DRIVEN: Volvo XC40 Ultimate is a well-rounded premium SUV

Published Aug 16, 2023


Mpho Mahlangu

The Volvo XC40 received a nip and tuck October 2022 and the refreshes included new front and rear bumpers, redesigned headlights, new alloy wheels to choose from, and new exterior paint colour options.

Furthermore, the XC40 now also benefits from the introduction of an Android-powered infotainment system with a full suite of Google apps and services.

Although looks remain an objective matter, I can’t help but briefly mention how well-designed the XC40 is. Finished in the new Fjord Blue exterior paint colour and complimented by the optional 21-inch alloy wheels, our test unit was a handsome fella.

Oh, and Volvo has done away with the Momentum, Inscription and R-Design trim-level structure, in their place are the new Essential, Plus and Ultimate specification grades.

So, what does the Ultimate model which I spent time with include?

The range-topper boasts an air purifier, which helps reduce the levels of fine particulate matters thanks to the use of nano technology that can stop 80% of the particulate matters from entering the cabin.

Other features include fog lamps with cornering function, rear park assist camera with front and rear parking sensors, high gloss black front grille, roof rails in gloss black, connect suede textile/Microtech upholstery, a gloss black tunnel console, driver and passenger powered seats, an air ventilated subwoofer, Harmon Kardon Premium sound system and a wireless charging pad.

Inside, you get a 12.3-inch digital driver display which is bright and crisp. You can’t really customise this display, at least not as much as what rivals allow you to, however a particularly neat feature which I am a big fan of is the ability to view a Google Maps mini map between the speedometer and rev-counter.

Most times I prefer to use Google Maps over a vehicle’s in-built navigation system, and the ability to have a mini map in the driver’s display is a welcomed addition.

Complementing the digital driver display is a centre 9.0-inch (22.8cm) infotainment touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity.

The touchscreen is responsive to touch inputs and the overall is quite easy to understand and operate. Although there aren’t any physical climate control buttons, they do have a shortcut button within the touchscreen, which makes it easy to adjust temperature and fan speed at any given moment.

A gripe of mine however is how loud the climate control system is, even at the lowest fan speed selected. It’s by no means unbearable however over a longer period, it can get a tad annoying.

Another interior highlight of mine would be the premium quality of materials used in the cabin. Despite being the entry point into the Volvo line-up of vehicles, the Swedish automaker has ensured that the XC40 benefits from an impressive level of fit and finish.

Overall, the cabin is quite spacious too, both at the front and rear. Rear passengers have more than sufficient head, leg and knee room and are also treated to air vents along with two USB type C ports.

As a vehicle that will be mostly used by families, practicality is of importance and I’m happy to report that the XC40 benefits from a great deal of it.

The boot, which may also be operated handsfree, boasts 452L which is plentiful for grocery runs, packing luggage for a small family road trip or chucking in other items. Below the boot floor is a storage compartment which you can hide valuable items in. The boot floor itself is also able to fold upwards to create a more practical area for hanging items. Lastly, a power outlet is also fitted in the boot.

Underneath the hood of the Volvo XC40 B5 is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine which churns out a meaty 183kW and 350Nm of torque with mild-hybrid technology. Power is sent to all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission.

Although most people buying this model might not realise just how potent it is, and fully utilise its power, it’s refreshing to know that it has a lot of go. Overtaking is a task that requires little planning as the XC40 B5 can shift down the cogs quickly and smoothly.

Normal day-to-day driving is a pleasant exercise thanks to a suspension set up which deserves a thumbs up. During my time with the XC40, I attended a family funeral in Winterveld, a township in the North of Pretoria with terrible gravel roads, and where there are tarred roads, they are 80% filled with potholes.

You swerve away for a pothole and instantly meet another. The state of roads in South Africa is quite appalling to say the least however that can be a rant for another day.

The Volvo XC40 dealt with all the pothole-filled roads and gravel roads quite well in fact. My passengers were also quick to comment on how comfortable the drive through the township was too. On better maintained roads, the XC40 also retains its superb comfort levels. The odd road imperfections were dealt with well by the XC40’s suspension. Mind you, I was sceptical of my test unit’s 21-inch alloy wheels and how they’d fare on these roads.

Another highlight which I must give a round of applause to is just how well-insulated the cabin is. Noise, Vibration and Harshness levels are low, adding to the overall pleasant driving experience.


With a starting price of R677,700 for the entry-level XC40 Essential, I believe that it makes for a compelling case against its rivals. Our Ultimate test unit fitted with the range-topping engine and optional alloy wheels comes in at a smidgen over R850,000, which if you ask me is quite reasonable considering all the standard specification.

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