Volvo XC40 Recharge review: Compact SUV leading Swedish firm’s drive to go green

Volvo’s first all-electric car offers remarkable performance and a decent range but its premium specification comes with a premium price

Pretty much every car brand on the planet is currently making a lot of noise about how it’s moving to an electrified future.

Everyone from Vauxhall to Rolls-Royce is talking about their strategies for adding electric hybrid or pure electric drivetrains to their ranges but among the most vocal is Volvo.

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The Swedish premium brand announced back in 2017 that it would electrify its entire range in preparation for a move away from combustion engines. In 2021 all its models are available with a plug-in hybrid option and by 2025 it expects half of all its sales to be pure EVs.

To achieve that it plans to launch one EV model a year between now and then and paving the way for Volvo’s all-electric future is the XC40 Recharge.

The XC40 has been around for a couple of years now with various drivertrains but it was always built with full electrification in mind and its platform was developed to accept both combustion and all-electric propulsion.

So beneath the bodywork, which is virtually identical to any other XC40, the Recharge P8 features two electric motors powered by a 78kWh battery.

The twin 150kW motors power an axle each, providing the equivalent of 402bhp and 487lb ft via permanent all-wheel-drive.

More than 400bhp for a car like the XC40 sounds faintly ridiculous - that’s BMW M2 Competition power in a compact SUV. And it feels just as silly as it sounds. For a car that’s sold with no sort of performance pretensions it is outrageously quick.

Standstill to 62mph takes just 4.9 seconds and the first time you lean heavily on the throttle it’s hard not to giggle at the incongruity of this little high-riding SUV hitting 62mph faster than a Porsche Cayman.

What’s almost as surprising is that things don’t fall apart away from the straight and narrow. Volvos have never been famous for their fine handling but the XC40 is remarkably sharp through the corners. It’s not outright sporty but it grips impressively and switches direction quickly and without much in the way of body roll. It’ll happily show a Range Rover Evoque a clean pair of heels on more challenging roads.

As fun as it is to have 400bhp at your disposal, common sense dictates that not every potential XC40 buyer needs or wants to pay for it, so it’s likely we’ll see cheaper lower powered variants. The Polestar 2, which shares the XC40’s drivetrains has already gone down this route with a 221bhp single motor model.

Allowing the XC40 Recharge to leap along so quickly is a 78kWh battery. Volvo says that this should be good for up to 256 miles on a single charge, with consumption of 2.6 miles per kWh, which isn’t exactly great.

On the bright side, the XC40 Recharge features 150kW charging, which means a compatible charger will be able to add 80 per cent in 40 minutes.

While its powertrain is very different from other XC40s, the rest of the Recharge is more or less identical. The now-redundant grille has been smoothed off to slightly questionable effect but apart from that it’s the same chunky, muscular little SUV.

Internally, it’s the same story with the same easygoing and simple style that makes all Volvos stand out from their competitors. Our test car featured a sharp dashboard decor that, ironically, echoes the R-Design grille of ICE versions, and black leather upholstery. With the panoramic roof, it doesn’t feel too dark but I still prefer the lighter interiors Volvo offers.

Starting with next year’s C40 Volvo will drop leather upholstery from its EVs, replacing it with a variety of sustainable or recycled materials, including wool and plastic. And by 2025 it intends to use recycled or bio-based materials for 25 per cent of all its interior finishes.

Our XC40 Recharge Twin Pro sits at the top of a three-trim range, above Core and Plus. As the top-spec model it comes loaded with every option as standard. From the full suite of Pilot Assist driver and safety aids and a hands-free powered tailgate to heated rear seats, a Harmon Kardon stereo, and that panoramic sunroof, it’s all included in the £56,700 list price. Yes, that is the downside to embracing an electric future - this top-spec EV is more than twice the price of an entry-level petrol XC40. Even a ‘Core’ XC40 Recharge costs £50k.

Still, progress comes at a price and if you can stomach that steep list price or the £719 a month for the complete Care by Volvo rental subscription service, then the XC40 has plenty to recommend it, from its impressive performance to its effortlessly cool Swedish style.

Volvo XC40 Recharge Twin Pro

Price: £56,700; Motor: Twin 150kW electric motors; Battery: 78kWh; Power: 402bhp; Torque: 487lb ft; Transmission: Single ratio, all-wheel-drive; Top speed: 112mph; 0-62mph: 4.9 seconds; WLTP range: 256 miles; Consumption: 2.6 miles/kWh; Charging: Up to 150kW