Volvo C40 Recharge Review 2023 | Top Gear
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Wednesday 22nd March
An electric SUV that's good to look at and nice to sit in, but at a price

Good stuff

Dual-motor is rapid, looks smart, lots of sweet interior touches

Bad stuff

All that power is only useful in a straight line, poor visibility, small boot


What is it?

It’s the inevitable: a coupefied crossover from Volvo, a car surely required for it to keep pace with the big three Germans (Audi, BMW and Mercedes, duh) which the Swedes traditionally offer a chilled-out alternative to.

What’s possibly less inevitable is the fact the supremely logically named C40 – it’s an XC40 Recharge with some of the ruggedness grated off – is purely electric. Perhaps, with Volvo claiming 50 per cent of its sales will be EV by 2025, and 100 per cent by 2030, it ought not to be such a shock after all. But they’re surely wilfully losing a few sales by not simply transplanting the XC40’s many and varied engines (petrol, diesel, hybrid and electric) into its more svelte sibling.

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Not least because the numbers are punchy for a relatively compact crossover. Namely 402bhp and a £63k price tag at the top end of the line-up, punting it firmly into the territory occupied by some big-hitting and already well-established plug-in SUVs.

More numbers, please.

There are two versions of the C40: Recharge and Recharge Twin. The former uses a single motor for front-wheel drive, amounting to 228bhp and 0-62mph in 7.4 seconds. Underneath you’ll find a 67kWh battery (that’s the usable capacity) capable of 272 miles of range. All fairly straightforward.

And then there’s the Twin. Here a 75kWh lithium-ion battery feeds two electric motors – one on each axle, for AWD – with 201bhp apiece for that 402bhp total. The WLTP range is 278 miles, while 0-62mph takes a staggering 4.5 seconds (and feels even quicker). The top speed, as per all brand-new Volvos, is limited to 112mph.

Updates are coming in 2023 with both powertrains getting more power and more range. Watch this space.

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The latter of those is the same powertrain you’ll find in upper class XC40s and Polestar 2s. Power is permanently split 50/50 between front and rear for now, with no drive mode switch to toggle up to a sportier mode.

In fact, the whole experience is built around ‘simplicity’. It’s the word bandied about when you ask Volvo quite where this car sits when the clearly related Polestar 2 occupies a similar corner of the market. The C40 is for those sick of being bombarded with a fistful of modes and a dizzying array of buttons when they climb inside a car. Volvo’s even blanked off the starter button; instead you activate the motor(s) simply by sitting in the driver’s seat. That’s right, you start it with your bum.

Cheeky. What does that mean for technology?

The whole car operates around a system developed with Google, which meant until a recent update there was no Apple CarPlay functionality. It's standard now though. Phone tech quickly outstripped that of cars over the years, and now even Volvo has ceded to the exponential rise of people simply mirroring their apps rather than relying on the carmaker's OS.

The car is drip-fed frequent updates so that the Google Maps nav is always up to date – right down to identifying which electric charging points are (or aren’t) occupied nearby. Most of the apps you love can be downloaded to the car, beaming your questionable Spotify playlists right into the booming Harmon Kardon stereo, but any especially Apple-y audio might just have to be pumped to the speakers through Bluetooth.

Which does seem a little lo-fi for the price tag. In twin-motor, top-spec form the C40 costs a mighty £62,805; or £859 per month on Volvo’s ‘Care’ scheme which bundles in all the key maintenance stuff over its three-year term. Opt for the single-motor C40 in base-spec Core trim, and you’re looking at a much more palatable starting point of £48,355 or £699p/m.

What's the verdict?

They say the C40 Recharge has been penned with design as its priority, and you can tell

The C40 looks great and has all the zen interior ambience you’d hope from a Volvo with a silent drivetrain. They say it’s been penned with design as its priority, and you can tell. There are plenty of neat touches, nearly all with a wholesomely sustainable story to back up their materials. You'll also have gripes, almost all of them typical of a slant-roofed SUV.

What holds the C40 back – for now – is that the standout dual-motor version is so much more expensive than the siblings on which it’s based. Then again, you can hardly blame Volvo for pitching it above £50k given that the Skoda Enyaq iV Coupe commits exactly the same sin.

The arrival of more affordable specs has helped soften the launch car’s high price, although you’re still paying a lot of money for a car littered with interior bits found in the cheaper XC40. If you want a wilfully different electric crossover where practicality takes a slight backseat, Sweden already does a wholly convincing one of those, and priced from well under £50k too. It’s called the Polestar 2…

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