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VOLVO C40 RECHARGE

It may only be regarded as a coupé derivative of the XC40 range (think Volkswagen Taigo and T-Cross), but the new Volvo C40 Recharge is also unique, as it is the first nameplate from the Swedish luxury vehicle manufacturer only available as a battery electric vehicle.

The Volvo C40’s C-designation is somewhat misleading, as the C40 Recharge is not just a coupé but a crossover coupé and should strictly be badged XC. It can, however, be considered the spiritual successor to the C30, the premium compact Volvo hatchback manufactured from 2006 to 2013 that spawned the Volvo plug-in hybrid ReCharge concept in 2007.

Not only that, but the C30 also became Volvo’s first limited-production battery electric vehicle with the development of the C30 Electric in 2009 and the presentation of the C30 DRIVe Electric concept car the following year. Production of the C30 Electric began in 2011 and was leased to fleet customers in Sweden, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Norway.

With the C40 Recharge, the C30 legacy comes full circle. Based on the CMA vehicle platform, it is the first Volvo model in history designed as pure electric only. As such, it is the latest manifestation of the Swedish manufacturer’s commitment to a zero-emissions future.

Similar to the XC40 Recharge Pure Electric, the C40 Recharge (first introduced in September 2021) is available overseas with two-wheel drive – receiving the same rear-wheel drive system as the single motor version. However, for South Africa, the initial allocation is 50 units, offered exclusively in flagship Ultimate specification with twin-motor configuration – one on the front and one on the rear axle.

SLEEK AND STYLISH

The main difference between the XC40 and the C40 is the coupé-style sloping roofline of the latter. It shares the front end, front doors, and interior design of the XC40 Recharge Pure Electric, including the new covered grille and headlights with state-of-the-art pixel technology.

The sleek, sloping, and lower roofline combines well with the striking rear-end design of the C40, further emphasised by unique taillight light patterns – and while we are not huge fans of the SUV coupé genre, the C40 Recharge, with its restrained Scandinavian design cues, in our view, is probably the most attractive vehicle in this segment.

Although the C40 Recharge shares its interior layout with the XC40 Recharge, the completely leather-free cabin is the first thing apparent from the high seating position. The seat upholstery and all the other trimmings are made of high-quality, sustainable materials. Even so, the interior detail presents exceptionally well, in a vegan sort of way.

Our shiny black Ultimate test unit (the only trim level now offered) was very well specified as standard, featuring electrically adjustable front seats, seat heating (both front and rear), a heated steering wheel, a panoramic sunroof (giving the interior a roomy feel), wireless smartphone charging, two-zone climate control with Volvo’s unique air-purifying system, and a 13-speaker Harman Kardon premium sound system.

As in the XC40, the infotainment system, developed with Google and based on the Android operating system, is stylish and easy to use – providing Google apps and services built-in, and unlimited data (via a dongle for your smartphone) enables good connectivity and software updates over the air. Also, the 489 litres of luggage space in the C40 are supplemented by a handy 31-litre frunk.

While the interior layout feels familiar, the all-electric driving experience in the C40 Recharge differs somewhat from that of the XC40 Recharge. Propulsion is delivered by two electric motors – one on each axle – with peak outputs of 300 kW and 660 Nm.

SPORTSCAR ACCELERATION

With only a soft electrical whine audible, the compact SUV coupé accelerates from standstill to 100 km/h in only 4.7 seconds – that’s sportscar territory, and decidedly unexpected from a compact crossover – thanks to virtual linear power delivery, further aided by all-wheel-drive traction. 

Charged by a 78 kWh high-voltage lithium-ion battery pack, the C40 Recharge has a claimed range of up to 420 km (WLTP cycle, and slightly more than the XC40 Recharge), although we never saw more than 390 km range on the info system. 

Realistically, a range of 380 km to 400 km per charge is possible – still impressive when compared to the 150 km range of the decade-old C30, powered by a 24 kWh lithium-ion battery and an 82 kW electric motor. According to Volvo, the battery can be fast charged to 80% in about 40 minutes, and the range is expected to improve over time via over-the-air software updates.

In terms of ride and handling, the C40 Recharge emulates its X-designated derivative in most dynamic aspects, although there is more road rumble audible in the cabin due to the lack of engine noise. This also lends a tranquil quality to the interior. However, like the XC40 Recharge, the coupé model’s rigid suspension settings upset its composure over small ruts.

LAST WORD

In terms of desirability, quality, and performance, the new C40 Recharge offers a viable alternative to the all-electric compact SUV derivatives from BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz, and its starting price of R1,285,000 (with Ultimate spec) is competitive compared with rivals such as the 230 kW BMW iX1 xDrive with M Sport package (starting from R1,263,000) and the 140 kW Mercedes-EQ EQA 250 (R1,176,350).

The purchase price furthermore includes the Volvo Care package, which comprises a five-year maintenance plan and warranty (with the battery pack covered for eight years or 160,000 km), a home charging wall box and a public charging cable. However, only 50 units are available online through the My Volvo website, so you need to be quick to secure this delectable full-electric Volvo.

Report by FERDI DE VOS | Images © RYAN ABBOTT

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