BBC TopGear
BBC TopGear
Subscribe to Top Gear magazine
Sign up to our Top Gear Magazine
Long-term review

Volvo XC40 - long term review

£45,750 / as tested £48,085/ £669pm
Published: 29 Jun 2023


  • SPEC

    Volvo XC40 Recharge

  • Range

    264.1 miles



  • BHP


  • 0-62


What's it like running Volvo's electric XC40 Recharge?

Jack Rix: Volvo has reclaimed its XC40 and C40 Recharge Ro, so as we were supposed to be sharing the BMW M8 and electric Volvos I’m curious – how was the whole running-an-EV-for-the-first-time thing for you?

Rowan Horncastle: Well, given that I’ve spent most of the time in a 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8, I’ll chalk this one up as: ‘Not Well’.

Advertisement - Page continues below

JR: Ah.

RH: Now, I’m not using this as an excuse. But the last time I did drive the Volvo I found a mouldy apple core and biscuit sawdust in the rear armrest. I’m not sure if that’s put me off EVs or having kids.

JR: Oh, that was nothing to do with the kids. In my world these are signs of a car well used – it worked brilliantly for a family of four like ours: lots of room for two smallish kids and two smallish adults and a decent sized boot. In a few year’s time we’ll need more space for it to be our only car, but right now it was a cracking, no frills family wagon.

RH: On reflection, I’m not sure the billy basic ‘Core’ spec of XC40 we had first was very enticing for people like me – people curious about transitioning from petrol to electric motoring. I thought it would be as, ultimately, it’s a car we like (the XC40) electrified. But having lived with it, it’s a bit too normcore… and expensive. With two options (£585 off-gold paint and a £1,750 not-leather interior) it was still £45k! I know Volvo trades heavily off the Scandi simplicity vibe, but that’s a lot. Especially considering not a single penny of that felt like it went into developing the ride quality. 

Advertisement - Page continues below

JR: I agree, no wireless CarPlay, no heated seats or wheel and no reversing camera all felt a bit mean for a car that pricey. And like you say it’s just too anonymous – that might be perfect for some, but made it hard to love for me.

RH: The XC40 should’ve been the perfect incognito urban run-around, but ultimately it was just a bit basic and short of range. I reckon when people buy an EV they want something new; an elevation in technology, design or usability – something innovative or new to show off to their mates down the pub. Like a fart mode. Maybe Volvo knows this too, given the direction it’s gone with the new cheaper, more futuristic entry-level baby EX30 – proof that ultimately the XC40 Recharge is a stop-gap before a new generation of EV-only Volvos come on stream.

JR: To be fair to Volvo, when we swapped first into a twin motor XC40 and then a C40, the amount of frankly unnecessary power, spec and acreage of Alcantara did improve. But did it do enough to convert you to running an EV Ro?

RH: No. But it’s not necessarily down to the car, it’s down to the infrastructure.

JR: Yawn! I’ve heard this before.

RH: You’re alright with your lovely terrace-friendly wallbox AND lamppost charger outside your house. I live in an apartment with a smattering of dedicated 7kW EV chargers in the car park, which is better than most and a luxury for London. And it used to be fine as most of the time you could get on them, but with the influx of EV sales (in 2016 just 0.4 per cent of all new vehicles registered were electric, at the end of 2022 22.9 per cent of cars sold had a plug) they’re pretty much always full. This combined with the Volvo’s short range (down as low as 150 miles during the winter), my need to do big miles using public chargers means EV ownership is still not a joyful experience. Unless you have reliable charging at both ends of your journey the majority of it is full of stress. It also rules out off-the-cuff trips because you have to consider your state of charge and where you can top up before setting off. 

JR: Which takes about three mins. Look, I get it, I just drove a diesel Range Rover Sport through France: 600 miles on a tank, instant top ups, zero stress, it was astonishingly good. EVs still have a long way to go before they can do that, but the tech and infrastructure is improving all the time. And while the XC40 Recharge is a good electric car, it’s not the EV to give sceptics like you a lightbulb moment. I won’t give up on you Horncastle, there’s an EV out there that can change your mind… we just need to find it.

Subscribe to the Top Gear Newsletter

Get all the latest news, reviews and exclusives, direct to your inbox.

By clicking subscribe, you agree to receive news, promotions and offers by email from Top Gear and BBC Studios. Your information will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

BBC TopGear

Try BBC Top Gear Magazine