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In-depth reviews

Volvo C40 Recharge review

Volvo’s electric coupe-SUV is stylish and good to drive, and not that much less practical than the boxier XC40 Recharge

2023 Volvo C40 recharge - front 1
Overall rating

3.5 out of 5

Pros

  • Astonishingly quick
  • Infotainment
  • Cabin quality

Cons

  • Reduction in practicality
  • Extremely poor rear visibility
  • Fairly pricey

Model

Range

Wallbox charging time

Rapid charge time

Single motor

296 miles

10hrs 45mins (0-100%, 7.4kW)

34mins (10-80%, 130kW)

Twin motor

341 miles

12hrs 30mins (0-100%, 7.4kW)

28mins (10-80%, 200kW)

Volvo has several new electric models lined up, including the seven-seat EX90 flagship and a new baby electric SUV, with the Swedish brand already declaring its plan to go electric-only by 2030. In the meantime, this is the C40 Recharge: Volvo’s first standalone electric car and the more rakish coupe-SUV sister car to the XC40 Recharge that went on sale in 2020.

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The Volvo C40 Recharge’s extensive list of rivals range from fellow coupe-SUVs like the Audi Q4 Sportback e-tron and Volkswagen ID.5, and the multitude of premium electric SUVs on sale now including the Ford Mustang Mach-ETesla Model YBMW iX1 and Nissan Ariya.

From the front it’s hard to distinguish the Volvo C40 from its conventional XC40 SUV sibling, though it does get some surfacing and detailing changes, as well as the addition of a coupe-esque roofline. Inside, the C40 is extremely similar to its sister car. You won’t find any leather in the cabin as this is the first Volvo model to do away with cowhide, and the fit-and-finish throughout is great, as is the quality of the materials used.

The C40 also uses the same platform as the electric XC40, as well as the Polestar 2 – including those cars’ choice of single or dual-motor powertrains. In the C40, the former uses a 69kWh (67kWh usable) battery, while the latter bumps capacity to 82kWh (79kWh usable) for a longer 340-odd-mile range. 

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But updates in early 2023 (for mid-2023 production) saw the entry-level single-motor Volvo C40 switch from front to rear-wheel drive, boosting efficiency and range in the process. It means even the basic model on the smallest wheels can now manage an official 296 miles on a charge; our experience of the new car showed a marked improvement, but we’d say 220-240 miles is more realistic in normal driving.

Both versions are slightly more efficient than the equivalent XC40, but neither will travel as far as a big battery Ford Mustang Mach-E on a single charge. Dual-motor C40s beat the Tesla Model Y Long Range, however – a car that has set the class benchmark when it comes to efficiency and range in the past. 

With 235bhp, the C40 Recharge feels quick – enough for 0-62mph in 7.4 seconds. But if you go for the Twin version, power jumps to 402bhp. With 670Nm of torque, 0-62mph is dealt with in an astonishing 4.7 seconds. We’d say this version is quicker than it has any right to be; stick with the standard car unless you take particular pleasure in beating Porsche 911s away from the lights.

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Both versions of the C40 can be replenished from 10 to 80% capacity in around half-an-hour thanks to their rapid charging capabilities, though the single-motor model now takes slightly longer due to a lower peak charge rate of 130kW (the Twin tops out at 200kW). A full charge from a regular 7.4kW home wallbox takes between 11 and 13 hours to complete depending on the exact model, but plugging the C40 into an 11kW wallbox or public charging point can cut that time down to seven or eight-and-a-half hours for the single and twin-motor versions respectively.

Inside, there’s a nine-inch infotainment touchscreen running Google software with Volvo graphics. It features direct integration of Google’s apps and mapping, which is paired with a 12-inch digital driver’s display, too. While the tech is a real highlight of the latest Volvos, the main screen does look a bit small compared with more modern systems in cars like the Tesla Model Y and BMW iX1. It’s all neatly organised in the Volvo, however, which is good given that you’ll be relying on it for everything from the climate controls to the regenerative braking settings. The system also supports Apple CarPlay now, which should please iPhone users.

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As you might expect with a roofline like the C40’s, rear visibility takes a serious hit compared to the XC40, and rear headroom has been eaten into ever so slightly as well. Despite this, it’s far from cramped inside and legroom is good for an SUV of this size, but if you have a passenger in the middle seat the enormous tunnel for the running gear doesn't leave much space for their feet.

The C40’s boot is also smaller than its sister car’s, with 413 litres of space on offer, although it’s still a good size for an electric family car and on par with what you get in the Mustang Mach-E and Polestar 2. Plus, the boot opening is wide, there’s no awkward lip to get things over either and you get a useful space under the floor. There’s an extra 31 litres of storage under the bonnet, too – not a huge amount, but handy nonetheless.

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Setting off in the C40 is a simple affair. The car starts as soon as you unlock and enter, so you just need to select a gear and off you go. The steering is light and the wheel turns without much resistance, which we’ve come to expect from modern Volvos. However, if you prefer, you can increase the weight of the steering via the touchscreen; it just never feels especially sporty.

Out on the road, the electric coupe-SUV can’t disguise its weight, and some may find the ride a little firm; we’d recommend avoiding top-spec models and their big wheels for this reason alone – the updated car we drove on smaller, aero-specific 19-inch rims was far more comfortable than those we’d tried previously. These wheels – largely thanks to the deeper-profile tyres, really help refinement, too.

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However, very few can match the C40’s staggering performance – particularly in 402bhp Recharge Twin guise. The dual-motor C40 delivers all its power as soon as you plant your foot on the accelerator, and its 4.7 second 0-62mph time felt like it could, in fact, be a little conservative. The rate at which this 2.1-tonne coupe-SUV gains speeds is astonishing, but the Polestar 2 can offer similar performance and is generally better to drive, too.

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Instead, we’d go for the standard C40 Recharge – especially if you can get your hands on one of the newer rear-wheel drive cars, which entered production towards the middle of 2023. These feel planted and plenty quick enough for most. A BMW iX1 is fractionally more fun, but for daily duties few will be disappointed by the way the Volvo drives.

Of course, having that dual-motor setup is it raises the C40’s price tag. At the time of writing, the twin-motor C40 starts from nearly £54,000 – around £5,000 more than the single-motor C40 which is the version we suspect most customers will choose. There are three trim levels to choose from: Core, Plus and Ultimate, with even base models featuring a panoramic sunroof, power tailgate, 19-inch alloy wheels, 12-inch digital driver's display and nine-inch central touchscreen.

But ultimately, the C40 offers little more than a vaguely coupe-ish roofline compared to the regular XC40, which is not only more practical, but less expensive. If you are truly enamoured by the twin-motor’s performance, the equivalent Polestar 2 Performance Pack is faster, better to drive and costs about the same.

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Richard is editor of DrivingElectric, as well as sister site Carbuyer.co.uk, and a regular contributor to Auto Express. An electric and hybrid car advocate, he spent more than five years working on the news and reviews desk at Auto Express and has driven almost every new car currently on sale.

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