2023 Volvo C40 Recharge review, first drive - Makes EVs easy
Volvo has some ambitious electrification plans for India, it plans to go completely electric here by 2030. Which, unlike its rivals, is the same timeline it has set for itself globally. The XC40 Recharge has been an encouraging first step, becoming one of the top sellers in the luxury EV segment. So it's only natural that we now have this, the Volvo C40 Recharge. It has the distinction of being the first-ever electric-only Volvo. It also happens to be more than just the smarter, coupe version of the XC40.
2023 Volvo C40 Recharge battery, range, charging
The C40 Recharge has a 78 kWh battery pack like the XC40 Recharge, although intriguingly, Volvo claims a significantly higher WLTP range of up to 530 km, against the XC40's 418 km. The company says it has managed to achieve this by switching to a new battery pack from LG with a different chemistry and higher energy density. There is also an improved battery management system. An 8 per cent gain has come from new Pirelli low-rolling-resistance tyres while the more aerodynamic shape has added a further 4 per cent.
On a 50 kW DC fast charger, the C40 can charge from 10 to 80 per cent in 68 minutes, reducing to 28 minutes via a 150 kW charger. An 11 kW AC charger takes 8 hours.
2023 Volvo C40 Recharge driving impressions
Setting off in the Volvo C40 Recharge is refreshingly simple. There's no starter button or even a parking brake. The SUV turns on when you shift to D or R. It's not unnerving and you take to the ease of it naturally.
The C40 Recharge makes 408PS and 660 Nm via a dual-motor set-up, the same as the XC40. But here the outputs are split 40:60 between the front and rear axles against the 50:50 in the more upright SUV. The 0 to 100 kmph time comes in 4.7s, 0.2s quicker than the XC40. So the C40 is a potent machine, although again encouragingly, it's far from intimidating to drive.
The powertrain delivers performance from a standstill in a calm, measured way with that instant EV torque softening to make things easier. A heavier dab of throttle unshackles the motors, which is when you realize that overtakes don't need to be planned with this car. The C40 gushes forward but again in a secure way with no scrabbling from the wheels for traction. This truly makes for unstressed driving, the near silence adding to this sense. If anything, the only giveaway of the brisk performance is some grating through the wheels as the stability systems manage grip.
Look a bit closer, and a more practical consequence of this is that the C40 seems to be barely tickling its motors in slow traffic. This should be great for range and again goes with the calming theme of the SUV.
Keeping with this theme is the auto one-pedal driving mode. There are no drive or regen modes and this function seems to tie everything together in one function. It works with the radars and cameras and keeps varying the drivetrain's regen effect, right down to one-pedal driving in heavy traffic. In practice, you find that the C40 progressively increases the regen effect as you come up to traffic or reach a bend. And then eases off as the road clears. It's intuitively thought out and you start to trust it quickly enough to barely use the friction brakes, even though sometimes you might find the car reacting differently to your throttle inputs. Either way, you can switch this off or use the full one-pedal mode. This is again well-judged despite being quite aggressive and should be useful in crawling traffic.
The C40 Recharge's ride and handling package ties well with the powertrain. Yes, at low speeds over abrupt bumps and broken roads, the suspension gets quite noisy and bigger impacts filter in as they do in many EVs. But this is still rounded off well, with a soft edge that stops them from becoming jarring. Either way, this settles to a more plaint experience as you pick up speed. The Volvo feels as planted and refined as you would want your luxury car to be.
Especially impressive is the way the C40 Recharge manages its over 2.1-tonne kerb weight. You won't call it outrightly sporty but if this is your first experience with something this quick, the C40 does offer up a good amount of excitement. There's not much pitching and diving and the low-slung weight means that body roll is well controlled too. On a winding road, the Volvo flows along easily with no surprises. Start going a bit quicker, and the rear-biased power delivery also shows its benefits. The C40 doesn't feel nose-heavy around faster corners and you get that confident sense of the SUV pushing you out of these situations that adds a sporty edge to the experience.
The steering feel is in keeping with this. It's again focused on convenience with its lightness but it is quite precise. It never leaves you second-guessing inputs and while there is a firmer steering mode, it seems to just add heft without much more precision, so it's only best suited for more spirited driving. The braking is well judged too, merging the complex regen braking with the friction brakes fairly seamlessly.
