Volvo C40 Recharge review: Panache and power

    Volvo’s second EV in India brings the strengths of its SUV sibling in a more stylish package, but is it worth the higher price?

    Published on Aug 26, 2023 10:00:00 AM


    Make : Volvo
    Model : XC40
    We Like
    • Shattering performance
    • Top class safety
    We Don't Like
    • Poor rear visibility
    • Small boot

    Twenty five percent of all Volvos sold in India are EVs, or more specifically, 25 percent of all Volvos sold in India are the XC40 Recharge. That’s a quarter of Volvo’s sales in India (1,089 units in January-June 2023) coming from the sole EV in Volvo’s range. But that shouldn’t come as a surprise. The XC40 Recharge has hit a sweet spot, slipping into a cosy niche just below other luxury EVs and just above those from mainstream brands like Kia and Hyundai. And when it comes to price-to-power, there’s no other 400+ horsepower car that even comes close to the XC40 Recharge’s Rs 58 lakh price. 

    There is generous plastic cladding to enhance its SUV character.

    Which is why the C40 Recharge, essentially the XC40 Recharge re-fashioned into an SUV-coupe, comes to the market from a position of strength. It’s the second Volvo EV to come to India and is expected to push the Swedish brand’s EV penetration to 35 percent by next year. This is in line with the company’s global aim of making EVs 50 percent of its total sales by 2025 and moving to hundred percent by 2030. EVs are the future for Volvo, and the C40 Recharge, which unlike the XC40 Recharge, has no petrol or hybrid variant, is an intrinsic part of that future.

    Volvo C40 Recharge design

    ‘Coupefying’ an SUV isn’t an easy job for designers because of the conflict they face – lowering the roofline on one hand and maintaining a high SUV stance on the other. But I have to say, Volvo has done a fine job of getting the proportions just right. From the front, it looks essentially like the XC40 Recharge with the familiar Thor’s hammer LED headlights that now get new pixel technology for better illumination, especially in bad weather. You can spot subtle changes from its SUV sibling like a more chiselled bumper and reshaped fog-light housings. There’s generous plastic cladding on the lower sides to enhance the SUV character while the rising window line, which kicks up at the rear, plays to the coupe look. 

    The roof curves seamlessly into an integrated spoiler on the top of the hatch.

    The C40’s swooping roofline is what sets it apart from the upright SUV stance of the XC40 and it looks great. The roof curves seamlessly into an integrated spoiler on the top of the hatch, flanked by a pair of segmented tail-lights, which follow the edges of the car and smartly extend horizontally into the tailgate. They look absolutely stunning. 

    Volvo C40 Recharge interior and features

    There’s no conventional leather inside the C40, which is the first Volvo to use vegan-friendly materials and fabrics. It’s as if Volvo made the C40 for staunch vegetarian Indian customers who will be happy to know no animals were harmed in the making of this car. This drastic move away from leather has more to do with Volvo’s commitment to using sustainable materials to meet its environmental goals. You won’t miss the absence of leather and the interiors are just as well finished as other Volvo models higher up in the range. The cabin is a nice mix of textures and muted colours blended in a cool Scandinavian way.

    The 9-inch vertical touchscreen looks a bit dated now.

    To add a bit of spice, the dashboard gets topography-inspired inlays, which don’t look great in the day, but they are backlit and at night give a stunning, three-dimensional contour map-like look. The dashboard with Volvo’s signature 9-inch portrait-oriented screen flanked by tall and slim vertical vents is looking a bit dated now and isn’t as futuristic nor as user-friendly as the cabins of cheaper EVs like the Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Kia EV6. The 12.3-inch instrument cluster is sharp with nice graphics but again doesn’t have the level of customisation offered in other luxury EVs. Also, the Android-based infotainment system lacks the functionality and ease of use of the more intuitive systems.

    Rear visibility is pretty poor and have to rely on wing mirrors.

    I would have liked more physical buttons to control regularly used functions like the air-conditioning, which by the way will have its work cut out in the summer. The fixed panoramic sunroof makes the cabin bright and airy but doesn’t come with a sun blind and even on a cloudy, monsoon day, I could feel a distinct layer of heat just under the glass. Parked out in the sun on a 45-degree summer day, I can imagine it would take a long, long time to cool the cabin. 

    The 31-litre frunk is useful for storing cables or a small bag.

