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In-depth reviews

Volvo XC40 Recharge Electric review

"The Volvo XC40 Recharge is a comfortable and spacious electric SUV, although it's quite a bit more expensive than the petrol model"

Carbuyer Rating

4.2 out of 5

Owners Rating
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Pros

  • Low running costs
  • Comfortable ride
  • Practical

Cons

  • Rivals more fun to drive
  • Some cheap-feeling trim
  • Top models are expensive

Verdict - Is the Volvo XC40 Recharge Electric a good car?

The Volvo XC40 Recharge Electric is smooth and refined, but top-spec dual-motor models are eye-wateringly expensive – putting the family EV within striking distance of bigger and even more premium SUVs. Updates in early 2023 made all cars more efficient, and those with the bigger battery now get a Tesla-rivalling 300-plus-mile range. Entry-level single-motor cars in one of the lower trims offer the best value for money, however, making the XC40 Recharge worthy of your consideration if you’re after a left-field, upmarket alternative to the raft of mainstream electric family SUVs.

Volvo XC40 Recharge Electric range

The Volvo XC40 Recharge Electric was the Swedish brand’s first fully-electric car. It has since been joined by the Volvo C40 – a coupe version of this compact electric SUV – and the larger Volvo EX90 electric SUV flagship. With more full EV models in the pipeline, Volvo is expecting half of its sales to be fully-electric cars by 2025. 

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The Volvo XC40 also comes as a cheaper petrol or plug-in hybrid version if you’re not quite ready to go fully-electric. The electric Volvo XC40 Recharge that we’re concerned with here has a broad range of rivals. The Ford Mustang Mach-E and Kia EV6 are intended to be more rewarding as driver’s cars, while the Skoda Enyaq iV is a more mainstream option that’s both cheaper and more practical. The comfort and luxury-focused XC40 Recharge is a more direct competitor against high-end electric SUVs like the Genesis GV60, Audi Q4 e-tron and Tesla Model Y.

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In terms of size, the Volvo XC40 Recharge sits between the smaller Kia Niro EV and Jaguar I-Pace, offering just enough space for most families. It’s expensive, however; the XC40 Recharge Electric has a hefty price tag of just under £47,000 for the entry-level single motor version, so it might not be convincing enough to choose over the cheaper Tesla Model Y. However, the XC40 Recharge is cheaper than the BMW iX1, which starts from over £53,000, making the base Volvo almost appear good value.

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The price gap between the petrol and electric Volvos used to be even bigger, but buyers can now choose from either a cheaper single-motor car or a dual-motor model offering all-wheel-drive. An update in 2023 saw the single-motor variant switch from front to rear-wheel-drive; output now stands at 235bhp and a 67kWh battery provides a range of up to 290 miles – (previously up to 264 miles).

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With a motor on each axle, the all-wheel drive Recharge Twin version has a range of up to 334 miles – thanks to a larger 82kWh battery – and a potent 402bhp. It rockets from 0-62mph in 4.8 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.

With no combustion engine sucking in air, the main visual difference between the XC40 Recharge Electric and regular XC40 models is the blocked-off front grille. There are some different colours available, and the aero-optimised wheels are unique to the EV. The differences inside are subtle too, with materials made from recycled plastic bottles, for example, highlighting Volvo’s commitment to sustainability.

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, two-zone climate control, LED headlights and textile fabric-trimmed seats.

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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 – as well as slightly more upmarket trim, including an Orrefors Crystal gear knob.

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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 Niro, and there's also a 31-litre 'frunk' under the bonnet that’s ideal for the charging cable.

MPG, running costs & CO2

Volvo's first EV can now get up to 334 miles on a full charge, thanks to a bigger battery and improved efficiency

Depending on whether you choose the single or dual-motor model, the Volvo XC40 Recharge comes with two different battery configurations. The entry-level single-motor car comes with a 67kWh battery that provides a range of up to 290 miles on a single charge, according to official figures.

As of an update in early 2023, more expensive dual-motor models now get a larger 82kWh battery (up from the original 78kWh) to provide a maximum electric range of 334 miles – up from 270 miles in pre-update cars. This is farther than you can go in a Mercedes EQA and is ideal for those looking to travel longer distances frequently.

Before, all versions of the XC40 Recharge came with 150kW DC rapid charging. However, since changing battery suppliers in 2023, the single-motor model has been pegged at 130kW, which results in a slower (34-minute) 10-80% top-up time. On the flip side, top-spec dual-motor cars get access to faster 200kW if you can find a charger capable of this output; despite the bigger battery, the same charge takes around 28 minutes. Charging from a home wallbox takes longer, but less than 11 hours for the single-motor version and around 12-and-a-half hours for dual-motor models should still allow for an overnight refill, making it convenient for most.