2023 Volvo C40 Recharge interiors, features, space, practicality
Given its close association with the XC40, the C40 Rechange also feels quite similar on the inside. The design itself has aged well with its simple geometric themes but some of the materials like the buttons for the audio controls and the plastics in the lower half now seem a bit less refined than similarly sized competitors, although most of the touchpoints are soft and finished well. The all-grey theme seen here doesn't help this, but you can get blue highlights which may liven up the space a touch.
A stronger sense of occasion comes from the sustainability theme in the cabin. The backlit topographical motif on the dash face is especially well executed when you consider its been made entirely from recycled PET bottles. The door cards are made from recycled plastic, wine corks and forest litter. Taking this further, the floor mats and suede upholstery also use recycled plastics. Commendably, these bits tie in well with the generally high quality of the rest of the cabin.
Carried over is the 9-inch touchscreen with its Google-based operating system. It's now somewhat left behind with the larger, slicker screens you find elsewhere but its in-built Google functions continue to be especially useful. You also now get an informative display of the energy consumption and range stats. The 12.3-inch instrumentation is usual Volvo in its simplicity. There's the useful built-in Google Maps view but it's not very customisable otherwise, not a bad thing given the general theme here and its crisp interface.
Now there will be some trade-off with practicality for this more stylish coupe shape and this shows in the rear seat. You have 42mm less headroom here than in the XC40, which taller adults might notice. The rear windows are smaller too, with a higher window line which can make for a cosier feeling, although the new fixed glass roof is a great foil to this.
Also, you will be pleased with the generous legroom on offer, right at par with the best in this segment. Yes, the slightly high floor to pack in the battery and short bench take away a touch of thigh support but the seats themselves are supportive with firm cushioning that will keep you comfortable over longer drives. The C40 continues to be based on the ICE-derived CMA architecture, so middle passengers will have to contend with a high central tunnel.
There are no ventilated seats but you get 10-way adjustable front seats, connected tech, auto-dimming outer mirrors, vegan leather upholstery, a wireless charger, Harman Kardaon audio, a powered bootlid and pixel LED lighting. The strong practicality of the XC40 has been carried over here too, helped by added space in the centre console. You get deep door bins, a removable dustbin and ashtray as well as storage nets in the cabin.
The boot is 39 litres less than in the XC40 and you may have trouble stacking tall objects with the heavily raked rear windscreen. The spare packed in here is also something to contend with. Further, the shape also significantly hampers rear visibility, the rear headrests drop down to improve this marginally. The C40 also has a small but fairly usable 31-litre frunk.
2023 Volvo C40 Recharge dimensions, styling
The C40 Recharge carries the same front end as the XC40. So you have the blanked-out fascia housing the cameras and radar and the refreshed face with the more angular lighting and the arrow-like motifs in the bumpers.
Changes are more prominent in profile. The C40 is 10mm wider and a noticeable 56mm shorter than the XC40. The roofline falls back quite aggressively here and the 19-inch alloys are done up in a flashy aero-optimised design.
The rear is easily the most striking angle. The split spoiler merges with a heavily raked windscreen leading into a high-set boot lid. The spoilers here are functional but the lighting too has been streamlined to go with this. The segment top section merges into a crisp c-pattern that extends into the boot lid. It's well integrated into the bootlid's segmented concave look giving the C40 quite a heavy dose of style.
2023 Volvo C40 Recharge ADAS, safety
Being a Volvo, there's a strong focus on safety here. You have Level 2 ADAS with a suite of forward and rear collision avoidance functions, a 360-degree camera, front, side and curtain airbags, a driver knee airbag and hill descent control.
2023 Volvo C40 Recharge price, verdict
Expected to be priced at around Rs 60 lakh, the Volvo C40 looks set to be another success. Bookings have already surpassed that of the XC40 and it's no surprise. The added range may be the biggest draw but the driving experience is a soothing one, peppered with just the right degree of enthusiasm. The cabin continues to remain distinct despite its age while the new styling will be a strong statement out on the road. Enough to gloss over the slight practical disadvantages.
Watch the Volvo C40 Recharge video review below
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