    One advantage of a fixed sunroof is that there’s no requirement for a complex sliding mechanism, which typically eats into headroom. And that’s just as well because headroom is in short supply in the back thanks to the swooping roof line. Tall passengers will find their heads close to the roof liner and would be better off in the taller XC40 Recharge. However, legroom isn’t too bad and the back seat isn’t particularly comfy – it’s a tad short on under thigh support, the consequence of a high floor and the back rest is too upright.  The boot too has shrunk to 413 litres from the SUV’s 452 litres and the space saver spare tyre, which sits inside the boot, takes up valuable space too. The 31-litre frunk space remains unchanged and is useful for holding cables or a small bag. 

    Headroom is in short supply at the back because of the swooping roof line.

    Like in all Volvos, the front seats are supremely comfortable and they nicely cosset you the moment you sink into them, and that, by the way, is also the cue to start the car. There’s no start/stop button and the car is activated by your backside and all you have to do is select D and go. Rearward visibility is pretty poor and you can’t see much out of the back; the lack of a wash-wipe for the rear screen makes matters worse and it’s your wing mirrors you have to depend on.

    Volvo C40 Recharge battery and range

    The svelte-looking C40 Recharge is underpinned by Volvo’s CMA platform conceived some years ago to house petrol and diesel engines, and now batteries. Carving out space for a large battery pack under the floor of a car designed to take ICE hardware like exhaust systems and catalytic converters can be tricky, but Volvo has managed to squeeze in a 78kWh battery pack in the C40. It’s the same size as the pack in the XC40 recharge, but it’s a new generation of cells with more energy density for better range. In fact, the C40’s claimed range of 530km (WLTP) is over 100km more than the XC40 Recharge. That’s a staggering improvement over what is mechanically the same car with the same size of battery. It’s not just the improved battery cell technology, but the more aerodynamic shape (crucial for range) that has played a big role in boosting the C40’s range. 

    C40 Recharge gets the same 78kWh battery as the XC40 Recharge but has more range.

    The twin-motor, four-wheel-drive powertrain on the XC40 Recharge is a big hit with customers, and hence, Volvo has offered the C40 Recharge with the same spec. There are no immediate plans to launch a cheaper and less powerful two-wheel-drive variant and if Volvo finally did bring one it would probably be for the XC40 Recharge first.

    Volvo C40 Recharge ride and handling

    For a brand that professes to be practical and sensible, the C40 Recharge is hilariously quick, maybe even too quick but we aren’t complaining, just merrily grinning!. 408hp of power and a massive 660Nm of torque is very addictive and you can’t help but keep stomping on the accelerator pedal to experience a very savage forward thrust. You need to warn your fellow passengers to brace themselves before you unleash all that instantaneous power and torque. The C40 will burst from rest to a 100kph in 4.7 seconds, that’s way faster than anything with a Rs. 60 lakh price tag. 

    The C40 Recharge is so out of character that it will bring out the hooligan in you and change your perceptions about Volvos once and for all. Top speed is capped at 180kph but quite honestly, it’s the ferocious acceleration on demand, and the ability to overtake anything and everything without hesitation that makes the C40 so utterly compelling to drive.

    Overall dynamics are well sorted making it an easy car to drive at speeds it is capable of.

    Volvo’s vaunted one-pedal braking which cranks up the regen level to the max is quite effective and you can genuinely use the regen to completely and smoothly stop the car, recouping range in the process. But it’s quite annoying too. You feel the brakes have been applied every time you lift off and it’s not a relaxed way to drive. You can switch off the regen via a setting on the screen and rely completely on the brakes, which are effective enough but don’t have a progressive feel. The steering too is a bit inert and the overall handling is more safe and predictable than sharp or engaging. 

    The steering is a bit inert; overall handling is more predictable than engaging.

    Ride quality is pretty good despite the relatively low profile tyres on 19-inch rims and the C40 Recharge rounds of bumps and uneven roads quite well. It’s only over sharp edges that it feels a bit jittery, but the overall dynamics are well sorted making this an easy car to drive at the speeds it is capable of. Adding a solid layer of safety are all the ADAS systems packed to harness all that power and performance effectively and in terms of crash worthiness it doesn’t get better than the 5-star Euro NCAP rating it gets.  

    Volvo C40 Recharge verdict

    The C40 Recharge is much like the XC40 Recharge but offers more style and panache. It will be more expensive too and though prices are yet to be revealed, sources suggestit will cost 10-15 percent more than its SUV sibling which equates to a ball park figure of Rs 64 lakh-66 lakh. It’s not the most spacious EV in the market, the rear seat in particular is compromised and the on-board tech isn’t the best either. But for the price, this super quick, gorgeous looking and well-built SUV coupe is the most desirable EV you can buy.

    The Thor's hammer LED headlights get a new pixel tech for better illumination.

    Also see:

    Volvo C40 Recharge video review

    Tech Specs

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