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Wednesday / 22 May 2024
HomeFeaturesVolvo C40 Recharge review – Stylish, silent, and super fast

Volvo C40 Recharge review – Stylish, silent, and super fast

The new Volvo C40 Recharge looks phenomenal, is well-equipped, provides a reasonable driving range, and has the best performance of any car in its segment.

I spent a week behind the wheel of the Swedish automaker’s latest electric vehicle (EV), where I was able to get a sense of what Volvo’s premium vehicles have to offer, and what it’s like to live with a battery-powered car on a daily basis.

Premium looks inside and out

What immediately makes the C40 stand out from its peers, both within the Volvo umbrella and from other brands, is its looks.

It’s another example of the increasingly popular crossover coupe sub-category, and it fully commits to a sleek modern theme with a low-sloping roof, large 20-inch five-spoke black diamond-cut alloy rims, and a stunning set of tail lamps that run parallel to the large rear window before curving around and back into the boot lid.

Moving inside, the crossover is the brand’s first to provide an entirely leather-free upholstery, though you wouldn’t know it at a glance, as the seats are a combination of suede and a sustainable Microtech textile where the latter does a decent job of replicating the look and feel of leather.

The seats themselves are rather firm but still comfortable, and you have electronic adjustability with a memory function and lumbar support, which was a big help in finding my ideal driving position.

One aspect I particularly liked was the patterned effect on the doors and passenger-side dashboard, which adds an appreciated layer of detail to an otherwise minimalist interior, and lights up at night to provide ambient cabin lighting.

I’m less sold on the carpet-like fabric in the door lining, and the cabin has one or two rough spots, like the multicoloured wires for the electric front seats being easily visible from the back, or being able to see behind the glove box when it is opened, but overall the Volvo feels like a solid product with top-notch build quality for the components you’ll be interacting with the most.

The interior is not particularly spacious owing to the coupe design. I am not a tall person, yet even I only had a few inches of headroom in the back, so other people will likely struggle here.

Another consequence of the sloping roof is that the side windows are actually not that big, which can make the interior feel dark and is likely one of the reasons why a massive panoramic sunroof is included as standard to let in more natural light.

Rear visibility is also an issue as, despite the large glass frame on the back, you only get a small and high-up opening to peer through with the rearview mirror, again owing to the slanted roof, so you will be relying on the car’s all-round camera system far more than your own eyes in a car park.

On that note, the C40’s equipment list is impressive, incorporating dual-zone climate control with rear vents, a Harman Kardon stereo, heated seats for both the front and back, and all the assistance items you’d expect from such a car, including blind-spot monitors in the side mirrors, lane-keep assist, and adaptive cruise control with an adjustable following distance.

The digital driver display shows your car’s battery level and range, and indicates when it is switching from using charge to replenish the cell with the regenerative brakes, and it can also show the navigation which frees up the infotainment screen for other tasks.

There are a handful of physical buttons for things like the hazard lights, but the others are used for the sound system rather than the climate controls, which is a bit of a missed opportunity considering the steering wheel already has audio controls.

Regarding its practicality, the crossover boasts a tremendous boot of 489 litres with a flat floor that makes it easy to slide things in and out, and this floor can be folded to create partitions for more organized storage. There’s also a small 31-litre “frunk” under the bonnet which is a good spot to store your backup charging cables.

The rear boot does have a hands-free function, but on more than one occasion the door tried to close on my head, which I later realized was because my feet were under the car while I was leaning in to reach something from the back, and were likely tripping the sensor, which is something to be aware of.

Exceptional comfort and performance

Matching its stellar looks is the car’s performance, as it can rocket from 0-100km/h in just 4.7 seconds.

It features the same twin-motor setup as the XC40 with one over each axle for all-wheel-drive, and the result is that you have a staggering 330kW and 660Nm to work with.

Naturally, the Volvo is near-silent aside from the subdued hum of the motors and the ride quality is exceptional with the usual bumps on my commute not registering at all. The lower centre of gravity from the battery also helps it feel very stable at high speeds.

Of course, the real question with any EV, especially in a South African context, is its range, and the C40 performs reasonably well in this regard.

During the week, I made a point to drive as inefficiently as possible with the heated seats in the morning, full-blast AC in the afternoons, and aggressive acceleration as I made my daily runabout to work, the gym, the shops, and back home.

The car had a 90% charge when I received it on Monday afternoon with an estimated range of 280km, and by Friday evening I had brought it down to 55% with a new reading of 190km to go – having done approximately 100km over the five days.

I don’t have access to at-home charging, but several malls around my area have public chargers, so that Saturday I took the car to one nearby and the process was extremely easy.

I didn’t even need to bother with the cables in the boot, as it was as simple as plugging the charger into the socket and swiping a card, whereupon the dash informed me that it would take an hour to reach 100%.

Coming back from lunch revealed that its prediction was spot on as I found it at 99% when I came back at the specified time with 300km on tap, and you can also adjust a setting to cap what level it stops charging at if you are in a hurry or want to preserve the battery’s lifespan.

The next day I went on a longer highway trip where I drove much more efficiently by using the range extender and one-pedal braking.

The former optimizes the car’s functions by limiting things like the AC, while the one-pedal mode strongly applies the brakes whenever you take your foot off the accelerator, which both maximizes the energy recuperated by the brakes and trains you to drive more efficiently overall.

Doing this brought the battery down to 66% with 240km still advertised on the clock, so it used a third of its charge for approximately 100km of 120km/h driving.

Now, the Volvo has a WLTP range of 444km, and its South African website claims 510km – neither of which resembles the 300-400km I was being advertised, though like with any car, your driving style will be the ultimate determiner of efficiency.

Verdict

Taking a holistic look at the C40, it offers noticeably better performance than its competitors like the BMW iX1 and Mercedes-Benz EQA, while having a similar manufacturer-claimed range.

It comes down to whether you prefer it or the XC40, and while the latter has slightly better cabin space, the former has the more head-turning design for only R26,000 more, and even a bigger boot at 489 vs 460 litres despite its flatter roofline.

It has more than enough range for your daily needs and provides a sublime driving experience that can be as tame or feral as you want.

It has its niggles, but they don’t detract much from the overall package, and I found living with an EV to be a straightforward task despite not having access to at-home charging.

At a starting price of R1,324,000, the Volvo C40 Recharge is one of the best ambassadors in its segment for electric motoring, made even better by its sleek appearance.


Volvo C40


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