Volvo XC40 Recharge Review
If you’ve read our separate review of the Volvo XC40, you’ll know we’re big fans of it. With awards aplenty garnered for Volvo’s Swedish HQ, it’s a great example of a small, premium SUV, available with petrol and plug-in hybrid (PHEV) power. So hopes and expectations will be high for a similarly stellar score for this zero-emission, all-electric model.
Called the XC40 Recharge, it’s a car with an impressive amount of power and very low running costs, although it costs a chunk more to lease than other XC40s. But the Recharge’s environmental benefits and added performance could tempt you to splash out extra up front.
Select's rating score* - 4.0 / 5
At a Glance
In most respects, the Recharge is much the same as the regular Volvo XC40. That’s good news, because we really like Volvo’s small SUV. It stands out from its premium rivals with some smart design features, and it drives well too.
Volvo offers mild-hybrid petrol cars, and also has a petrol-electric plug-in hybrid model, with an all-electric range of up to 28 miles. Slightly confusingly, it’s also called the Recharge.
This, though, is the Recharge electric, formerly known as the Recharge P8, and now known as the Recharge Twin. Yes, it is a bit confusing… Anyway, it promises everything customers liked about the regular XC40, but with up to 259 miles of driving per battery charge and very fast acceleration; a 0-32mph time of just 4.9 seconds puts it up there with some proper sports cars.
This is no harcore, minimal compromise performance machine, however; it’s an XC40 that happens to have a lot of power, and still gives passengers a comfortable ride. There’s also some eye-catching tech inside, including an infotainment system with built-in Google Assistant. Plus, being a Volvo, it’s got some of the latest and greatest safety features.
We’ll go into more detail on the electric powertrain in a moment, but the XC40 Recharge Twin will take you up to 259 miles from a single charge of its battery. From that battery comes power for two electric motors, delivering 408 horsepower to all four wheels.
For the uninitiated, that’s a lot of oomph, and more than you might expect for this type of car. There are three trim levels available, all of which offer a decent level of equipment, as you’d expect for a car with premium aspirations. Available features include a 360-degree camera system and a 12-speaker Harman Kardon sound system, as well as a panoramic sunroof and a limited autonomous driving system called Pilot Assist.
Size-wise, the XC40 competes with cars like the BMW X3 and Audi Q3, but for the price of this electric version you’re looking at other electric SUVs like the Jaguar I-Pace, Polestar 2 and Ford Mustang Mach-E, as well as the forthcoming BMW iX3 and Tesla Model Y.
Range & Batteries
The XC40 Recharge has a 78kWh lithium-ion battery and two electric motors, with one driving the front wheel and one driving the rears. It has a range of up to 259 miles according to official tests, which should mean all but the heftiest of commutes can be done on a single charge.
That said, there are rivals with longer ranges. Tesla’s Model 3, which could be on your list of other electric cars to consider, can deliver up to 352 miles, and even the more affordable Hyundai Kona Electric can manage up to 301 miles, although it doesn’t have the power of the Volvo.
Performance & Drive
The combined power from the two electric motors is 408 horsepower. If that doesn’t mean much to you, consider that just a few years ago, 200 horsepower in a hatchback was considered a lot, and the XC40 is pretty much hatchback sized in terms of footprint.
Even though it’s heavier than a regular petrol or diesel car, thanks to the weight of the batteries, it’s seriously fast in a straight line. Put your foot down and you’ll fly towards the horizon, and a 0-62 time of 4.9 seconds is proper performance car territory. It’s genuinely impressive, and capable of embarrassing much more flashy cars away from the traffic lights.
The acceleration is actually at odds with the vibe of the rest of the car, as it’s not built to be a particularly sporty drive. The accelerator reaction isn’t pin sharp like a sports car, and the suspension has been designed more for comfort than scalpel-like agility. Try to corner too enthusiastically and you’ll get a bit of body roll and not much feedback from the steering, although it does stay composed in the bends. A Tesla, or a Jaguar I-Pace is much more engaging. Best to keep things calm in the Volvo, and it’ll reward you with a subtle ride and an impressive lack of wind and road noise.
We can’t help wondering however if it really needs this much oomph. Knock 100 horsepower off or more and it would still be a brisk machine, and perhaps that extra grunt could be put towards extending the battery range, or reducing the price somewhat.
You can charge the XC40 Recharge from a domestic plug socket, although this is best kept for occasions when you have no alternative, as it’ll take around 40 hours to charge from empty. A 7.5-meter cable is included. Better though to use a home wallbox or a public charger.
A home 7.4kW wallbox, charging from empty to 100% at 7.4kW will take 12 hours, or if you have a 400V charger then it’ll take just over eight hours at 11kW. A 100kW CCS public rapid charger will take 41 minutes to charge from 10% to 80%, or if you can find a 150kW charger it’ll take 33 minutes. A 4.5-metre three-phase, 32amp Type 2 cable is included with the car.
Running costs & Emissions
The electric version of the XC40 is a good chunk more expensive to lease than the regular petrol or plug-in hybrid models, although this is reflected in the level of performance. At the time of writing, you’re looking at almost double the cost of an entry-level 1.5 T3 petrol model, which is quite a jump.
Compared to other electric SUVs however, it’s quite so dramatic; The XC40 Recharge is cheaper than the (admittedly larger) Jaguar I-Pace, but more than the Ford Mustang Mach-E, Audi Q4 E-tron and Mercedes-Benz EQA. Overall, you’d have to say it’s pricey; that performance doesn’t come cheap.
