Volvo is on the charge in Australia at the moment.
That rollout started with the XC40 Recharge Pure Electric in Australia, and continues with the C40 Recharge Pure Electric on test here.
Up front, you could be forgiven for thinking this was an XC40. It shares its CMA chassis with the petrol and electric XC40, the powertrains on offer match those in the XC40, and the smaller headlights are a subtle differentiator at best.
What’s the main difference, then? Where the existing XC40 is designed to be a practical rival to the Tesla Model Y, the C40 features a sloping roofline and sportier styling down back in a bid to appeal to different buyers.
It also represents yet another option in Australia’s supply constrained but growing electric car market.
The C40 Recharge carries a $2000 price increase over the equivalent XC40 Recharge at the entry-level, while the twin-motor range topper is $3000 more expensive than its more practical sibling.
At the top end, the C40 is priced in line with the Ioniq 5 Techniq AWD ($79,500) and Kia EV6 GT-Line RWD ($79,590).
2023 Volvo C40 Recharge pricing:
- Volvo C40 Recharge: $74,990
- Volvo C40 Recharge Twin: $82,490
Prices exclude on-road costs
Up front, the C40 Recharge is nearly identical to the XC40. For the most part, that’s a good thing.
The driver and passenger sit high, with a commanding view of the road ahead, and strike a perfect balance between padding and support. It’s not an overly sporty place to spend time, but it is comfortable.
The base Single Motor variant features more basic black cloth trim than the Twin Motor, which packs a vegan alternative to leather with some grey streaks through it.
Although both feature a glass roof as standard, the Twin Motor’s slightly more colourful – or slightly less black – interior is the nicer place to spend time.
On the dashboard, the base model features a 3D map of Gothenburg in a neat nod to the car’s lineage – even if it’s made in China, rather than Sweden. The Twin Motor has the topography of a Swedish national park laid out in plastic on its dash.
With an upright dash and minimalist design, you won’t be mistaking the C40 for anything but a Volvo.
Pride of place on the dashboard belongs to a vertically-oriented 9.0-inch touchscreen, running Android Automotive software under its skin. That means you get Hey Google voice control and Google Maps standard, but the final skin is set up by Volvo to look familiar to anyone who’s driven one of the brand’s recent cars.
It’s snappy on the move, and the tiled interface is generally attractive – although it does feel a bit demure compared to the brighter, more modern take on similar software employed by Volvo’s corporate cousins at Polestar.
The ability to download apps like Spotify from the Google Play store opens the door for a level of customisation not possible in most systems. Having the same people who do the software for mobile phones design your Bluetooth interface, for example, means this is one of the easiest cars in which to find a contact and make a call on the move.
When it’s connected to a network, Hey Google is more useful than Hey BMW or Hey Mercedes ever could be… but when it’s not connected to a network, the voice assistant is far less useful. Apple CarPlay smartphone mirroring is standard on the back of a software update, having initially been off limits for Volvos with Android Automotive.
The driver is faced with a simple instrument binnacle with inbuilt Google Maps. It’s light on for configuration options compared to what’s on offer in some luxury marques, although all the information you need is displayed prominently.
The XC40 is a standout when it comes to interior storage, and the C40 is no different. The felt-lined door pockets, spacious transmission tunnel, and under-dash space are all cleverly designed, while the built-in rubbish bin is a thoughtful touch.
Where rivals like the Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Kia EV6 feature more futuristic cabins with open, airy designs thanks to their electric platforms, the C40 is still rooted in the world of internal combustion. That means it feels familiar, for better and for worse.
The glass roof and sloping profile don’t sound like a great combination for rear-seat passengers, but there’s a surprising amount of headroom back there.
Adults will be able to get comfortable without their head on the roof lining, and there’s more legroom than you’d expect of what’s a relatively compact SUV.
Air vents, USB-C ports, seat heaters for outboard occupants, and a fold-down central armrest are on hand to keep the kids comfortable, although the more upright roof of the XC40 Recharge Pure Electric means it’s a more practical way to carry adults around.
It’s also worth noting similarly-priced rivals such as the Hyundai Ioniq 5 are larger inside, although the C40 punches above its weight given the size of its exterior.
Boot space is a claimed 489 litres with five seats in place, expanding to 1205L with the second row folded flat. That’s down 93L on the XC40 Recharge with the seats up, and 123L with them folded.
The floor itself is the same, which means it can be folded to create a bag hanger/divider, and there’s underfloor storage for cables or valuables – the space loss comes above the seatbacks, where the sloping roof eats into carrying capacity.
Up front, there’s a bin beneath the bonnet with space for cables.
The single motor, front-wheel drive C40 Recharge produces 170kW of power and 330Nm of torque, while the dual-motor all-wheel drive model produces 300kW and 660Nm. These outputs are identical to the XC40 Recharge.
It features a 69kWh lithium-ion battery in single-motor guise, and a 78kWh battery with the dual-motor powertrain.
