You're going to be hearing a lot about plug-in hybrid cars over the next few years. These partially electrified vehicles combine a petrol or diesel engine with a small battery and electric motor, providing a stepping-stone between conventional and pure electric cars. And the introduction of the XC40 Recharge T5 means that Volvo now has a plug-in hybrid version of every model in its range. Launched in 2018, the XC40 is one of the classiest mid-sized SUVs on the market. Pairing a 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol engine with a 10.7kWh battery and an electric motor, the T5 is front-wheel drive only and features Volvo's slick seven-speed automatic gearbox.
The Volvo XC40 T5 is a zippy yet spacious motor
Handsome in a chunky way, it's bursting with minimalist Scandi chic inside, whilst sporting a premium feel and impressive build quality. Despite weighing more than the standard petrol or diesel version, the XC40 Recharge T5 is pretty much the same to drive (which is no bad thing) with the added bonus of being able to zip along silently in all-electric mode for up to 28 miles (20-25 in reality), assuming the battery is fully charged. Charging takes between 2.5-6 hours, depending on whether you're plugging into a standard three-pin socket or using the fast-charge cable.
The back seat is comfy and roomy
Just like a 100% electric car, it will also recharge during braking (regenerative brakes) and there's a button on the touchscreen to recharge during driving - useful when you know there's slow-moving traffic congestion ahead. Generally, the regenerative braking works well, though there are more responsive systems out there. In theory it's capable of up to 140mpg, while CO2 emissions are as low as 47g/km and a 0-62mph sprint takes 7.3 seconds. Even though there's a relatively small petrol engine under the bonnet, it's smooth and refined, only making itself known when your pedal is to the metal. And with comfortable space for five, 460 litres of luggage space and excellent visibility, the XC40 is already a great all-round SUV package.
There's plenty of boot space with the Volvo T5
There are three main drive modes - Pure (100% electric assuming the battery is charged), Hybrid (automatically switches between electric and petrol power) and Power (combines both power sources for maximum speed and acceleration). Hybrid is the default and you're likely to start your journey in electric mode. It will also take over when you're in slow-moving traffic or during low-speed manoeuvres. However, as soon as you accelerate hard, the petrol engine kicks in reasonably smoothly. In short, the XC40 Recharge T5 works most efficiently in an urban environment where it can travel in electric-only zero emissions mode, making it ideal for school runs, short shopping trips and modest commutes to work. Once the battery power is used and it's running on petrol power, economy plummets and you can end up closer to 30mpg.
Volvo has a reputation for making some of the safest cars on the road, and the XC40 is no exception, boasting a maximum five stars in Euro NCAP crash testing.
HELLO!'s verdict: The all-new Volvo XC40 Recharge T5 SUV is one of the classiest mid-sized plug-in hybrids on the market. If you have an urban lifestyle with access to a charger at home or work, visits to the petrol station could become a rare occurrence. And if you're a company car driver, it could save you serious money. Price: from £40,905.