When it comes to running costs, electric power will always be cheaper than petrol. Public chargers will cost more than charging at home, however; the most cost-effective way of keeping your battery topped up is to have a home charger, an electricity tariff that’s cheaper at off-peak hours, and charge the car overnight. The XC40 will get around 2.5 miles per kWh (which is the measurement akin to miles per gallon), which isn’t particularly efficient, but not too bad either.
As with all electric vehicles, company car drivers will pay just 1% benefit-in-kind tax in 2021/22. The XC40 Recharge sits in insurance groups 41 and 42 out of 50, which means premiums could be on the pricey side.
Interior & Technology
The XC40’s cabin is plush, posh and well-designed, with an excellent driving position, comfortable seats and lots of adjustment to get your preferred driving position. The driver’s seat has a sensor in it, which means the car turns on when you sit down – no need to turn a key or press a button. Just get in, select D and go. The general quality of the cabin is largely excellent, with some nice materials used, although a few areas don’t feel quite as solid as you’d expect for a car of this price. The flap above the cubby hole in the centre console is a good example; it’s a bit scratchy and plasticky.
Volvo has long had a thing for minimalism and this is reflected in the design of the infotainment system and of the 12.0-inch digital instrument panel, which sits behind the steering wheel in place of traditional analogue dials.
The infotainment is shown on a portrait-orientated 9.0-inch touchscreen. It’s aesthetically pleasing, although sometimes you may wish there was more information shown at one time, so that you didn’t have to flick between screens, which can be distracting while on the move. It can be a bit of a mission to switch between different options.
Features include Google Maps and Google Assistant as well, and you get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for smartphone integration.
Practicality & Boot Space
Considering the XC40 isn’t a particularly large car, it manages to squeeze an impressive level of practicality inside. You’ll easily get two adults in the back, and three if the middle occupant doesn’t mind a lack of legroom thanks to a raised floor in the centre.
Boot space is pretty good too, with 452 litres of space. That’s larger than some rivals, such as the 340 litres you get in the Mercedes EQA or 402 in the Ford Mustang Mach-E, but smaller than the Jaguar I-Pace’s 557 litres or the 542 litres in the Volkswagen ID.4. If you need more space then the rear seats fold down, but only in a 60/40 split, rather than the 40/20/40 versatility you get in the Audi Q4 E-Tron or Mercedes EQA. There’s also a small space under the bonnet due to the lack of engine. It’s small, at 31 litres, but it’s big enough for a small bag, or to keep your charging cables in.
General storage spaces include big door pockets front and back, and drawers under the front seats, as well as space under the centre armrest and two cup holders.
The XC40 was tested by independent safety organisation Euro NCAP in 2018, and scored the maximum five stars. It managed a particularly impressive score for adult protection. All models include some of the latest active safety systems, including automatic emergency braking, which will intervene if you don’t react to an impending collision. The XC40 also features Oncoming Lane Mitigation, which will automatically steer you back to safety if you stray into oncoming traffic.
There are three Isofix child seat mounting points on the outer rear seats and front passenger seat, and front, side and curtain airbags. A driver’s knee airbag is included too.
If you go for the top-spec XC40 Twin Recharge Pro, you’ll get Pilot Assist. This is a suite of systems that include adaptive cruise control and steering assistance technology. Combined, this gives you limited self-driving capabilities on motorways, where the car will steer itself in a lane and accelerate and brake automatically. You still have to be in control of the vehicle though.
There are three trim levels to choose from. The entry-level car is called simply XC40 Recharge Twin, and features 19-inch wheels, LED headlights and an electric boot lid, with keyless entry and star, dual-zone air conditioning and the full infotainment system described earlier.
For extra niceties, consider the XC40 Recharge Twin Plus, which adds a rear-view camera, electrically adjusted front seats and more advanced LED headlights. Front and rear seats are heated, as is the steering wheel, and the car includes a heat pump, which makes it easier to heat and cool the cabin and improve the driving range.
The top-spec car is the XC40 Recharge Twin Pro, which adds the Pilot Assist feature, panoramic sunroof and a 12-speaker sound system from Harman Kardon. It rides on 20 inch wheels and has leather seats, as well as a 360-degree camera system to make manoeuvring easier.
Options are relatively limited; you can choose from several paint colours, different alloy wheel designs and upholstery choices, and add a towbar.
But the chances are that you’re looking at electric power over all else. In that case, other cars to look at include cheaper options like the Skoda Enyaq, Volkswagen ID.4 and Kia E-Niro, as well as more sporty options like the Jaguar I-Pace and Ford Mustang Mach-E.
Verdict & Next Step
The XC40 Recharge is a very impressive EV, with all the features you’d want in a small, zero-emission premium SUV. There are eyebrows that will raise at its massive amount of power; some will love the effortless, rapid acceleration, others will have been happy with less oomph and a lower lease rate.
But whatever your thoughts on that, you’ll be impressed by just about everything else about it. Despite its straight-line speed it’s not a sporty car, but it does drive well and keep its occupants comfortable over long distances.
They’ll have plenty of room, and the cabin is a very nice environment in which to spend time. Make sure you also look at the increasing number of rivals, as they all have their strengths, but the XC40 deserves to be on your EV want list.
Where to next?
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**Score based on Select’s unique meta score analysis, taking into account the UK’s top five leading independent car website reviews of the XC40 Recharge
**Correct as of 19/10/2021. Based on 9 months initial payment, 5,000 miles over a 48 month lease. Initial payment equivalent to 9 monthly payments or £3272.31 Ts and Cs apply. Credit is subject to status.