Volvo has begun its journey to becoming a 100 per cent electric car company by 2030 with the launch of its first dedicated electric model line, the C40 Recharge.
Using the CMA platform shared with Polestar 2 and XC40 SUV, the C40 Recharge won’t be offered with a combustion engine, so is arguably bigger news than its first BEV, the XC40 Recharge which is an additional model alongside its petrol sibling.
Planning for a future beyond the combustion engine, Volvo expects half its fleet will be fully electric by 2025 with its factory in Ghent, Belgium (that has capacity to produce 280,000 vehicles) already primed to churn out 135,000 EVs a year by the end of 2022.
Volvo Australia has confirmed the C40 Recharge will join the local line-up before the end of 2022. Here, we get a first look at the Swedish brand’s new SUV-coupe-EV on the international media drive in Europe.
Volvo Australia hasn’t committed to local pricing or specs yet but with an options list that comprises pretty much of metallic paint only in order to minimise the online ordered delivery times, it’s fair to say that what we drove is what we’ll get.
We’d wager the Australian sticker price will be in the vicinity of the related XC40 Recharge Pure Electric’s $76,990 starting price (before on-roads), though its ‘C’ nomenclature that signifies its coupe-like form factor could spell a small premium approaching the $80,000 mark.
The also-related Polestar 2, which we could classify as something of a modern-day Volvo S40, starts at $69,900 plus on-roads with the equivalent Long Range Dual Motor drivetrain, though you need about $11,000 in option packs to deck it out in the same way Volvo has with the XC40 Recharge EV.
Perhaps taking a leaf out of Elon Musk’s book, the C40 Recharge is only available to order online in some markets with a minimal refundable deposit. This includes service, warranty, roadside assistance, insurance and home charging options while dealers will still keep a car on site to test.
An online ordering process already exists locally for the XC40 Recharge Pure Electric which ultimately leads customers to a dealer after they’ve made initial enquiries online and Volvo Australia expects this to extend to the C40 Recharge.
Customers can speak with consultants online before being directed to a nearby dealer to arrange a test drive, finalise the order and either collect the car or have it delivered to their home or office. It’s expected this method will apply when the C40 Recharge lands in the second half of next year.
The C40 Recharge is well appointed but you won’t find leather anywhere. It uses recycled plastic on the floor and doors, while naturally renewable wool fibres and a combination of suede made of recycled plastic and Microtech material is also used.
Dual-zone automatic climate control is standard, as is heating for the powered front seats, rear seats and steering wheel, along with a 12-inch digital cluster, Harman Kardon premium audio and wireless charging for smartphones. Initially, the C40 only offers Android Auto but we’re told Apple CarPlay will be added soon in an over-the-air update.
The 9.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system is powered by Google which works for most applications but was out-foxed by the many diversions and road works encountered on our media drive route. Volvo’s old Sensus software might have been a bit clunky but I don’t recall it sending me the wrong way multiple times.
Pilot Assist adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go, blind-spot monitoring, lane-keep assist, road sign recognition, and a 360-degree camera system and front and rear parking sensors are also standard.
The large grille blank which includes its badge is heated to keep its camera and sensors clean, but also identifies this as a BEV, as well as being a member of Volvo’s 40-Series family. The rear features a new take on the tall tail lights that fold into the D-pillars and do a magic light trick on start-up, creating a trippy stairway effect.
The Volvo C40 Recharge hasn’t been tested by ANCAP, or Euro NCAP for that matter, but the related XC40 line-up (including the Recharge PHEV and EV) wears a five-star ANCAP safety rating based on 2018 testing.
In terms of category scores, the XC40 managed 97 per cent for adult occupant protection, 84 per cent for child occupant protection, 71 per cent for vulnerable road user protection and 78 per cent for safety assist.
Given the similarities between the two vehicles both physically and mechanically, it would be logical to predict the C40 should manage a similar result – though the different roofline could mean an adjustment in child occupant protection, for example. Watch this space.
As noted earlier, European C40 Recharge models come standard with a suite of active safety features such as autonomous emergency braking (AEB), adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, 360-degree cameras, road sign recognition, front and rear parking sensors, as well as blind-spot monitoring.
While the single-arc roofline that tapers down over the rear looks smooth and helps its aero efficiency, it hinders rearward vision.
The C40 has a naturally high, SUV-like seating position and while headroom is fine, I found myself adjusting the rear mirror and hunching down to get a clear shot out of the letterbox window behind.
This also impacts rear headroom for tall passengers who are perched atop two rows of batteries, despite a full-length glass roof adding a few valuable millimetres of head space.
As for luggage capacity, Volvo quotes 413L to the upper edge of the front seatback or lower edge of the rear window on its global spec sheet, or 489L to the roofline – both figures in five-seat configuration.
Fold the seats down and you get 853L to the lower edge of the rear window, and 1205L to the headliner.
The C40 Recharge shares its all-wheel drive electric drivetrain with the Volvo XC40 Recharge Pure Electric and the Polestar 2 Long Range Dual Motor.
With identical motors for each axle, the C40 Recharge has a total of 300kW and 660Nm at its disposal. Like the XC40 Recharge EV, the C40 Recharge completes the 0-100km/h sprint in a claimed 4.7 seconds.
Fitted with a 78kWh battery pack, the C40 Recharge is expected to have a driving range around 440km.
First thing you notice inside is there’s no start button. To get the C40 Recharge rolling, you press the brake, engage a gear and you’re running. To stop, simply place it in Park, lock the door, and walk away.
It’s almost as simple as its one-pedal arrangement which can be turned off for motorways but in the city and especially in stop/start traffic is brilliant.
Lift off the gas and it comes to a complete stop using the regenerative braking to top up the battery. It works at any speed but for highway use it’s best to disengage it so you can coast like a regular ICE car. I brushed the brake pedal maybe three times in two days.
The all-season tyres on our car are designed to avoid fitting separate summer and winter tyres in Europe but were noisy, so hopefully, without needing winter tyres in Australia, a quieter substitute for its 20-inch rims can be found.
Like all EVs, the C40 is quick by ICE standards, getting to 100km/h in 4.7 seconds with a top speed of 180km/h.
As impressive as its standing start is, the real fun comes from its overtaking punch from 50km/h to 100km/h and beyond.
Merging onto a motorway entices challenges with much bigger, brawnier cars and they lost every time. It gives you supercar-like confidence to merge into the outside lane quickly and silently place a football field between yourself and those that were around you a few seconds earlier.
The C40 will be covered by Volvo Australia’s five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty which is one of the leading programs in the premium segments.
It’s unclear whether the C40 Recharge will offer the same servicing package as the XC40 Recharge EV – the first three years of servicing is complimentary, including consumables like brake pads, discs, and wiper blades.
Stay tuned for all the latest Volvo C40 coverage in the coming months
Click the images for the full gallery
MORE: Everything Volvo C40