Volvo XC40 Recharge Electric review
"The Volvo XC40 Recharge Electric is a fantastic electric crossover but cheaper versions are needed"
- Low running costs
- Medicore range
- Limited versions
Say hello to the Volvo XC40 Recharge Electric - the first all-electric Volvo, which honours the Swedish brand's promise that more of its cars will be electrified from now on. It joins the conventional and plug-in hybrid versions of the XC40 but doesn't have too many direct rivals just yet.
Size-wise, it sits between the smaller Kia e-Niro and Jaguar I-Pace, so it should be just big enough for many families. Price may be an issue because the entry-level Recharge Twin model starts at close to £44,000 - a fairly eye-watering price tag. That's around £5,000 more than even the plug-in hybrid version of the XC40, which is already considered expensive.
The price gap used to be even bigger, but the arrival of a less powerful, front-wheel drive version has made the electric XC40 more obtainable. It features the same 75kWh battery, but with a single motor providing 228bhp and a range of up to 264 miles.
With dual motors, the all-wheel drive version has a lower range of up to 259 miles and a potent 402bhp. It rockets from 0-62mph in 4.9 seconds and has a limited top speed of 112mph but its chassis feels at odds with the acceleration on offer, favouring a comfortable ride over razor sharp handling. It's likely a less powerful, single-motor, front-wheel drive version could arrive in due course.
With no combustion engine sucking in air, the main visual difference between the XC40 Recharge Electric and regular XC40 models is the solid front grille, and it’s also available with Sage Green metallic paint and unique alloy wheel designs. The differences inside are subtle too, with the arrival of Android Automotive software (not to be confused with Android Auto) for the car's operating system, a better touchscreen and materials made from recycled plastic bottles.
Buyers can choose from three trim levels, with each adding to the standard equipment list. Base models are called Core and get features like 19-inch alloy wheels, rear privacy glass, LED headlights and textile fabric-trimmed seats.
Opt for the Plus model and powered seats, a rear parking camera and LED fog lights are fitted, with the range-topping Ultimate trim adding luxury features like a 360-degree camera, a premium stereo system and a panoramic roof.
Practicality is largely unchanged from the standard XC40, so there's still enough space for adults in both rows of seats. The boot offers 452 litres, which is almost identical to the Kia e-Niro, and there's also a 31-litre 'frunk' under the bonnet that’s ideal for the charging cable.
The electric Volvo XC40 is very smooth, refined and offers great performance, but the power on offer feels unnecessary in the crossover class and it pushes the price beyond the reach of most buyers. With a single motor and a more affordable price tag, the XC40 EV would be even better.
MPG, running costs & CO2
Despite the XC40 only taking up about as much room on the road as a Ford Focus, Volvo has managed to cram a 75kWh battery into it. That's an impressive feat, giving the crossover the sort of capacity we've been used to seeing in models like the Tesla Model S. The Hyundai Kona Electric, for example, is available with a maximum battery capacity of 64kWh.
The XC40 Recharge Electric is also heavy compared to its petrol-powered counterpart, weighing around 2.2 tonnes, so even with its large reserves of energy storage, its range of 259 miles with all-wheel drive may be slightly disappointing. The front-wheel drive version can get around 10 miles futher on a single charge. During our test, we were able to manage a range of around 200 miles between charging in spring weather conditions. The aforementioned Kona Electric is more efficient, so it can manage around 300 miles between top-ups.
At least 150kW DC charging is fitted as standard - as it should be given the Volvo's price - allowing owners to recharge the battery to 80% in around 40 minutes; the equivalent of 55 miles per 10 minutes. Charging from a home wallbox takes longer but eight hours should still allow for an overnight refill, making it convenient for most.
In late 2021, Volvo also announced its first major over-the-air software update for the XC40 Recharge, including a Range Assistant app. This helps drivers keep track of the range available, and optimise it with smart energy management and advice on driving efficiently. A range optimiser can set the climate control to improve range, which is especially handy on longer trips.
Like all zero-emission models, the electric XC40 will benefit from free car tax, low Benefit-in-Kind rates for company car drivers and free entry into the London Congestion Charge zone.
