The nameplates proudly mention ‘T5′ and ’25’, they cost at least half a ton each and each offers ample power of more than 200 hp. Still, the Volvo XC40 and BMW X1 have a three-cylinder under the hood on these pages. The secret, how could it be otherwise, is plug-in hybrid technology.
Anyone who thinks of Volvo in the Netherlands will soon see a plug-in hybrid. Since the V60 D6 appeared on the market in 2013, it is mainly the ‘plug models’ that provide the business numbers in our country. After the first diesel plug-in, a whole series of petrol units followed, of which the equally striking and robust XC90 T8 is without doubt the best-known example. The current generation of the trio S60, V60 and XC60 is also operated with less powerful four-cylinder engines. However, a suitable powertrain for the compact V40 or XC40 was not available for a remarkably long time, but in ‘plug-in year’ 2020 this part of the market will also be served. For the XC40 Recharge T5 and the slightly less powerful Recharge T4, a new 1.5-liter three-cylinder is pulled out of the closet. That engine has recently also been installed in the XC40 T2, the new entry-level model, and delivers no less than 180 hp in the most powerful PHEV version. The total power comes out at 262 hp.
BMW has had a plug-in hybrid powertrain with a 1.5-liter three-cylinder for much longer. This power combination has been featured in the 225xe Active Tourer since 2014 and later appeared in the Mini Countryman Cooper SE. Launched in 2016, the second generation of the BMW X1 shares its front-wheel drive UKL base with the Tourer and the Mini, yet BMW waited until after the model facelift to release the obvious hybrid version. Here too it is the entry-level engine that serves as the basis. The three-cylinder from the X1 sDrive 18i delivers 125 hp in the case of the xDrive 25e, but the total is due to the electric power at 220 hp. That’s still less than the XC40 has in T5 trim, but the X1 has a trump card up its sleeve. The electric motor is placed here at the rear axle, so that the partly electric X1 can distribute its power over both axles. Volvo chooses to release all power to the front wheels, with the result that the X1 is still slightly faster from a standstill.