Given that Volvo's been making overt noises about full electrification for a decade now, it's something of a surprise to realise that at its launch in 2022, this C40 Recharge EV introduced 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.
There's a choice of EV powertrains. The base rear-driven single-motor model offers 238hp, uses an improved 69kWh battery and is driven by a 175kW permanent magnet electric motor. The alternative AWD model offers an all-new 82kWh battery pack and twin electric motor set-up (one on each axle), a 117kW motor on the front and and a 183kW motor at the rear, the latter contributing majorly to the prodigious total system output of 408hp (yes, you heard that right). This seems like it'd be rather excessive for the needs of most likely customers, sprinting you to 62mph from rest in just 4.5s with more torque than you'd get in a Nissan GT-R super sports car - 660Nm of it, at which point, the motor's spinning at a heady 14,000rpm. The decent ride quality of the XC40 is 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.
Thanks to the battery updates outlined above, the WLTP driving range on offer is now much closer to notable rivals. Volvo quotes a best of up to 297 miles for the rear-driven model - and a best of 342 miles for the AWD version, figures which are a little down on those of an identically-engineered Polestar 2. 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 the 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
The C40 Recharge model comes with a choice of single or dual-motor powertrains and and a choice of either 'Core', 'Plus' or 'Ultimate' levels of trim. Prices start from around £48,500 for the rear-driven version, while the bigger-battery AWD model costs from just under £54,000. 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. There's a 'Flexible' contract, which 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. 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.
Whichever trim level you decide upon, there's plenty of equipment included - as you'd hope given the figures being asked here. Tick off automatic LED headlights with active high beam, high gloss black roof rails, rear parking sensors, a powered tailgate and 19-inch alloy wheels. Inside, across the range there's 2-Zone climate control, a 12.3-litre 'Progressive Driver Display' instrument cluster screen, a wireless 'phone charger and heated front seats with lumbar support. Media stuff's taken care of by a 9-inch Centre Console Portrait Touch Screen with navigation, a 250-watt 8-speaker DAB audio system, voice recognition, wired 'Apple CarPlay' and four years' use of Google Automotive Services.
Cost of Ownership
We've already given you this C40 Recharge model's operating range in our 'Driving Experience' section; a maximum of 296 miles for the single-motor model and up to 342 miles for the dual-motor version. It's 297 miles for the rear-driven variant. These figures postion this Volvo much more competitively in its segment, but they're still some way from being up with the class-leaders; thank this Swedish contender's portly kerb weight (around 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 Dual Motor manages 331 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 as the C40 AWD) manages up to 298 miles; and a Ford Mustang MACH-E AWD Extended range model delivers up to 341 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 200kW public rapid charger, you'll be able to replenish from 10% to 80% in just 28 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.