backwards, but because it was the BMW X1 that took off ahead of the other two. Yet by the end it has fallen to the back. It is the quickest vehicle here, with a very fine cabin, but it lacks the refinement you have a right to expect, and it will be pricey to run.

In runner-up spot comes the VW Tiguan, which is a solid performer all round, but slightly lacking in the cabin and comfort departments.

Which means the Volvo XC40 comes in and wins straight out of the box. It’s refined, handsome, original and also the cheapest to run and, in most cases, to buy. That swagger is well deserved.

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