Volvo XC40 T5 Recharge – long-term review - Report No:2 2021 | Top Gear
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Long-term review

Volvo XC40 T5 Recharge – long-term review

£42,305 / £48,000 as tested / £630 PCM
Published: 02 Sep 2020
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SPEC HIGHLIGHTS

  • SPEC

    T5 Recharge

  • ENGINE

    1477cc

  • BHP

    262bhp

  • 0-62

    7.3s

Life with a Volvo XC40 PHEV: where to plug in?

Back in 2018, I ran a Hyundai Ioniq plug-in hybrid for six months. It was a very pleasant machine, but – as a terrace-dwelling commoner with no driveway and therefore no way to plug in at home – I had terrible trouble finding charge points from which to top up the Ioniq’s battery, even in the busy corner of southeast England in which I live.

In my local town of 20,000-odd people, you know how many public charge points there were, back in those dark days of early 2018? Two. One of which was permanently occupied by a Nissan Leaf. 

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But now things are different. It’s 2020! The electric revolution is underway! The battery powered future is becoming the battery powered present! Do you know how many public charge points there are in my local town now? Yep, still two. One of which is still permanently occupied by a Nissan Leaf. 

Maybe I’m unlucky. Maybe there are other corners of our fair isle where you can’t move for conveniently located, readily available charge points. But it doesn’t sound like it. With the possible exception of a few corners of central-ish London, convenient public charging seems the preserve of aspirational architect sketches rather than anything resembling reality.

And I’m not being a stick-in-the-mud here. I want to go electric. It’s clean! It’s cheap! But it’s also, right now, for me, really inconvenient! Who’s got time in their lives to schlep to the other side of town on the off-chance there’s a free and functioning charge point that’ll take a couple of hours to cough up 30 miles of range?

Of course, you could say, why run a plug-in hybrid if you can’t charge it up at home? Which is a fair point. But if this whole electric revolution is really to pick up speed, surely it’s suckers like me – people who live in towns, where electric cars make most sense – who need to be brought round? On current (arf) evidence, it’s a hard sell. I know Britain’s getting more charge points every day, but we remain a long, long way from this seamless electric future we’ve been promised.

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None of this, of course, is Volvo’s fault. The plug-in hybrid XC40 is far from a chore to run in petrol-only mode, and returns a moderately respectable 35-ish miles to the gallon while doing so. And, of course, you can ask the battery to harvest energy from the ICE, which, while a pretty glacial process, will still generally yield you at least enough to park up under electric power alone. 

But the point still stands: plug-in hybrids will be a whole lot more useful when there are more places to actually plug ‘em in…

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