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 Sportback and Hyundai Ioniq 5 offer more range and the Google-driven onboard tech rather excludes iPhone users.
“Care By Volvo is a convenient way to make the switch to electric but may not actually prove that much cheaper than the way you do it now”
Volvos are quite expensive these days (justifiably so - its tech and materials are up there with Land Rover, Audi and BMW) but tries to sweeten the pill with its Care By Volvo monthly subscription ‘ownership’ model. This rolls servicing, tax and breakdown cover into one – quite hefty – monthly sum, which is a convenient way to make the switch to electric but may not actually prove that much cheaper than the way you do it now. 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. Volvo offers a three-year/60,000-mile warranty which is average, given some rivals offer five years and Kia even covers you for seven. The battery is covered separately by an eight-year/100,000-mile warranty. 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. For a small; car, the C40 feels pretty spacious as well. Partly that’s thanks to the full-length glass sunroof, which lets the light spill in, front and rear. Sustainable fabrics made from recycled plastics are meanwhile 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 of 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
“You get Google Maps and Google Assistant, with four years’ data allowance, but CarPlay currently isn't supported”
Volvo’s brilliant and clear touchscreen appears in the C40, with swipe-able menus for multiple functions but core features like nav, audio and phone easily accessible from the home screen. You get Google Maps and Google Assistant, with four years’ data allowance, all of 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.
In better news you do get 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. Move up a level to Pure trim and you get heated front AND rear seats, which is unusual for a car this size, plus a heated steering wheel. All very nice in the winter, but watch that battery range go down… There’s also a Volvo app to help you set functions remotely, like warming the car before setting off, or help in calling the emergency services, but we’ve never found car apps to be much use, to be honest.
Power for a Volvo C40
“The C40 doesn’t use the energy in its batteries as frugally as some rivals”
There are now two versions on offer, comprising a 231 horsepower Recharge and the 408 horsepower Recharge Twin. The latter does 0-62mph in 4.7 seconds, which is crazy fast for a little SUV. While this version claims an official 274 miles of range (the standard one is 269 miles) in both cases the C40 lags behind the 300-plus miles offered by 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. Setting that aside, we find the C40, and its sister XC40 Recharge model, a delight to drive. They are everything a small, premium, electric SUV should be - silent, smooth, rapid away from junctions, with that heaviness from the battery translating into a low-slung solidity which just enhances the sense of confidence. Coupled with light steering round town, it’s a beautiful car to own,