What is it?
Volvo’s first fully electric car, following three years after the petrol-powered XC40 small SUV was launched in 2017. It’s a competitor for the likes of the BMW iX3, Ford Mustang Mach-E, Volkswagen ID.4, Hyundai Ioniq 5, Skoda Enyaq iV, Nissan Ariya, and various others. Oh, and the Polestar 2, with which it shares a platform and powertrains.
It was pricey at first, but the situation has been slightly improved with the introduction of single motor entry cars (as opposed to the fancier twin motor version) that now starts the range at around £47k.
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Is this just a normal XC40 with an e-motor shoved in?
The XC40 was designed from the beginning to take an electric powertrain, so it doesn’t suffer from the usual compromises that can happen by cross-contaminating DNA. It arguably doesn’t feel quite special enough inside to justify the price tag that its fancy electric tech demands, but to be fair to Volvo it throws in a lot of standard equipment to make you feel better about it.
The XC40 Recharge looks identical to its ICE and PHEV siblings, bar the now obligatory blanked-off body colour grille and Recharge branding on the C-pillar. The charging port is on the nearside front wing, there are bespoke alloy wheel designs and some new exterior colours.
Let’s talk numbers.
Yes let’s, because they’ve changed a little with the arrival of the 2023 facelift. As before there’s a single-motor Recharge and dual-motor Recharge Twin, but the former has now gone from being front-wheel drive to – for the first time on a Volvo this side of the Millennium – RWD. Oh yes.
Don’t get excited though, the shift is in the name of efficiency and combined with a 235bhp, 310lb ft motor it now draws 290 miles of range from its 69kWh (67kWh useable) battery, up from 264. Meanwhile the XC40 gets a slightly larger 82kWh (79kWh useable) unit, but better temperature management of the cells means range jumps from 270 to 334 miles.
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The Recharge Twin’s motor configuration has also changed: out go identical 201bhp motors and in comes a 148bhp-front, 254bhp-rear set-up for a combined 402bhp and 494lb ft. So about the same power and virtually the same result: 0-62mph in just 4.8 seconds. Blimey. Top speed’s limited to 112mph, as it is in every Volvo.
The single motor will take a 130kW DC charge for a 10-80 per cent top up in 34 minutes, but the dual motor will now take up to 200kW to do the same charge in 27 minutes. And not because the hardware’s changed, Volvo just understands the limits of its gear better now.
How does the XC40 Recharge drive?
It’s all very sensible, unless you’re in the ridiculously powerful twin motor, in which case it’s not very sensible. The XC40 is an easy car to live with day to day, if you’re worried about switching to electric.
The Plus-spec trim has a keyless entry system that means you can just leave the key in your pocket and don’t even need to press a start button, it just registers the pressure of your posterior on the driver’s seat and it’s ready to go. This is the pointiest and squirtiest of cars.
The twin motor car offers bonkers performance from a family crossover, but the whole range is impressively refined. The interior is decently put together with some interesting trim options, while the ride is smooth and sophisticated. You’ll be spoiled for other cheaper cars.
Our choice from the range
Volvo170kW Recharge Plus 69kWh 5dr Auto£48,245
What’s the verdict?
“Like the Tesla Model 3 (and related Polestar 2), the XC40 Recharge makes an almost irresistible case for electrification”
We’ve loved the XC40 from the start but had a few reservations about the powertrains. Not any more. In electric Recharge guise the XC40’s worthier attributes – the thoughtful packaging, sense of wellbeing and design – are augmented by a remarkable (and let’s face it, completely unnecessary) turn of speed. Like the Tesla Model 3 (and related Polestar 2), the XC40 Recharge makes an almost irresistible case for electrification.
Sure it’s not cheap, but it’s loaded with kit and the twin motor version has enough pace and balance on a good road to keep much more overtly sporting cars honest. The semi-skimmed single motor car is simply a great day-to-day family car.
Ford Mustang Mach-E
Continue reading: Driving