Engines, drive & performance
Volvo has a reputation for being eminently sensible, yet its small electric crossover has a mighty 402bhp if you go for the all-wheel drive version. We can only imagine it wanted its first-ever EV to hit showrooms with a bang because acceleration from 0-62mph in under five seconds might be an impressive party trick, but it feels somewhat out of place in the XC40. It's fitted with dual motors - one for each axle - giving it four-wheel drive. We think the single-motor, front-wheel drive version will suit far more buyers.
While the XC40 Recharge Electric doesn't feel quite as fast as a Tesla, it can easily push you back in your seat if you step on the accelerator, with the front wheels scrambling for grip. Despite the low centre of gravity created by the positioning of the battery, the chassis struggles to keep up, preferring a more relaxed time. Volvo has done a good job of keeping the suspension compliant because despite the extra weight of the electric powertrain, the XC40 still rides well.
With just one motor powering the front wheels, the entry-level XC40 has 228bhp. We haven't driven it yet, but expect this amount of power should feel ample, aided by the instant response of its electric motor. It can accelerate from 0-62mph in 7.4 seconds and has a top speed of 99mph.
There aren't any paddles behind the steering wheel to adjust regenerative braking, with Volvo instead choosing a Tesla-style toggle in the infotainment menu to switch between coasting or one-pedal driving. The latter is easy to get used to and works well in urban driving.
Interior & comfort
Inside, it's hard to get away from the fact that this £44,000 car shares much of its interior with the entry-level petrol model costing £26,000. There are certainly more lavish interiors for the price tag but here you are paying a premium for the clever powertrain and large battery.
The biggest change is to the infotainment setup, which gets the new Google Android operating system for the first time in a Volvo - it made its debut in the Polestar 2. This runs on a nine-inch touchscreen, which has a higher resolution and can receive over-the-air updates. It already makes the Sensus software in other XC40's seem dated, and bespoke apps including a Range Assistant for optimising efficient driving, have already begun to arrive. If you give it the necessary permissions, the system will import elements from your Google account such as emails and calendar reminders.
Subtle design changes include door linings and carpets that are now made from 97% recycled plastic bottles. A new Sage Green metallic paint is available, along with new 19- and 20-inch alloy wheel designs.
Every version from the entry-level XC40 Recharge Electric has wireless smartphone charging, DAB radio, keyless entry and start, a hands free electric tailgate, automatic LED headlights and daytime running lights, automatic wipers and textile-trimmed seats.
Above this, the Recharge Plus model adds front LED fog lights with cornering function, electrically adjustable heated front seats, a heated steering wheel and keyless entry. The flagship Ultimate model adds to the standard kit list further with 20-inch alloy wheels, Microtech-trimmed seats, a 360-degree surround parking camera and a powered tilt and slide panoramic sunroof. It also gets a Harman Kardon stereo upgrade with 12 speakers.
Practicality & boot space
The XC40 is bigger than the Hyundai Kona Electric but smaller than a Jaguar I-Pace, so it should be reasonably roomy for small families. Four adults can certainly get comfortable, and the SUV's tall roof means there's plenty of headroom, even with the panoramic sunroof fitted.
Its rear seats only split 60/40, rather than the 40/20/40 arrangement of some premium models, but the 452-litre boot is a good size. It has a square shape and is no less practical than other versions of the XC40, which is impressive given the large battery. Thanks to the lack of a petrol engine, there's also an extra 31 litres of 'frunk' space under the bonnet, which is handy for storing the charging cable or a few bags of shopping.
Reliability & safety
Volvo is an industry-leader when it comes to safety, and the manufacturer has completely redesigned and strengthened the crash structure of the XC40 Recharge Electric to account for the layout change.
The battery comes inside a protective case in the middle of the car, where it's protected from impacts in a collision. Sensors behind the front grille feed data to Volvo's latest Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), that can recognise cars, cyclists, pedestrians and large animals. While it won't be tested separately, the XC40 Recharge Electric is expected to share the standard XC40's five-star Euro NCAP safety rating.
The Volvo XC40 performed well in our latest Driver Power results, coming eighth out of the top 75 cars on sale in the UK. Owners rated its reliability and build quality very highly, and were also impressed with its practicality, road manners and infotainment system.
As a manufacturer, Volvo also performed well, coming ninth out of 29 brands. A middling 20.5% of owners reported a fault within the first year. True to its reputation, interior quality and practicality was deemed a high point, along with comfy front seats. Volvo dealership servicing prices are also reasonable, but owners reported high fuel consumption.