‘Sensible SUV of the Year’ sounds like damning with faint praise really, doesn’t it? Mainly because ‘sensible’ isn’t a word people associate with being particularly cool. Sturdy shoes are ‘sensible’. An anorak is ‘sensible’. Having a pension, chewing thoroughly and avoiding fatty foods is sensible. But doughnuts are delicious, especially when eaten messily in two massive bites.
If people’s first reaction to my new car was “That looks sensible,” I wouldn’t take them seriously. And yet, this is really down to how you define the word. Is the Volvo XC40 sensible because it’s arguably the best-looking of the small SUV crop (Jag E-Pace, Merc GLA, BMW X2, et al), with its stylish angles and funky glass? Is it sensible because there’s liberal use of two-tone paintjobs in the configurator that make it look even more interesting? I’d say not.
Is it sensible because it’s an all-new platform rather than just a fraternal chop-down of a larger car in the range, and therefore feels bespoke, rather than simply shrunken? That it recognizes daily comfort over unnecessary sportiness—though it has to be said you can drive an XC40 with perfectly appropriate vim if you so wish?
Does sensible feel less useful when you’re inside a cabin that features all the big-car toys (TFT and full-size center touchscreen) as well as mundane but pleasingly thoughtful touches like door pockets that can swallow a laptop, gorge-like armrest bins (one of which you can remove to act as an actual bin), configurable cargo floor and curry hook? Is sensible somehow less worthy when you get decent levels of kit, 18-inch alloys and LED headlights as standard? Nope. It certainly feels sensible when you realize someone at Volvo figured out a place to store the parcel shelf under the cargo floor when you’ve got the seats folded flat for carrying duties, but it’s the quiet satisfaction that endures. Details matter. Details are sensible.