Swedish coupe-SUV majors on style but a dual-motor powertrain may not suit its laid-back driving character

What is it?

There is no need for a crossover SUV to have 402bhp, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t fun. The Volvo C40, despite its pseudo-coupé sloping roofline, isn’t meant to be a sports car. Volvo's Geely Group owner has Polestar and the likely upcoming O2 roadster for that. No, this is fundamentally an XC40 coupé.

The big difference from the Volvo XC40, apart from its stockily muscular ‘coupé-SUV’ styling, is that it won’t be offered with any combustion engines. It rides on the same CMA platform as the XC40 and Polestar 2 and is available with those models’ two pure-electric drivetrains.

As such, it can be had as either a plain Recharge, with a single 228bhp front motor and a 67kWh battery pack for a total range of 269 miles, or as a Recharge Twin, like our test car, with a 201bhp motor on each axle and a 75kWh battery pack for a quoted range of 273 miles.

Since it is essentially an XC40 coupé, there’s no technical reason why it couldn’t have the XC40’s range of petrols and hybrids, but Volvo has chosen to position the C40 as the spearhead of its EV transformation, proudly proclaiming it’s the first Volvo in history designed as pure-electric only. That's not untrue, but it does make the C40 sound rather more momentous than it is.

2 Volvo c40 recharge uk drive 2022 side pan

What's it like?

With identical motors on the front and rear axle, the handling balance is very neutral. If you push it, the front will be first to go, but thanks to the wide Pirelli P Zero tyres on our test car, grip is seemingly limitless on the road. Traction is near unassailable, making it properly rapid.

It’s no sports car, or even a sports SUV, but the pleasantly weighted if numb steering and relaxed primary ride mean that it’s fairly natural to guide along a twisty, bumpy B-road. Unfortunately, surface imperfections and road noise make themselves known more clearly than you’d hope from a £58,900 Volvo. The smaller wheels that come with the lower trim levels might improve matters, but even on the 20s of our ‘Ultimate’ test car, it stops short of being jarring.

Where the C40 also feels slightly at odds with its price point is the interior. It might be excellent for a £34,100 XC40 T3, but I can’t help but feel slightly disappointed by it in this £58,900 car.

Typically for a Volvo, the seats are excellent, everything is well built and the translucent ‘topographical’ trim that lights up at night is neat, but there are a few too many hard plastics and coarse rubber pieces. The whole interior is vegan, which doesn’t have to be a bad thing, since Volvo offers quite an appealing wool blend upholstery, but the microsuede isn’t hugely convincing and the ‘leather’ on the steering wheel feels downright cheap.

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Like Polestars and all the latest Volvos, the C40 features a new Google-based infotainment system. It looks crisp and responds keenly and the main functions are logical, but some of the settings are too deep into a menu and there are some fiddly buttons.

Most frustratingly, the amount of regenerative braking is toggled between one-pedal driving and nothing at all in one of the settings menus. A modern EV should offer more choice than that to tailor the driving experience and it shouldn’t be hidden in a sub-menu.

9 Volvo c40 recharge uk drive 2022 dashboard

Should I buy one?

The badge, the design, the dynamics and the power of the Volvo C40 no doubt appeal and make it compare favourably with the Mercedes-Benz EQA, and even the Audi Q4 E-tron.

However, less brand-loyal EV buyers could easily be tempted into a Tesla Model Y, Kia EV6 or Hyundai Ioniq 5, all of which are cheaper and use their energy more efficiently.

3 Volvo c40 recharge uk drive 2022 tracking rear

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Illya Verpraet

Illya Verpraet Road Tester Autocar
Title: Road Tester

As part of Autocar’s road test team, Illya drives everything from superminis to supercars, and writes reviews, comparison tests, as well as the odd feature and news story. 

Much of his time is spent wrangling the data logger and wielding the tape measure to gather the data for Autocar’s eight-page road tests, which are the most rigorous in the business thanks to independent performance, fuel consumption and noise figures.

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Add a comment…
Andrew1 13 March 2022
A very strange and expensive car. It doesn't even look good.
Tom Chet 11 March 2022

Autocar, 3.5 stars for this - what are you thinking?  Surely this is a great opportunity for you to rediscover ratings below three stars.

In what area is this car above average, i.e. earning more than 2.5 stars, by the standard of its £60k competition?  Value, comfort, space efficiency, performance, handling, reliability, fun, perceived quality, range?  Any of them?

Tom Chet 11 March 2022

xxxx has taken the words right out of my mouth.

What a waste of space: what are Volvo thinking?

Bar room lawyer 16 March 2022
Tom Chet wrote:

xxxx has taken the words right out of my mouth.

What a waste of space: what are Volvo thinking?

About £20k additional gross profit per car per cahnce?