Volvo's C40 Recharge shows the Swedish brand really getting into gear with its EVs. Jonathan Crouch takes a look...
Ten Second Review
Volvo knows it needs more SUVs. And it needs more electric vehicles. This C40 Recharge delivers both in one package and shows clearly the direction the brand is heading in the future. There's a state-of-the-art fully-electric all-wheel-drive powertrain that offers a WLTP-rated range of 260 miles on a single charge and an output of 402bhp. The drawback is premium pricing but otherwise, a lot of boxes seem to have been ticked here.
Given that Volvo's been making overt noises about full electrification for a decade now, it's something of a surprise to realise that this C40 Recharge EV introduces the company's very first exclusively electric model line. Especially so since the Swedish marque is telling us that it will only sell full-electric models from 2030 onwards.
As you might expect, the C40 borrows everything that matters from Volvo's very first all-electric model, the XC40 Recharge Pure Electric. But clothes that powertrain with more unique styling and a more swept-back coupe-style silhouette. Think of the two models as something akin to what Audi already offers in this segment with its Q4 e-tron and Q4 Sportback e-tron SUVs and you'll be somewhere close to what Volvo is trying to do here.
Like the XC40 Recharge, the C40 will be sold primarily online. And, as with that car, it rolls down the production lines of Volvo's Belgium factory in Ghent.
The EV powertrain is the same as you get in the top version of the XC40 Recharge Pure Electric AWD model, also used by the Polestar2. That means you get a 201bhp electric motor on each axle, giving a combined output of 402bhp and a 0-62 mph time of 4.9s. As with all current Volvo models, top speed is limited to 112mph. At least the decent ride quality of the XC40 should be carried forward here as the C40 sits on the same MacPherson strut suspension set-up up-front, with a multi-link arrangement at the rear. As a driver, you get quite a commanding seating position.
The provided 78kWh lithium-ion battery in this top variant offers an estimated WLTP-rated range of 260 miles (adequate but not especially noteworthy amongst rivals in this segment). To get the claimed mileage, you'll need to engage what the Swedish maker calls 'One Pedal Drive', selectable from the 'Driving' menu provided on this centre-dash screen. This dramatically increases the regenerative braking effect when you come off the throttle, to the point where, as advertised, the brake pedal will hardly ever be needed. Other than that, no driving modes are provided, though there is a screen button to firm up the steering.
Design and Build
Though the C40 is created from the building blocks of its XC40 showroom stablemate, Volvo wanted to add in some extra athleticism and lightness to the silhouette, as well as some appealing extra details. So there's a sleek profile and a set of emblematic segmented vertical rear lights. Up-front, the signature Thor's hammer headlights are augmented with neat pixel LEDs which automatically adjust to light conditions and switch on and off independently to optimise the light pattern. As usual with coupe-style SUVs, there are really big wheels.
Inside, the design is all about light and freedom of space. Which is why there's lots of glass and a big panoramic roof that enhances the airiness of the cabin. The interior features a signature 'Fjord Blue' colouring for the large swathes carpet that extend up from the floor to the sides of the centre console and the front doors. The dashboard and the front door panels feature backlit translucent graphics with a smart atmospheric three-dimensional effect. The C40 delivers Volvo's first leather-free interior, the main upholstery option containing naturally renewable wool fibres; the alternative uses a combination of suede textile (made of recycled plastic) and microtech material.
There's plenty of room for two adults at the back - though it would be a squash with three. And the boot capacity is the same as that of the XC40, rated at 413-litres. Plus there's an extra 'frunk' area beneath the bonnet for the storage of charging cables, offering an additional 31-litres of capacity.
Market and Model
This very first C40 Recharge model comes, for the time being, only with AWD and the brand's biggest 78kWh battery, plus a fully stacked 'P8' level of trim. Hence the lofty list price, which from launch was pitched at £57,400 including insurance, maintenance and servicing for three years. Primarily, ordering will be online, though you can do that from a dealer showroom if you'd prefer to have someone guide you through the process.
Rather than buying outright, the brand expects most customers to use its 'Care by Volvo' subscription options - there two, both with no deposit and both including servicing and maintenance. The 'Flexible' contract costs from £879 a month, includes a 30 day trial period at the beginning and requires three month's notice before contract end. Or you can take out a subscription-based contract with a fixed 36 month tariff which costs from £729 per month. The standard subscription rate gives you 6,000 annual miles and customers can top up their limit at the rate of £15 a month for each additional 2000 mile block, up to 10,000 miles, and then add £10 extra on top for the maximum limit of 12,000 miles. Equipment for the first launch cars gives you virtually everything you could want including leather upholstery, a large sunroof and class leading camera safety kit.
Cost of Ownership
We've already given you this C40 Recharge model's operating range in our 'Driving Experience' section; a maximum of 260 miles. This figure places this Volvo some way down the list when it comes to the range you can expect from a compact EV crossover with AWD and a battery of comparable size to this car's 78kWh power pack. Thank this Swedish contender's portly kerb weight (over 2-tonnes) for that.
Designers of other comparable rivals have done better in trimming off the kilos - and that shows in the projected range figures they deliver. A Tesla Model Y Performance Dual Motor manages 280 miles; a BMW iX3 delivers 285 miles; an Audi Q4 e-tron 50 quattro manages 295 miles; a Polestar 2 Long Range Dual Motor model (with exactly the same battery pack and powertrain) manages up to 298 miles; and a Ford Mustang MACH-E AWD 76kWh model delivers up to 335 miles. Even to achieve this Volvo's stated figure, you're going to need to make a lot of use of the 'One Pedal Drive' feature that maximises regenerative braking.
Still, at least charging times are competitive. Overnight charging via a home wallbox will occupy around 8 hours. When out and about, if you come across a 150kW public rapid charger, you'll be able to replenish from empty to 80% in just 40 minutes. There are of course, lots of taxation advantages in running an EV. With this one, as with its main rivals, you'll be rated at just 1% for BiK Benefit-in-Kind taxation for the first tax year of use, and at only 2% for the subsequent two years.
This model, in the company's own words, is 'the future of Volvo'. Over 75% of the cars the company sells these days are SUVs. In future, 100% of them will be EVs. But not yet. And certainly not at the kind of prices the Swedish maker is asking for this C40 Recharge in its current powerful form. When the range gets fleshed out with more affordable power units, then its appeal will obviously broaden considerably.
For now though, you can't help but feel that many of those who choose a C40 are people would have also been quite satisfied with the XC40 Recharge Pure Electric model it's based on. Volvo talks of the need for the kind of younger demographic who'll presumably find the C40's more coupe-style looks appealing. But then adds that it expects older folk to like it too. Ultimately, no one is quite sure how precisely the EV market is going to develop. But Volvo is keen to make sure all the bases are covered.