Volvo C40 Recharge Review 2021 | Top Gear
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BBC TopGear
Car Review

Volvo C40 Recharge

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Published: 13 Oct 2021
An electric SUV that's good to look at and nice to sit in, but at a price

Good stuff

Looks smart, goes well and has lots of sweet interior touches

Bad stuff

It arguably launches with too much power and spec


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 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 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 it launches with are punchy for a relatively compact crossover. Namely a 402bhp peak and a £57k price tag, punting it firmly into the territory occupied by some big-hitting and already well-established plug-in SUVs.

More numbers, please.

A 78kWh lithium-ion battery feeds two electric motors – one on each axle, for AWD – with 201bhp apiece for that 402bhp total. The WLTP range is 276 miles, while 0-62mph takes 4.7secs (but feels quicker) and the top speed, as per all brand-new Volvos, is limited to 112mph.

This first glut of C40s use the same powertrain you’ll find in upper class XC40s and Polestar 2s, which in turn tells us that cheaper, less powerful C40s driving just their front axle will follow. 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 beside the steering column, though not very luxuriously.

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What does that mean for technology?

The whole car operates around a system developed with Google. Which means – shock – there’s no Apple CarPlay functionality, at least not for the moment. Where phone tech quickly outstripped that of cars, leading to the exponential rise of people simply mirroring their apps rather than relying on carmakers' OS, this is Volvo wrestling back some kudos.

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. Launched in 2021 with the twin-motor set-up and kit-packed Pro trim, the C40 kicks off at £57,400, or £729 per month on Volvo’s ‘Care’ scheme which bundles in all the key maintenance stuff over its three-year term.

What's the verdict?

An electric SUV that's good to look at and nice to sit in, but at a price

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 plentiful neat touches, nearly all with a wholesomely sustainable story to back up their materials. You'll also have pernickety gripes, almost all of them typical of a slant-roofed SUV.

What holds the C40 back – for now – is that fact it launches with such high spec and thus such a high price, especially given some of its interior bits are shared with XC40s half the cost. 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 under £40k too. It’s called the Polestar 2…

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