5 0 5
Plus & Minus
More affordable, doesn’t lack power
Needs to be worked to get going, could drink more than expected
The Wheels Verdict: Volvo has a proven track record in shrinking motors while not giving up much for performance, and the T3 is a continuation on form. We wait to see how it performs with the automatic, but our manual-equipped preview was positive.
WHAT IS THE XC40 T3?
It’s the newest variant to enter the line-up and is the first Volvo to get a three-pot engine. It’s also the first SUV in the petrol ‘T’ line-up to get something other than a four-cylinder 2.0-litre motor; the mill underneath the T3’s snout is a 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo.
WHY WE’RE TESTING IT
Volvo Australia managing director Nick Connor told Wheels that the new three-pot will land in Australia next year. It will most likely replace the current entry-level T4, thus creating a new line-up that consists of the petrol T3 and T5 and the diesel D4. Volvo Australia’s reasoning for the move is that it doesn’t have much markup on the T4 and the price, which has already seen a slight hike, looks to continue climbing. The T3 solves that issue and gives the Swedish maker a keen price point.
VOLVO XC40 T3 REVIEW
Volvo went out on a limb in 2007 - yes, when it was still owned by Ford and before current owner Geely took the reins - in deciding to ditch its turbo five- and six-cylinder engines and big V8 for a four-pot line-up. The plan included its impressive plug-in electric twin-motor setup and it proved a well-timed efficient yet powerful addition. So are the Swedes planning another round of downsizing?
Read next: 2018 Volvo XC40 Range Review
Instead of being a replacement to the four-cylinder engine, the new 1.5-litre turbo introduces a new entry-level configuration, including a lower-output T2 in markets outside of Australia.
As a replacement to the T4 in Australia, the T3’s potential flaw is a power deficit to the 2.0-litre model. The T4 develops 140kW and 300Nm; the three-pot a lesser 115kW and 265Nm. Mated to an eight-speed auto, the T3 will produce around 120kW, but the test vehicle we drove in Sweden had a six-speed manual - it proved a fun combo, but won’t be offered in Oz for obvious reasons.
There is a benefit the T3 brings though which is it weighs less. That helps acceleration, which isn’t disparate to the T4 (Volvo claims the T3 will accelerate 0-100km/h in 9.4sec, 1sec slower than the T4) and there are some minor changes to front-end feel.
Mated to the six-speed manual and powering the front wheels only, it’s a fun, thrummy drivetrain and lively through the rev range. Fixed to an automatic transmission it might not be quite as energetic, but typical of engines with an odd number of cylinders - and like Volvo’s previous five-pot - it has an enjoyable character that feels like it’s delivering on all of the rumbling noise. But unlike some coarser units it has been well engineered, delivering a refined response that’s not at all gruff when accelerating.
Cruising at around 60 and 80km/h it’s smooth and quiet, but sits close to 2000rpm at highway speeds that sounds a little noisier - something the extra two cogs in the eight-speed will help calm.
Our time with the model was limited so we couldn’t gauge fuel consumption. Though it is as well suited to urban and city driving as the T4, it will need to be worked to get going, so expect fuel economy to take a hit from the claimed consumption in the real world.
Dynamically, it was fun and sharp on its feet, tipping into corners willingly and with good feedback through the steering wheel - typical of our findings with both the T4 and T5 - but there is some body roll from the softer spring setup. While active all-wheel-drive will be available, the mild output doesn’t elicit any torque steer, and the front-wheel-drive model might be the only option Down Under to keep pricing tight.
READ NEXT: Volvo's T8 powertrain explained
Interior design and equipment mirrors that of the trim grades available with other engines, which is an elegant and minimalist aesthetic with some nice tech such as the portrait infotainment system and 12-inch digital driver’s display. Storage is everywhere, and it’s a comfortable cabin.
We’ll reserve full judgement until the car lands with an eight-speed next year, but first impression are that the three-pot engine is a suitable replacement, with a unique, fun character.
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VOLVO XC40 T3 VS RIVALS
BMW X1, Jaguar E-Pace, Lexus UX
VOLVO XC40 T3 PRICE AND SPECS AUSTRALIA
Model: Volvo XC40 T3
Engine: 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo
Max power: 115kW at 5000rpm
Max torque: 265Nm at 1600-3850rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Price: $44,000 (Estimated)
On sale: Q1 2020