There was a time, in the not too distant past, when seeing someone cruising around in a Volvo was akin to them waving the white flag at life. The sight of an 850 or S40 induced feelings of sadness, even sympathy, for the driver. Sure, they were bullet proof, but where was the chutzpah? They were cars for people who hated cars, but had to reluctantly comply with life’s dictatorial requirement to move from A to B. Even the successful use of these cars in the heyday of the British Touring Car Championship couldn’t enliven the image. Things, however, have changed. Volvo has undergone a subtle transformation. Its cars are now, dare I say it, ‘cool’. People want safety and practicality wrapped in a suave package. The Volvo XC40 Recharge, for example, is delivering.
First things first, the Volvo XC40 Recharge is a good looking car. The clean grille afforded by the electric motor blends in with the rest of the bodywork seamlessly. SUVs are always aesthetically compromised, but the Volvo XC40 Recharge doesn’t attempt anything too outlandish in a bid to fight this reality. It’s comfortable in its own skin and I like that about it.
This comfort extends to the interior and driving experience, too. It’s very laid back and amenable. Some EVs have gone searching for extreme 0-60 times to justify their existence, not the Volvo XC40 Recharge. It’s aimed at simply being a family car, and it works.
What’s the Volvo XC40 Recharge like to drive?
The model tested is the Volvo XC40 Recharge Ultimate. The front wheel drive version, it’s 69kWh electric motor provides 231bhp. This kicks it from 0-60mph in 7.0secs. The acceleration is brisk up until you hit c.45mph, then it noticeably runs out of puff. 0-62mph, for example, takes 7.4secs. The reality of the driving scenarios you’d purchase a Volvo XC40 Recharge for, however, means that the power is sufficient.
The commanding ride height offers a good vista of the road ahead, although it never feels like a big car. The sensors and 360-degree parking camera make it really accessible and not even slightly intimidating. It encourages you to serenely sail along towards your destination, rather than roll your sleeves up and get involved in traffic light races.
One complaint would be the steering. It’s generally light and silky smooth but can be very snatchy at lower speeds. The wheel is determined to centrally realign asap, which can be a bit jerky at times. The overall comfort of the steering, though, comes at the expense of feedback, but again this plays into the overarching philosophy of the car.
Whilst it’s not at home darting along B-roads, we did put it through its paces in that setting. The steering is responsive if devoid of feedback, although the 2-ton weight makes itself felt. The lack of punch above 45mph also comes into play. I was curious, that’s all. It’s not a car designed to deliver seat of your pants driving thrills and nor does it ever pretend to be. There’s no ‘sport’ button or any other such frivolity.
What’s the Volvo XC40 Recharge like to live with?
It offers a very relaxed driving experience. The steering is light, it ambles over speed bumps and potholes without fuss and it’s wonderfully quiet. SUVs are perfectly set up for electrification and the Volvo XC40 Recharge shows why.
There’s ample boot space with charging cables in the front trunk. Rear leg and head room is ample and there’s Isofix in the outer rear and front passenger seats. Heated seats are offered all round and the panoramic sunroof is a nice addition. It feels light and airy in the cabin, in keeping with the car’s demeanour. The interior is a pleasant place to be and the infotainment is really easy to use.
Charging, as with all EVs, is a primary concern. The real-world range (or at least what I achieved in my week with the Volvo XC40 Recharge) is around 210 miles. A home charging facility would be strongly recommended to keep the Volvo XC40 Recharge up and running. The public charging infrastructure still isn’t there to support EVs that don’t begin with T. This is not a problem unique to Volvo by any means.
If you can install a home charging point and don’t regularly undertake lengthy motorway journeys, it’s a perfect companion. The Volvo XC40 Recharge isn’t trying to be something that it’s not. It doesn’t demand to be pushed down a B-road. It’s most definitely at home slotting into the background and supporting the most everyday of driving scenarios. Where it’s designed to excel is in making forgettable journeys sail serenely by. Commuting to work? No drama. Bring the Harmon Kardon audio into play, sit back and relax. The Volvo XC40 Recharge nails its brief. It doesn’t raise pulses; it lowers them.
The Volvo XC40 Recharge is a car that really grew on me. The longer I spent with it, the more I came to appreciate it for what it is. It’s unapologetically a car for people who place an emphasis on comfort and practicality. That it delivers this in an aesthetically pleasing package makes it an attractive proposition. It’s incredibly easy to live with.
There’s a lot of choice in this area of the EV market (model tested £56,700). Audi, Mercedes, BMW, Tesla, VW, Polestar; all the big names have an EV proposition to compete with the Volvo XC40 Recharge. The subtle transformation of Volvo’s image is its ace up its sleeve. Safe, practical, environmentally conscious and infused with Scandinavian chic, it’s a desirable car. I know this because I’ve seen so many of them on the road. The Volvo XC40 Recharge is clearly landing the right punches with its target audience.
It works brilliantly as an EV. Yes, there will be a hint of range anxiety, but for everyday scenarios and with the ability to recharge easily enough, there’s little to fault. The emphasis on being a quiet, cordial companion for everyday use is exaggerated by the whisper quiet electric power delivery. For going about unnoticed and unruffled, it hits the mark. There is plenty of choice in the market, sure, but it’s easy to see why the Volvo XC40 Recharge has been such a popular choice. Volvo is no longer a brand that induces feelings of sympathy for the owner. They’ve become rather desirable.
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