The XC40, Volvo’s smallest SUV, was the first in the range to be offered as an all-electric model. An electric version was always in the pipeline as the Swedish firm prepares itself for a not-too-distant future in which, it’s anticipated, battery-powered vehicles are likely to account for at least half of its sales.
You can pick up an XC40 Recharge Pure Electric with either a single motor with a 69kWh battery and 228bhp or, as reviewed here, twin motors and a 78kWh battery with 402bhp.
There’s no shortage of competition from the Audi E-tron and Jaguar I-Pace at the top end of the price range to the Tesla Model 3 and Lexus UX at the lower price brackets.
So can the XC40 do enough to stand out from the crowd? Let’s take a look.
I have always found Volvos to be among the most comfortable of cars and the XC40 Recharge is no exception. The front seats are excellent. Entry-level models have manual adjustment but do boast four-way electrically-adjustable lumbar support. All other versions offer fully electric adjustment.
The elevated seating position ensures you get a good view of the road ahead, aided by the relatively narrow A-pillars. The door mirrors are a good size and the rear-view mirror is equipped with auto-dimming as standard.
The view out of the rear three-quarters and back of the XC40 Recharge is compromised a window line that flicks up towards the back but, in top-spec Pro versions there’s a button in the front that lets you lower the rear seat headrests to give you a clearer view.
To further mitigate problems you might have manoeuvring in small spaces rear parking sensors and a rear-view camera are standard across the range while top-of-the range cars get a 360-degree camera that gives the driver a bird’s-eye view of the car and its surroundings.
The XC40 is a relatively compact car but Volvo have managed to free up plenty of space inside. Head and legroom in the front is generous, as is the amount of elbow-room on offer.
There’s room in the back for three taller adults to sit comfortably too. The middle passenger will, though, have to straddle a fairly big hump running the length of the cabin floor.
There’s plenty of thoughtful touches, including a pop-out bin between the front seats and carpet-lined door pockets – front and rear – big enough to hold a couple of large bottles and drawers beneath the front seats. There’s a pair of cupholders fashioned into the centre armrest in the back too.
The rear seats split 60/40, rather than the more useful 40/20/40, and you can’t fold or slide the rear bench which is not unusual in an electric car.
Boot space is a reasonable 452 litres and it’s a practical shape with no lip to negotiate. It has flap halfway along the boot floor that can be fixed in a vertical position to stop smaller items rolling around and there’s a usefully large storage space beneath the boot floor too. There’s also some additional space beneath the bonnet which is ideal for storing the charging cables.
The high resolution digital instrument panel is standard across the range and is crisp, clear and very easy to read. What it does lack, however, is a real-time range monitor until the charge falls below a specific level. The only way to access that information otherwise is to ask Google or switch to the Range Assistance app.
Volvo is another manufacturer who has been busy eradicating many of the physical controls from the dashboard, choosing instead to add them to the infotainment display. It means that, making any changes – including adjusting the cabin temperature – requires you to delve into on-screen menus, taking your attention away from the road.
However, thanks to the full integration of Google Assistant you can change things like temperature and fan speed using your voice and, I’m relieved to say, it does actually work.
That brings me nicely onto the heart of the infotainment system: A nine-inch tablet-style screen in the centre of the dashboard. It looks the same as the screens you’ll find in other models but the software behind it is very different.
It was developed in conjunction with Google and, as I’ve mentioned, it comes with their Assistant as well as Maps and access to a suite of other Android apps. You sign in with your Google account, as you would on your phone and away you go. You can even control your home’s smart devices from the comfort of the driver’s seat and using just the power of your voice.
There isn’t, currently, smartphone mirroring but Apple CarPlay will be arriving as an over-the-air update and, well, you don’t really need to connect your Android device do you. DAB radio, wireless phone charging and Bluetooth are included.
Google Assistant’s voice commands are highly effective and, if available, the best way of accessing functions because much of the infotainment system’s menu is almost impossible to use while you’re on the move. This is largely due to the vast number of icons and large amount of text squeezed onto the screen.
The quality of fit and finish throughout the cabin is top notch. Pretty much anything you can lay your hands on manages to feel both plush and robust. The mix of materials give the passenger space a large dash of premium sauce and that goes some way to justifying the outlay.
The reason the XC40 Recharge has the word “Twin” added to its name is the use of two motors – on on each axle – to give all-wheel drive and, with 404bhp and 487lbft of torque under your right foot it’s not much of an overstatement to describe acceleration as epic. O-62mph takes just 4.9 seconds.
Admittedly, it’s not in Tesla-embarrassing territory but compared to the Kia e-Niro’s 7.8-second sprint or the Audi E-tron’s 5.7, it’s mighty impressive.
The official WLTP range is 259 miles for the version driven here (the single-motor version’s is 261) but in the real world you can expect closer to 200.
There’s no adaptive suspension, not even on the options list, and while that’s unusual for a premium electric SUV it doesn’t feel as though the XC40 suffers unduly without it offering, as it does, one of the most comfortable rides in its class.
It is smooth and settled at motorway speeds and handles crumbling and broken urban roads with similar ease. Sharper-edged imperfections can send a large jolt through the car that a petrol-powered XC40 would handle with less fuss. It doesn’t, though, disturb the car’s balance or reduce its hold on the road.
The XC40’s tall and heavy and, physics being what it is, it does lean a fair bit through corners. There’s lots of grip and, of course, no shortage of performance but there’s no doubt that the XC40 Recharge is most at home being driven in a more circumspect manner.
It's entirely possible to hurl it round bends while carrying a surprising amount of speed but there’s no real sense of connection, not any sense of fun. Then again, it’s also true that nothing about the XC40 Recharge – its surprising straight-line zeal aside – suggests that being fun was ever part of the original remit.
In Normal mode the steering is light and a little vague but you can beef things up considerably via the driver assistance menu and, personally, I prefer a little more resistance when I’m behind the wheel.
There’s noticeable road noise and some wind buffeting from around the windscreen at cruising speeds but, at lower velocities, the electric motor wafts you along in hushed comfort and it’s pleasantly easy to drive smoothly too, thanks to brakes that respond progressively and the option of one-pedal driving that allows you to slow the car simply by lifting your foot off the accelerator.
The XC40 Recharge can look a little pricey compared to some of its rivals and if you’re preference is for something that’s fun to drive then you should look elsewhere. The infotainment system, while the most phone-like to operate, is also a little fiddly. However, the interior quality and ambience is excellent, the Twin version offers ridiculous performance and, most importantly, both dual- and single-motor version possess a decent range.
Volvo XC40 Recharge
Price (from): £43,550
Max power: 408hp
Max torque: 660Nm
Max speed: 112mph
Max range: 256 miles
For more information visit www.volvo.co.uk