Volvo C40 Recharge review: Too much of a good thing

Published:21 April 2022

Volvo C40 Recharge review: Too much of a good thing
  • At a glance
  • 3 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
  • 3 out of 5
  • 3 out of 5
  • 3 out of 5

► We test Volvo’s all-electric coupe-SUV
► 402bhp, 273-mile range
► The sign of things to come in the brand’s battery-powered future?

Volvo has long thrown away its antique shop owner image. But with the C40 it has bolstered its efforts by building a car that’s not all that practical or economical but does have 402bhp and a 0-62mph time of 4.7seconds.

Unlike the XC40 it shares a platform with, the C40 is all-electric. It features the new Android infotainment software that’ll eventually roll out to every other model. And it’s only available online, either as a cash purchase or via the all-inclusive Care by Volvo subscription service.

But is it really any better than an Audi Q4 e-tron, a Mercedes-Benz EQA or a Tesla Model 3?

So I can order this from home, but not from a dealer?

Sort of, though it’s not quite such a radical departure as it sounds. You can complete the buying process from the comfort of your sofa, should you so wish – but tradition hasn’t gone entirely out of the window. Volvo dealers still exist, after all, and will be able to answer your questions about the C40 – they’ll also have demonstrators for test drives.  

The difference is that when the time comes for you to buy or rent, instead of drawing four boxes on a piece of paper or ‘checking with the manager’ to see what the best finance price they can offer is, the salesperson will direct you in completing your order on the web, probably on a natty little Volvo-branded iPad.

Volvo C40 charging

And instead of offering you hire purchase or PCP, your options are more limited. You can pay cash, as five per cent of buyers will do. Or, you can lease it via Care by Volvo – for your monthly fee, you’ll get the car, maintenance, insurance and roadside assistance all bundled together. Neat.

So, what do you get for the money?

The C40 is offered in three trim levels with two powertrain choices. Core is, as you’d imagine, base spec. Mid spec is called Plus and top-tier is called Ultimate.

We’re yet to test the single-motor version but we’ll go out on a limb and suggest this is the one to actually go for. It’s front-wheel drive, has 228bhp and a 0-62mph time of 7.4 seconds. Importantly, on the WLTP cycle it only does about seven miles less than the twin-motor version. But it’s around £60 cheaper per month, costs less to charge, and takes a shorter amount of time too.

The twin motor cars get 402bhp and an official 273-mile range. This means on paper it beats the Mercedes EQA, but the Tesla Model 3 and Audi Q e-tron can both return well over 300 miles to a charge in their long range variants.

Official consumption is 32kWh/100 miles but on our test drives (including a lot of motorway mileage) we averaged close to 38kWh/100 miles, which means a 200-mile real-world range. At least the Volvo’s range calculator is accurate.

Group test: Tesla Model 3 vs Hyundai Ioniq vs Polestar 2 vs Audi Q4 e-Tron

What’s it actually like to drive?

The twin-motor versions will leave a Q4 e-tron or Mercedes EQA for dust off the lights, though a Tesla Model 3 still has the Volvo licked.

Volvo’s simplified the driving experience. To begin with, there’s no starter button or even handbrake. Simply get into the car, shift to D and you can set off.

Once you’re going, you’ll find only three controls to tailor how the car drives, and instead of being on a dedicated switch they’re hidden in the settings menu on the touchscreen. There’s an off-road mode that’ll gather as much dust as a virtual button can, as well as a control to firm up the steering – probably to make it feel ‘sportier’ though all it really does is add to the sensation of weight.

Volvo C40 rear

The button for ‘One-Pedal Drive’, though, is one you might want to keep pressed. It ramps up the regen and can bring you to a complete halt with little to no need for the brakes. A few other EVs offer this, but Volvo’s judged it really well and it makes for very smooth progress once you’ve got the hang of it.

Relatively remote steering and a little body lean add to the feeling this isn’t a car to be hustled, despite the ample power on offer. Let the C40 lope along and you’ll find it comfortable, though – our test car’s 20in wheels did thud a little round town but settled down to a nicely resolved ride on faster roads.

Still a Volvo inside?

Fully vegan upholstery plus 3D-printed dash panels seem rather Gen-Z, but that’s not a bad thing when they’re featured in an interior that still holds up so well even though it was introduced on the XC40 back in 2017.

Those dash panels are the main point of difference from the XC40. They feel a bit cheap to the touch, and look rubbish during the day, but at night they’re backlit and give a genuinely eye-catching effect.

Hugely comfortable seats are another highlight, while the dash is based around a nine-inch portrait infotainment touchscreen and a high-quality screen for the digital dials.

Volvo C40 interior

The Android infotainment setup isn’t brand new – it’s already on a couple of Volvo models as well as the Polestar 2 – and it works really well, with direct integration with Google’s services, Google Maps baked right in and support for apps downloaded from the Play Store. The mapping in particular is a gamechanger, while Google’s voice commands are far superior to any OEM system we’ve so far tested.

The more you’re already integrated into the Google ecosystem, the better it’ll be – you can even link up to smart home products. It’s just a shame there’s no support for Apple CarPlay. For once, iPhone users get the raw end of the deal.

As for space, that coupe roofline doesn’t impact rear passengers too much. Legroom’s decent and only the tallest passengers will moan too much about headroom. The boot’s another matter – it’s pretty shallow, though nowhere near as bad as a Lexus UX 300e.

Verdict

The Volvo C40 Recharge is a good electric car with an excellent turn of pace, enough range and a quality interior. It just doesn’t feel particularly special for a car that’s meant to be Volvo’s electric flagship – and looks aside, there’s nothing really to recommend it over the XC40 Recharge.

Volvo C40 front

Maybe the lineup will make more sense once we’ve driven the single-motor variant. More interesting EVs are sure to follow, though, especially on the new SPA2 architecture underpinning the brand’s next-generation cars.

Specs

Price when new: £57,400
On sale in the UK: Now
Engine: 78kWh battery, twin electric motors, 402bhp, 487lb ft
Transmission: Single-speed auto, four-wheel drive
Performance: 4.7sec 0-62mph, 112mph, 2.8-3.0 miles per kWh, 273 mile range
Weight / material: 2185kg
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 4431/1910/1582mm

Photo Gallery

  • Volvo C40 Recharge review: Too much of a good thing
  • Volvo C40 Recharge review: Too much of a good thing
  • Volvo C40 Recharge review: Too much of a good thing
  • Volvo C40 Recharge review: Too much of a good thing
  • Volvo C40 Recharge review: Too much of a good thing
  • Volvo C40 Recharge review: Too much of a good thing
  • Volvo C40 Recharge review: Too much of a good thing
  • Volvo C40 Recharge review: Too much of a good thing
  • Volvo C40 Recharge review: Too much of a good thing
  • 2021 Volvo C40 - front tracking
  • 2021 Volvo C40 - front tracking
  • 2021 Volvo C40 - rear tracking
  • 2021 Volvo C40 - front cornering
  • 2021 Volvo C40 - interior
  • 2021 Volvo C40 - touchscreen
  • 2021 Volvo C40 - interior
  • 2021 Volvo C40 - rear seats
  • 2021 Volvo C40 - boot
  • 2021 Volvo C40 - dashboard
  • 2021 Volvo C40 - front three quarter
  • 2021 Volvo C40 - rear three quarter
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