Earlier today, Stuff got a chance to slip behind the wheel of the new Volvo C40 Recharge, soon to land on South African shores for the princely sum of R1,285,000. That’s not small change but Volvo’s vehicles typically hover close to that point, even if the gas guzzlers are technically more affordable.
But you’re buying a completely different thing if you’re opting for an EV and the Volvo C40 Recharge is no different. It looks like a Volvo. It smells like a Volvo. But it’s actually a surprisingly stealthy ninja car that’ll confuse anyone you happen to drive past. It looks like it makes noise but it really, really doesn’t.
Everybody line up
The C40 Recharge looks like an SUV-lite, one with a spot of sportiness about it. Standing outside the car, it looks bulky at first glance but once you’ve started it up, you’ll have trouble remembering why you thought that. The design is almost typically Volvo but with slightly more curves and an aggressive line or two. That last point might just be us anticipating what an EV can do. But first, a look at the inside.
The interior of the vehicle, from the driver’s seat, is dominated by a large touchscreen panel, angled slightly toward the driver. It’s optimised for Google Automotive Services, which is what runs the whole vehicle. It’s like Android Auto but wholly integrated. That goes some way to explaining why the menus are so deep and sometimes complicated — any control is best done while stationary or by a passenger. It’s very distracting.
The interior goes light on physical buttons. They’re there but they’re underemphasised since the major control will happen via the touchscreen.
The heel and stalks are easy to manage. Controls are within easy reach of thumbs and you can choose one of several modes for the instrument cluster. These vary in how busy they are but the most useful includes navigation updates along with your speed and power info. It may be more customizable, but we didn’t have enough time to really dig into the settings.
As far as driving the Volvo C40 Recharge goes, it’s perhaps a little too easy. It doesn’t include quite the same aircraft carrier takeoff jolt you get from Jaguar’s electric vehicle but it’s snappy and responsive when you need it to be there. Whipping past slow-moving trucks in Franshoek was incredible, but the vehicle’s weight and tendency to hold velocity longer than expected — regenerative braking may have been turned off — makes for a hair-raising experience on tight passes. We know, we know, make better driving choices. But when it’s capable of 0 to 100km/h in 4.7 seconds, you kinda have to put your foot down. At least once. Even if they tell you not to.
The cabin itself is plush though Volvo tells us that the interior is all recycled and doesn’t use any leather at all. You could have fooled us, but that’s the point. We found, in the overcast Western Cape afternoon, that the window tint was a little too dark for comfort but the glass sunroof made up for it somewhat. Still, changing lanes was a bit hairier than we might have liked. Thank goodness for all of Volvo’s driving assists, like blind-spot notification, lane assist, and collision avoidance. We didn’t use that last one. Promise.
It comes out at night
There were a few features we were only told about since they primarily function at night. The Volvo C40 Recharge features an ambient light strip inside the cabin that hides a Swedish easter egg. We forget the name of the feature it represents but it’s there and a dealer will probably explain it to you.
The other feature was the Pixel headlamps. These apparently feature intelligent lighting, able to illuminate the area in front of you without blinding other drivers. We’d have loved to see it in action. Sadly, we’ll probably only experience it ‘passively’ when an oncoming Volvo C40 Recharge spares our eyes one fine winter evening.
Volvo C40 Recharge initial verdict
We only got to spend a limited amount of time behind the wheel of the Volvo C40 Recharge but the experience was great. Part of that was the scenic Western Cape roads but a lot of it was the responsive and safe-feeling EV.
There’s 300W of output behind the wheels and 660Nm of torque, which is more than enough to overtake anything plodding along. The 78kWh battery apparently features a 444km range, which looks about right, based on our time with the vehicle. It’s rated for charging at home (AC, 3.5kW) or from a custom installation (11kW) but you really want to take it to a DC charging station, which hits up to 150kW and gets drivers from 10% to 80% in under 40 minutes.
But these are all just figures we’ve been told. From what we’ve experienced, it’s well worth giving a serious look if you’re after a spacious and safe EV. As long as you’ve got around R1.3 million in the bank (or a very good car loan), that is.