To say Volvo’s first attempt at building a compact sports utility vehicle got off to a good start is the understatement of the year.

The XC40 literally flew out of dealer showrooms after its launch in the spring, selling at 2,000 cars a month – twice the Swedish firm’s own sales forecast rate – making it Volvo’s most successful new model to be launched in the UK.

It quickly picked up a string of awards including European car of the year and What Car? car of the year. Those accolades were partly due to ever-improving safety – even when reversing – including a system that automatically applies the brakes if you do not react to an object crossing the path of the car from behind.

Safety is always paramount in any Volvo, but it is the way the XC40 brilliantly blends solid protection with lively performance, quality, style and comfort that has made it such an instant hit.

Quiet and comfortable at speed and easy to manage around town, the car packages generous space for five adults and luggage in a smart, upmarket and refined interior.

Standard equipment on all models includes a superb nine-inch touchscreen that controls everything from satellite navigation and smartphone links, to the audio system and dual-zone climate control system.

Other standard features include automatic LED headlights with active high beam, 18-inch alloy wheels, Volvo’s remote control and emergency assistance service, together with keyless start, rear parking sensors, cruise control, automatic windscreen wipers and roof rails.

The car driven here was fitted with a three-cylinder engine, another first for Volvo. The 1.5-litre unit develops 156 horsepower which is ideally suited to its role as an urban cruiser, while offering decent pulling power and a towing capacity of up to 1.6 tonnes with a braked trailer. The test car came with a slick, six-speed manual transmission, with an eight-speed automatic gearbox due later.

A small example of the attention to detail lavished on the car comes from the glorious digital instrumentation which is linked to road sign recognition, displaying the current speed limit both as a symbol on the dashboard and as a thin red line on the speedometer. 

Optional extras on the test car included a £1,600 pack combining a powered glass tilt-and-slide panoramic sunroof, a 360-degree view camera that enables pinpoint parking and a parking assist system that automatically slots the car into both parallel and 90-degree parking spaces.

Another £600 optional safety pack included a driver-assistance system that provides steering, braking and acceleration control to help keep the car within its lane and at a safe distance from any vehicle ahead, along with blind spot warning, automatic folding door mirrors and auto-dimming exterior mirrors.

Other neat options available include wireless mobile phone charging, and a Harman Kardon sound system that includes a sub-woofer mounted in the dashboard that does away with the need for bulky bass speakers in the front doors, clearing the way for a pair of whopping door pockets.

The XC40’s remarkable sales success has seen the car already taking sales from people who previously drove the likes of Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Range Rover.

Small wonder when Volvo is offering something for everyone with on-the-road prices ranging from £27,610 for the T3 Momentum manual, to £37,620 for the T5 Inscription Pro automatic and no fewer than 38 different combinations of engines, equipment grades and transmissions.

Watch out too for the arrival of mild hybrid, plug-in hybrid and pure electric versions, as Volvo moves towards its aim of selling a million electrified cars by 2025.

Auto facts

Model: Volvo XC40 T3 Momentum Pro

Price: £34,960 as tested

Insurance group: 22 (1-50)

Fuel consumption (combined): 45.6mpg

Top speed: 124mph

Length: 442.5cm/174.2in

Width: 186.3cm/73.3in

Luggage capacity: 15.2 cu ft

Fuel tank capacity: 11.8 gallons/54 litres

CO2 emissions: 144g/km

Warranty: Three years/60,000 miles