In case you’ve been living in a cave for the last few years. Volvo is going all-electric.
The Swedish brand has already phased out diesel engines across its fleet and electrified every model - whether as a mild or plug-in hybrid. By 2030 it will have phased out any form of combustion engine and plans to launch one new EV per year between now and then, including the flagship EX90 and a compact EX30.
That’s due to be unveiled later in 2023 but for now the brand’s electric range consists of the streamlined C40 Recharge and its more traditional - and mighty handsome - SUV-shaped XC40 Recharge cousin, both of which offer a choice of drivetrains and specs to buyers looking for a premium compact SUV.
Our particular XC40 test car was built in late 2022, which means its single 228bhp motor was mounted at the front. Any single motor cars built from this year will be rear-wheel-drive for better efficiency and get a new 234bhp motor.
The tested version’s performance didn’t disappoint and the extra 6bhp won’t make a huge difference, but it’s to be welcomed, especially as it doesn’t harm the range. In fact, according to Volvo, the updates, which also include better battery cooling, bring an impressive 24% increase in range in single-motor variants. So if you order an XC40 Recharge from this year you’ll get an official range of 334 miles and consumption of 3.7kWh.
That’s good news as we found consumption of our test car to be a weak point. Officially, it’ll do 3.3 miles per kWh but we never saw more than 3m/kWh during a week of mixed driving in relatively mild conditions.
All-wheel-drive versions also get new motors but the power remains the same - at a ridiculous 402bhp. Frankly, the 228bhp version has plenty of power and pace for an SUV of this ilk. There’s nothing wrong with the driving experience - it responds well and remains composed - but there’s nothing that screams “drive me hard”. The only real benefit of the more powerful versions is the all-wheel drive abilities.
Instead of driving it hard, you’re far better sitting back and relaxing, making better use of the range and enjoying the near-silent refinement and composed ride. Any Volvo is a pleasure to cover long distances in and the XC40 Recharge’s electric power enhances that and complements the sophisticated interior.
The XC40 shares its platform with the Polestar 2 but the more traditional SUV style means it feels more spacious and practical. The upright seating creates more legroom and better visibility and the higher roofline creates a more airy feeling cabin.
Surprisingly, the XC40’s materials also feel generally better than the Polestar and easily a match for its premium rivals. The suede and vegan “leather” seats look and feel great and offer unrivalled comfort while the irregularly textured panels on the dash and doors are delightfully quirky and reminded me of the topography on paper maps.
The standard Volvo less-is-more approach means there is very little in the way of physical controls, with most functions managed via the nine-inch portrait touchscreen in the centre of the dash. While this felt huge and groundbreaking when it first appeared, it is starting to feel a little lacking in 2023. It's relatively small and the black plastic surround and adjacent vents makes it feel even smaller. The menus aren't as intuitive as you'd hope and the tiny heating controls at the very bottom of the screen are hard to access and dangerously fiddly on the move. On the more positive side, the Google maps integration is excellent, including charger details and range prediction.
Prices for the single-motor XC40 Recharge start at £46,505 for the Core model rising to £56,605 (or £695 a month on subscription) for our top-spec Ultimate. For that, you get 20-inch alloys, pixel LED lights with active high beam, a panoramic sunroof, dual-zone climate control, heated seats and steering wheel, powered tailgate plus the usual bumper suite of driver aids and safety kit.
For a relatively compact car, that’s a hefty asking price but all EVs are expensive and the Volvo has the premium look and feel to back up its position, plus this year’s model updates mean it packs an even more impressive electric punch.
Volvo XC40 Recharge Ultimate
- Price: £56,605
- Motor: Single electric
- Battery: 69kWh (nominal)
- Power: 229bhp
- Torque: 243lb ft
- Transmission: Single-speed, front-wheel-drive
- Top speed: 99mph
- 0-62mph: 7.4 seconds
- Range: 259 miles
- Consumption: 3.3m/kWh
- Charging: up to: 150W
Rivals: BMW iX1, Audi Q4 e-tron; Mercedes-Benz EQA; Polestar 2; Lexus UX 300e