Long-term report: Everything but a dog’s life with our Volvo XC40 Recharge T5

Volvo has worked miracles over the past decade to truly turn its brand image around.

Not so long ago it was seen as an ‘old person’s car brand’. But today, with a range of striking-looking upmarket models – and a particular focus on SUVs – that couldn’t be further from the truth. I’m 22 and there are several friends my age that now have new Volvos – a decade ago, that just wouldn’t have happened.

Though Volvo has improved immeasurably in that time, there are certain aspects that have to remain faithful to what the brand was founded on – practicality and safety, and being rather useful dog-carrying tools.

Volvo XC40
The XC40 is the ideal do-anything car

And it’s the latter that I’ve been putting to my test this month with ‘my’ XC40 Recharge T5, to see if Volvo is still capable of putting a big tick in the practicality box. With both myself and Merlot the Labrador getting rather sick of the same two walks from home, we’ve been endeavouring to go a bit further afield, with the XC40 being drafted into action. Given how dog-obsessed we’ve all become during the various lockdowns (go on, I bet you can name at least 10 people you know that have recently got a dog), I also reckon it’s an increasingly important test.

While hardly a Great Dane, Merlot is still a biggish dog that takes up more room than you might expect. It’s not a problem with the XC40 though, with a large 452-litre boot with a flat floor and boxy shape making it easy for her to jump in and out of. Granted, the quite high load lip might pose a challenge for older pooches, but it’s no such problem here. There are also useful cubby holes in the boot for storing the likes of water bowls and vital treats in.

Volvo XC40
Volvo put a real focus on practicality with the XC40

The other advantage here is that, despite this XC40 being a plug-in hybrid, the boot remains just as practical as a regular petrol and diesel version – unlike many rivals that have smaller trunks when they become electrified.

It also brought a smile to my face recently when I realised that the colour of KM70 XKO’s leather interior – orange, well ‘Amber’ in Volvo speak – is virtually a perfect match to Merlot’s fur. Though, as I’m a bit of an oddity when it comes to cleanliness, the dog firmly stays in the boot rather than being able to get anywhere close to the leather.

Volvo XC40
The hybrid system of the XC40 helps drive down fuel costs

With the majority of our walks still being fairly local (usually 10 miles away or less), it’s also proven to be an ideal match for the ‘electric’ part of the hybrid system, and means that the majority of dog-walking drives have been done purely on electricity. It’s also a really great feeling driving through a quiet picturesque area knowing you’re adding virtually no emissions.

The other benefit of this electric running is that I’ve barely used a drop of petrol in the 300 miles I’ve done in the XC40 this month, with the fuel gauge only dropping by less than a quarter in that time. It means the combined fuel consumption over the 2,700 miles so far has finally climbed to beyond 50mpg too, which – with a few long petrol-only journeys being the part that has dragged the fuel consumption down – isn’t too bad by my reckoning.

So it’s certainly been a good month for me, Merlot and the Volvo, and far from a dog’s life… Let’s hope it lasts.

  • Model: Volvo XC40

  • Base price: £25,855

  • Model as tested: Volvo XC40 Recharge Plug-in hybrid T5 FWD Inscription Pro

  • Price: £49,125

  • Engine: 1.5-litre petrol-electric hybrid

  • Power: 258bhp

  • Torque: 425Nm

  • Max speed: 112 mph

  • 0-60mph: 7.0 seconds

  • MPG: 117.7-134.5mpg

  • Emissions: 47-57g/km CO2

  • Mileage: 2,779