Claimed 0-100km/h times are 7.4 seconds for the single-motor, and 4.7 seconds for the dual-motor. Claimed WLTP electric range is 434km in the base C40, and 420km in the Twin Motor.
You can charge the 69kWh battery from 10 to 80 per cent in 32 minutes using a 150kW DC fast charger, while the same increase in percentage takes 40 minutes with the 78kWh battery. They can also be charged at up to 11kW with AC power.
Messing around with keys is so old-fashioned, right? You sit in the driver’s seat and put the C40 in Drive when it’s time to go, and just leave it in park when you want to walk away.
That same simplicity applies to the driving experience. There are no paddles to fiddle with, nor is there a huge range of drive modes.
You’re able to turn one-pedal driving on or off (leave it on), or toggle the steering between light and heavy (the latter is our pick), but both those functions are buried in the central touchscreen.
Once most owners have found their preferences, we’d wager they’ll just leave them set.
Don’t be fooled by the fact it looks like a regular city SUV, the C40 Twin Motor absolutely hauls in a straight line. Its 100km/h sprint time is on a par with all-wheel drive hot hatches, but the way it snaps your neck back on the move is more attention-grabbing because there’s no gears to drop or boost to build.
Ride comfort on the 20-inch wheels standard on the range-topper is surprisingly good. Pockmarked backroads elicit a bit of slap-slap noise from the tyres, but the C40 does an excellent job keeping the outside world where it belongs.
On our launch drive it felt like a more composed thing to drive than even the related XC40 Recharge Pure Electric, although we’ll need to get them side-by-side to confirm it.
Road noise in the C40 was noticeable away from billiard-smooth highways, which isn’t uncommon in smaller European luxury cars.
With a keen front end and solid body control, it’s more fun than the average electric SUV to hustle along bumpy country roads.
Volvo’s regen braking is tuned smartly enough not to throw you through the windscreen if you lift off the accelerator at speed, so with a bit of familiarity it’s possible to get into a rhythm on winding roads without ever touching the brake pedal.
With bags of instant torque on tap and impressive traction, you can really slingshot out of tight corners as well.
The Single Motor lacks the same punch, as you’d expect, although it’s still likely to feel impressively quick for anyone hopping out of an internal-combustion crossover.
Despite its smaller wheels, the Single Motor doesn’t feel all that different to the Dual Motor when it comes to ride quality.
Regardless of model, the C40 Recharge comes with a full range of driver assists standard.
The adaptive cruise control does a good job keeping a gap to the car in front on the highway, but the active lane-centring is hands-on to the point where it can feel like you’re wrestling the car for control.
C40 Recharge highlights:
- 9.0-inch touchscreen Android Automotive infotainment
- 4-year data subscription
- Google Services
- Over-the-air updates
- Wireless phone charging
- Keyless entry and start
- Dual-zone climate control
- Heated front seats
- Heated rear seats
- Hands-free power tailgate
- LED headlights
- Fixed panoramic roof
- Hill descent control
- Power-folding exterior mirrors
- Auto-dimming internal, external mirrors
- Power-folding rear headrests
C40 Recharge Twin adds:
- Dual-motor all-wheel drive
- 20-inch ‘Black Diamond-cut’ five-spoke alloy wheels
- Surround-view camera
- Harman Kardon sound system
- Microtech and textile interior
The Volvo C40 Recharge wears a five-star ANCAP safety rating, based on testing carried out earlier in 2022.
The C40 scored 92 per cent for adult occupant protection, 89 per cent for child occupant protection, 70 per cent for vulnerable road user protection, and 91 per cent for safety assist.
Standard safety equipment includes:
- Autonomous emergency braking (forward, reverse)
- Blind-spot monitoring
- Rear cross-traffic alert
- Adaptive cruise control
- Lane-keep assist
- Pilot Assist (adaptive cruise control + lane centring)
- Front and rear parking sensors
- Surround camera system
The Volvo C40 Recharge is backed by a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty with eight years of roadside assistance.
There’s also an eight-year battery warranty, and two-year servicing intervals. The first three years or 100,000km of maintenance are free.
The Volvo C40 doesn’t offer too many surprises, but that’s no bad thing.
With its sloping tailgate and fancy LED tail lights, the C40 looks different enough to its more practical XC40 stablemate to feel unique.
Its performance is impressive and the range is competitive, and there’s some fun to be had behind the wheel relative to most of its electric SUV rivals.
Competitors built on dedicated electric platforms feature more futuristic, spacious interiors for similar money, but the fact the C40 feels so normal will no doubt endear it to some buyers.
The fact Volvo expects to be able to bring more than 500 examples to Australia in 2022 and a further 1550 in 2023 will help as well, given how supply-constrained our market is at the moment.
Of the two models in the range, the Twin Motor feels like a better buy. It’s meaningfully faster than the Single Motor, and has a nicer interior for $7500 more.
Click the images for the full gallery