YOU might say the motorist has never had it so good. The choice of shapes and sizes, the avenues we can pursue in making a purchase, the raft of technologies to make being on the road safer and more comfortable and the financial options available are in themselves quite overwhelming.

Into the mix now are electric cars, plug-in hybrids, self-charging hybrids, regular hybrids and mild hybrids to tempt you away from the traditional petrol and diesel-engined vehicles.

Volvo has been quick to join the party, offering plug-in hybrid and fully electric versions of its excellent SUVs while retaining diesel and petrol only versions for the more conservative. In fact there are hybrid versions across the entire Volvo range.

It’s the plug-in versions that are likely to attract more converts because they do away with electric car range anxiety and yet offer tax benefits to company car drivers, drastically reduce CO2 emissions and will still potentially save you a packet at the petrol station.

My test car, the splendidly upholstered Volvo XC40 Recharge Plug-in Hybrid T5 R-Design, is very much a beautifully crafted car of both today and tomorrow.

There’s so much to like about this compact SUV anyway that the addition of the petrol-electric combination merely adds to the head-scratching rather than makes a compelling case for buying one.

Visually, there’s virtually no difference between the plug-in hybrid and a petrol or diesel only version. The only change you will spot is the appearance of the plug-in cap in addition to the petrol refill cap.

You even get the same boot space, although it does have to accommodate a couple of plug cables in a small bag unless you squeeze them alongside the spare wheel in the underfloor. Passenger space also remains unchanged.

The real difference comes when you press the starter button and all is silent. Move off and there is only a faint whirr until the hybrid system demands that the petrol engine is needed.

The ride is achingly smooth, but the acceleration is equally sedate without the intrusion of the three-cylinder 1.5-litre petrol unit, which makes an appearance with no fuss and in the blink of an eye when the time comes for a speedy manoeuvre.

You can check on the battery charge via the instrument panel and hold on to the battery power if it is not needed.

R-Design versions like the one tested here add a host of sporty touches, including a gloss black front grille and front and rear lower bumper sections, a black roof and door mirrors, and dual integrated exhaust pipes. They also get uprated sports suspension and diamond cut/matt black alloy wheels. On the inside, there’s leather/nubuck upholstery, front seat cushion extensions, a perforated leather steering wheel and gear knob, and aluminium dashboard inlays.

As with all Volvo cars, you also get the nine-inch portrait infotainment system and a stack of safety systems. The plug-in hybrid comes with five drive modes, including a B mode that uses the car’s momentum to charge the battery.

I could find only a couple of negatives during a week of testing. Firstly, the braking seemed numb or vague, and secondly I would have liked to have seen a head-up display on a car that’s quite expensive and has a huge raft of features.

Otherwise, if you are looking to buy a premium brand compact SUV, then the plug-in hybrid version is just one more reason why the XC40 should be top of your list.

The lowdown:

Volvo XC40 Recharge Plug-in Hybrid T5 R-Design Price: from £40,905 (XC40 range from £25,285) Engine: Three-cylinder 1.5-litre petrol producing 180hp and electric motor generating 82hp Transmission: Seven-speed dual clutch automatic driving front wheels Performance: 0 to 62mph in 7.3 seconds; top speed 127mph Economy: 119 to 139 mpg combined CO2 emissions: 47 to 55 g/km

Star ratings:

Performance: **** Economy: **** Ride/Handling: **** Space/Practicality: ***** Equipment: ***** Security/Safety: ***** Value For Money: *** OVERALL: ****