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All XC40 Recharge owners can make use of Volvo’s Range Assistant app on the main screen. 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. Frustratingly, on older cars, you’ll need to use the Range Assistant to display the remaining range – the 2023 update duplicated this information in the digital instrument cluster; Volvo is currently debating whether to add this to other models via an over-the-air (OTA) update.

Like all zero-emission models, the electric XC40 will benefit from free VED road tax until 2025, low Benefit-in-Kind rates for company car drivers, and free entry into the London Congestion Charge zone.

Engines, drive & performance

The XC40 Recharge focuses on comfort, so powerful dual-motor models feel unnecessary

Volvo has a reputation for being eminently sensible, yet its small electric crossover has a mighty 402bhp if you go for the dual-motor all-wheel drive Recharge Twin model. We can only imagine it wanted its first-ever EV to hit showrooms with a bang; acceleration from 0-62mph in under five seconds might be an impressive party trick, but it feels somewhat surplus to requirements in the XC40. We think the less-powerful single-motor version is a better bet for most buyers.

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An update in 2023 saw the single-motor variant of the XC40 swap from front to a sportier rear-wheel-drive setup and power increase slightly to 235bhp. From a standstill, this version will reach 62mph in a respectable 7.4 seconds, although the instant torque from the electric motor makes it feel even faster.

If you didn’t know (or didn’t care) you’d be hard-pressed to tell the new rear-drive car apart from its front-driven predecessor; it’s only really noticeable when you push hard away from a junction, or when accelerating out of a tight bend. Contrary to what you might think, separating the steering and power inputs across the front and rear wheels means the updated car feels a bit grippier.

While the XC40 Recharge Electric can’t quite match a Tesla for that sense of speed, all versions will push you back in your seat if you step on the accelerator. Despite the low centre of gravity created by the positioning of the battery, there’s a decent amount of body lean when cornering at high speeds, which highlights the car’s relaxed nature. 

Volvo has done a good job of keeping the suspension compliant, though; while range-topping dual-motor cars get an adaptive setup, even the standard springs provide an incredibly supple ride. Avoid the 20-inch alloys on top-spec Ultimate models if you can – the smaller 19-inch aero wheels on Core and Plus versions make the car vastly more comfortable overall.

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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. The latter is strong (and initially quite aggressive) but it’s relatively easy to get used to and works well in urban driving.

Interior & comfort

The XC40 Recharge's interior is stylish, although there are some cheaper materials

Inside, it's hard to get away from the fact that this car, which can cost more than £60,000, shares much of its interior with the considerably cheaper entry-level petrol model. 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 highlight of the cabin has to be the technology buried within. The infotainment setup runs Google-based software and is also compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It’s a shame that it all operates via a small nine-inch touchscreen – the system definitely doesn’t have the wow factor of a Tesla or BMW’s slick single-pane widescreen setup – but it is at least responsive and relatively easy to use. 

Sitting behind the steering wheel is a larger 12-inch digital instrument cluster which can be configured to show several useful nuggets of information such as your current sat-nav directions. Recent updates allow greater customisation of the display – including additional map options, and the ability to display range alongside remaining battery percentage.

Elsewhere, subtle design changes over the regular XC40 include door linings and carpets that are now made from 97% recycled plastic bottles. Extra paint finishes are also available, along with new 19 and 20-inch alloy wheel designs.

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Every version from the entry-level XC40 Recharge Electric has LED headlights, rear parking sensors, wireless smartphone charging, DAB radio, keyless entry and start, a hands-free powered bootlid, automatic wipers and textile-trimmed seats.

Above this, the Recharge Plus model – the trim we’d recommend, no less – adds front LED fog lights with a cornering function, electrically adjustable heated front seats, a heated steering wheel and a reversing camera. The flagship Ultimate version adds to the standard kit list further with 20-inch alloy wheels, Microtech-trimmed seats, a 360-degree camera system and a powered tilt and slide panoramic sunroof. It also gets an upgraded Harman Kardon stereo with 12 speakers. Luxuries that, we think, most buyers might struggle to justify.

Practicality & boot space

The XC40 Recharge should offer ample space for small families

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 to flagship Ultimate cars.

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, and there’s a deep hidden compartment under the floor. The tailgate opening is a square shape and the EV 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 we found handy for storing the charging cables or small bags of shopping.

Reliability & safety

Safety and reliability are Volvo strongpoints

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), which 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 23rd 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 eighth out of 29 brands. Slightly worryingly, however, was that 27.7% 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.

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Richard is a former editor of Carbuyer, as well as sister site DrivingElectric.com, and he's now Deputy Editor at Auto Express. Having spent a decade working in the automotive industry, he understands exactly what makes new car buyers tick.

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