Slotting in between the related XC40 Recharge and the Polestar 2, the Volvo C40 is an all-electric SUV with an impressive combination of style, tech and performance, not to mention the space and practicality families need. It’s not cheap but has a genuinely premium feel, while the extensive use of sustainable materials in the cabin sits well with Volvo’s socially conscious image. It’s an impressive product, but rivals like the Q4 E-Tron and Hyundai Ioniq 5 offer more range and the Google-driven onboard tech rather excludes iPhone users, at least until a promised update adds CarPlay connectivity.
“You can run the C40 on an all-inclusive Care by Volvo subscription package, which is a fixed price route to trying a new EV”
You get a lot for your money but the C40 looks pricey, even against rivals you may be considering like the Q4 E-Tron, Mercedes-Benz EQA, Lexus UX300e or Hyundai Ioniq 5. Perhaps aware of this Volvo is also pushing ahead with a bold, online-only sales offer for the C40 in the hope tech savvy customers will find this an easy fit with their post-lockdown car buying habits. As part of this you can run the C40 on an all-inclusive Care by Volvo subscription package, which is a fixed price route to trying a new EV with no money down and the option to cancel at any time, subject to a three-month notice period. If you’re not hung up on the idea of ‘ownership’ and can meet the monthly cost it’s potentially a (relatively) affordable way to get a fancy EV on your driveway, or at least test the idea one can work for you before committing to financing or buying one outright. In terms of running costs the C40, like all electric cars, offers those with the ability to charge at home scope to ‘fuel’ their car for peanuts on off-peak electricity tariffs and big tax breaks for company drivers.
Expert rating: 4/5
Reliability of a Volvo C40
“Electric cars are mechanically simpler than petrol, diesel or hybrid equivalents so you’d hope there’s less to potentially go wrong”
Volvo has a solid if not spectacular reputation for reliability, the C40 sharing much of its technology with the XC40 Recharge and Polestar 2. As such it’s all proven kit, and electric cars are mechanically (if not electronically) simpler than petrol, diesel or hybrid equivalents so you’d hope there’s less to potentially go wrong. If you’re running it on the Care by Volvo subscription package this doesn’t matter anyway, given maintenance is factored in to the fixed cost.
Expert rating: 3/5
Safety for a Volvo C40
“The C40 comes packed with all the latest kit to keep you out of trouble, and the inherent strength, airbags and other protection systems if a crash truly is unavoidable”
Volvo is of course proud of its safety record and the C40 comes packed with all the latest kit to keep you out of trouble, and the inherent strength, airbags and other protection systems if a crash truly is unavoidable. Obviously the goal of the tech is to stop that happening in the first place, radar/camera monitored cruise control and Volvo’s Pilot Assist taking the strain out of driving (though you need to keep your hand on the wheel, of course) while blind spot warnings and automatic braking to bring the car to a halt if you’re about to reverse into an unseen hazard are all standard. Given how little you can see out of the small rear window that’s no bad thing.
Expert rating: 5/5
How comfortable is the Volvo C40
“Sustainable fabrics made from recycled plastics are used for the seats, carpets and mats and both look good and feel tough”
Volvo knows how to build a comfortable car and the C40 uses its shared foundations with the XC40 to good effect, the combination of sleek lines with a raised seating position nailing what a huge number of drivers clearly like in their cars. Sustainable fabrics made from recycled plastics are used for the seats, carpets and mats and both look good and feel tough, while of course giving a satisfying glow of social responsibility. The clutter-free design of the interior also helps de-stress the driving experience, the only real negative being the poor visibility from the sloping roof and shallow windows. The rear seats are quite ‘inboard’ but there’s decent enough legroom and even the central passenger gets a half-decent perch and space for their feet either side of the bulge in the middle of the floor. If you need to carry a lot of stuff the square back end of the related XC40 Recharge is probably a better bet, though the boot is still a decent size on the C40.
On the road the C40 rides well, even for its trendy combination of big wheels and the lack of sidewall in the tyres. Like most EVs, the weight helps plant it to the road in that respect and only the harshest bumps intrude on the calm inside, wind noise and other annoyances also well supressed for a soothing experience on the move.
Expert rating: 4/5
Features of the Volvo C40
“The main talking point will be the Google-powered infotainment system Volvo is adopting across the board and now powers the distinctive vertical central touch-screen”
If not cheap the C40 is at least very well equipped, and the single model means no complicated price list to navigate. Goodies include fancy LED headlights, a panoramic roof, powered tailgate and superb Harman Kardon sound system, which you can appreciate all the more thanks to the silence of the electric propulsion. The main talking point, however, will be the Google-powered infotainment system Volvo is adopting across the board and now powers the distinctive vertical central touch-screen and the tech behind it. The graphics are clean and the interface works well, which is fine if you’re an Android user, have a Nest smart speaker at home and run your life through Google Assistant. Less so if you’re an Apple fan and want to use CarPlay, which at the time of writing isn’t supported. Volvo assures us this will be coming soon via an over-the-air update (the C40 is fully connected) but it seems a bit of a dropped ball given the audience it’s playing to.
Power for a Volvo C40
“We wonder, in fact, if Volvo has perhaps got its priorities a little skewed and should have left the performance side to its Polestar sub-brand”
For now the C40 is available exclusively in twin-motor, all-wheel drive form and the combined 408 horsepower output delivers frankly startling acceleration if you push the long-travel accelerator all the way to the floor. That output comfortably out-performs most rivals, the Audi Q4 E-Tron, GTX version of the VW ID.5 and Hyundai Ioniq 5 alike and the C40 is a seriously rapid car. We wonder, in fact, if Volvo has perhaps got its priorities a little skewed and should have left the Tesla chasing performance side to its sportier Polestar sub-brand, and the related Polestar 2. As it stands we’d take a little less horsepower and a tad more range, the official 273 miles on a full charge lagging behind the 300 miles-plus of many rivals while the actual efficiency on the move (actually at least as important as the range) shows the C40 doesn’t use the energy in its batteries as frugally as some rivals. The 'one-pedal' regen mode that slows the car to a halt when you lift off the throttle does help here and quickly feels a very natural way to drive, though it would be nice to be able to toggle quickly between that and the normal setting via the gear selector as you can on hybrid Volvos, and not have it buried in the touch-screen settings.