What you’re looking at here is “the future of Volvo.”
Upon its arrival in March last year, the C40 was the very first Volvo to be conceived and realized as a purely-electric model (that the C40 was also the first ‘leather-free’ Volvo was further testament to the brand’s “commitment to a zero-emission future”). The Geely-developed ‘Compact Modular Architecture’ beneath, while not exclusively EV-dedicated, has been the bedrock for the group’s expansion of battery-electric vehicles since its arrival five years ago, and currently underpins the ‘sister’ Polestar 2 among others. It’s set to be the base on which several upcoming compact Volvo EVs will be built too.
You may also want to get used to those slick LED headlights and the faux front grille too, as this official “face” will adorn Volvo’s electrified line-up until at least 2030.
On top of that, Volvo has spoken liberally about the new “consumer convenience” involved with C40 sales. For starters, it’s all going to be done online, and with specific trims now a thing of the past, aspiring owners will now be invited to choose their base model and select which options they do and do not want. Akin to a $60,000 Domino’s order.
And it all starts with the C40.
This then begs the question: does this mid-sized electric crossover truly represent the “future of Volvo,” or is this just another hollow marketing soundbite?
Stylistically at least, we’re off to a good start. The subtly sculpted hood lines, the grooves in the front bumper, and those diamond-cut, 20-inch alloy wheels – which admittedly do look fantastic! – are about as “aggressive” as the design gets, the covered front grille and tapering roofline emphasizing a sleek look that prioritizes aerodynamism over ‘funkiness.’ Effectively too, as the C40’s drag co-efficient is a pretty slick 0.319 cd.
As a showcase for every Volvo EV to come, the design… may be a bit ‘safe.’ But, take a look at that profile. The ever-so-slightly muscular wheel arches. “The face.” It’s safe, but… it works!
It’s much the same on the inside too. I’ll admit my inner pedant isn’t particularly keen on the electric blue interior – the two-tone matte black and aptly-named Fjorde Blue finds a far more fetching balance on the outside – but this is nothing the online Domino’s order can’t fix. The dashboard is ‘dominated’ by a compact, though still very usable, 9-inch touchscreen, with a similarly uncluttered 12.3-inch example available to the driver. Beneath this is haptic switchgear for the radio, front and rear demist, and hazard warning light, and behind the dainty gear shifter, there’s a sizable storage bin. In a particularly stylish note, the inlays for the vents are one-piece and finished in silver to match the natty inner door handles.
And that’s it. There are no kitschy emblems embossed on the dash or headrests (a small Swedish tag stitched to the passenger seat is about it). There’s no subliminal green ambient lighting. No overly-ornate ‘welcome’ when the infotainment system fires up. The multi-function steering wheel isn’t festooned with switchgear either. Drive modes? Dream on.
There isn’t even a starter button! A pressure point mounted in the seat recognizes when the driver has alighted and starts the electric motors automatically. This same sensor then turns the motors off again when the driver gets out. For a first-time user, it’s a surreal experience – your days of sitting in the car with the ‘engine’ off and the window open are also at an end, so be mindful of your battery life – albeit one you’ll get used to quickly.
Our Ultimate P8 test model meanwhile comes with a full-length panoramic roof, a ‘Topography Inlay’ trim across the dash – which, in a neat touch, illuminates in the dark – a Harman Kardon surround sound system, and… er… oh, ‘Recharge’ insignia on both front tread plates, as well as Volvo’s customary driver assist systems.
You can keep the optional waste bin in front of the central armrest though, Volvo: not large enough to be particularly useful and its flimsy drop-in lid is a severe strike against what is an otherwise impressive build quality. The unwanted pineapple on our 12-inch BBQ Chicken Feast.
But… yeah, that’s pretty much it. If this is Volvo’s future, it feels incredibly streamlined. Something of a novelty in an arena soon to be heaving at the seams with the futuristic likes of the Hyundai Ioniq 5, Mercedes EQS and Volkswagen ID.4.
Don’t let the above fool you into thinking you’re getting short-changed, mind. The infotainment system is very intuitive. The lumbar-supportive seats are just that, and there’s bags of headroom in both the front and rear, even with that rakish roofline. The ‘transmission’ tunnel does impinge on legroom a trifle for this particular 6’ 2” writer, though the cabin never feels anything other than voluminous. Ride comfort? Bang on!
Then there’s the real ace up the C40’s two-tone sleeves.
Though a single-motor example has been introduced to Volvo’s fleet, our Twin Recharge example features two electric motors that send a sizeable 450 hp and 486 lb-ft of torque to all four wheels. Twinned with a 78 kWh battery, you’ll also get up to 364 km of electric range, too.
Press the throttle (watch the speedometer needle inch away from ‘Charge’ into the ‘Power’ band, followed by a blue wave) and you’re met with a determined surge of acceleration, a faint whir from the electric motors cutting through the lack-of-road roar as you do so. Stand more doggedly on the pedal and this ‘determination’ suddenly turns into a vendetta, the C40 finding speed with an absurd amount of enthusiasm. Keep it planted, and you’ll hit 100 km/h from standstill in less than five seconds, which, given the understated design, is borderline hilarious.
So too is the handling. Low weight distribution means the crossover feels incredibly nimble through the corners, with a faint whiff of body roll only occasionally rearing its head. Much of the confidence this inspires comes down to the steering itself: it’s wonderfully weighted, save only a bit of wooliness at the top end, that provides an impressive amount of feedback through the front wheels. You can switch ‘Steering Feel Firm’ off in the infotainment system, but given the overly-power-assisted ‘feeling’ that awaits you, I wouldn’t don’t bother.
There’s only limited travel through the brake pedal, which means, while plentiful, deceleration can prove a little snatchy at times. This can be remedied via ‘One Pedal Driving,’ but that’s something we’ll come back to at a later date …
In fact, our only real bugbear with the C40 on the road is the 360-degree camera. Visibility over your left and right shoulders is surprisingly good for a crossover, as is the rear-view only portion of the camera. Even if the decision to use only half of the 9-inch screen to show the image is baffling. Select all 360-degrees though and the already-compact image becomes even more disorientating: a 3ft tall trashcan by your rear wheel arch will suddenly tower 10ft over the vehicle, ‘thanks’ to the camera’s convex lens. That the 360-degree image is set as default means you’ll be continually faffing around switching the camera angle while parking too.
There’s also the price to consider. The numerous trinkets on our streamlined P8 test model – yes, including those diamond-cut wheels – hikes the price to a slightly more eyebrow-furrowing $72,600 in Ontario. Any higher, and Volvo could, ironically, find itself in Polestar territory.
But, all things, considered, what of the future of Volvo? Does it lie in a safe pair of hands with the C40?
Okay, the design, though well-made and perfectly practical, may seem a little conservative for those entering the ‘exciting’ world of EV ownership for the first time. The 360-degree camera is, at best, problematic, and, at worst, idiotic, and the absence of a starter button could, in all honesty, be a deal-breaker for EV newcomers. And, yeah, with full bells and whistles, the $72K price tag is a little weightier than one might expect for a Volvo.
Truth be told though, these are minor quibbles. As Volvo’s first purpose-built electric vehicle, the C40 Recharge Twin is comfortable, intuitive, practical, genuinely fun to drive, offers decent range between top-ups, and is almost bafflingly quick. Everything you would want from an electric vehicle, wrapped up in a design that prioritizes function over dramatic ‘EV era’ fluff.
If this is the future for Volvo, ask Domino’s to sign me up.