Preview: 2022 Volvo C40 Recharge Is an Electrified Hatchback/SUV

Based on the XC40, this is the first vehicle Volvo will offer exclusively as an EV

Volvo C40 Recharge Photo: Volvo

As the weeks count down to the launch of the 2022 Volvo C40 Recharge, the automaker continues to trickle out information on its first electric vehicle.

Based on the currently available XC40 small SUV, the C40 Recharge will start at $58,750 before tax credits. It can only be ordered online, and the first vehicles will roll off the production line this fall. As is the case with many new vehicle launches, buyers can preorder the C40 Recharge before it goes on sale.

The new C40 Recharge appears to be designed to fill a very specific niche. It combines the ride height of an SUV with just the cargo space of a hatchback car—a concession for styling. However, it has a higher starting price than the more versatile all-electric XC40 Recharge it’s based on.

Other more affordable EVs include the Tesla Model 3 and Model Y, the Ford Mustang Mach E, and Volkswagen ID.4, all of which are likely to have a longer range than the C40. 

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The new Volvo EV will also compete directly against the Polestar 2, another electric car from Geely, the Chinese automaker that is also Volvo’s parent company. The price difference between the Polestar 2 and the XC40 Recharge is minimal.

There are some sweeteners: The C40 currently still qualifies for a full $7,500 federal tax credit (EVs from GM and Tesla do not because those automakers have sold too many electric vehicles; the tax credit is designed to jump-start sales), and Volvo will throw in some free and discounted charging as well.

Like the XC40 Recharge and the Polestar 2 model with long range and all-wheel drive, the C40 will have a dual-motor setup and 78-kilowatt-hour battery. However, some paint colors and leather-free interiors will be unique to the C40.

What it competes with: Audi Q4, Ford Mustang Mach-E, Hyundai Ioniq 5, Polestar 2, Tesla Model Y, Volkswagen ID.4.

What it looks like: A mix of the Volvo XC40 and Polestar 2.

Powertrain: Dual electric motors; 78-kWh battery; one-speed automatic transmission; all-wheel drive.

Base price: $58,750. 

On sale: Available for preorder now. Production fall 2021/winter 2021-2022.

Volvo C40 Recharge Studio

Photo: Volvo Photo: Volvo

CR's Take

Volvo has publicly stated that it wants half of its global vehicle sales to be pure EVs by 2025. We’re not sure how much the C40 Recharge will contribute to that goal, especially considering its relatively high price, likely modest range, and robust competition—including other similar vehicles from Volvo and Polestar.

Outside

The C40 follows a growing trend we’ve seen of SUVs getting variants with coupelike rooflines. Audi was the first to apply the look to an EV on its E-Tron Sportback, but some gas-only models using this design philosophy include the Audi Q5 Sportback, BMW X4 and X6, Porsche Cayenne Coupe, and Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport. Usually, these vehicles have less rear headroom and cargo space than the vehicles they’re based on.

In addition to the scrunched rear roofline, Volvo says the C40 is “lower and sleeker” than the XC40 recharge. The C40 also has a slightly different front end and a totally new rear view. Seven paint colors are available, and the high-end Ultimate trim gets 20-inch wheels.

Inside

Volvo C40 Recharge

Photo: Volvo Photo: Volvo

We haven’t sat inside the C40 yet and Volvo hasn’t released detailed specs, so we don’t know exactly how much the roof affects headroom. However, most similarly shaped SUVs emphasize room for the driver and passenger at the slight expense of those in the second row.

Volvo says the C40’s entire interior is leather-free. A cerulean-color carpet called Fjord Blue is offered as a no-cost option with certain exterior colors.

The Google-powered infotainment system appears to be similar to what’s found in the Polestar 2, which runs on the Android operating system and integrates functions such as Google Maps and Google Assistant. Although the two vehicles appear to have different user interfaces, we did not find this partnership to yield a positive result in the Polestar we tested; users must sign in to a Google account (and manage privacy settings) to take full advantage of the car’s infotainment features. We hope the system will be further refined before this model reaches dealerships.

Two trim levels are available: The base trim is called Plus, while the pricier Ultimate trim adds more tech, a panoramic moonroof, and a better sound system. 

Volvo C40 Recharge

Photo: Volvo Photo: Volvo

What Drives It

The C40 will come with a 78-kWh battery and two motors—one driving the front wheels, the other driving the rear. We experienced a similar powertrain on the Polestar 2 and found it to provide punchy acceleration. 

However, there are distinct differences between the two vehicles. The Polestar is sold through dedicated showrooms, while the Volvo must be ordered online. The Polestar also has sporty tuning options that the Volvo does not offer, and the Volvo is built in Belgium, while the Polestar is built in China.

There’s no Environmental Protection Agency estimate yet for the C40’s range, but we expect it to fall somewhere between the XC40 Recharge’s 208 miles and the Polestar 2’s 233 miles. Volvo also says that every C40 will be able to receive over-the-air (OTA) updates that will continue to improve its performance after the vehicle is sold, including the ability to increase its driving range. The Polestar 2 has the same OTA capabilities and has received one update since its launch that Polestar says incrementally increases the 2’s range. However, its EPA range estimate has not changed.

Volvo says it will offer 250 kWh of free charging on the nationwide Electrify America network of rapid EV chargers. Don’t get confused: Although the 250 kWh must be used within three years, it’s not three years of free charging! By our estimates, it equates to only about three full battery fill-ups, which in turn yield about 700 miles of driving. After that, Volvo will provide a discounted rate at Electrify America chargers.

Safety and Driver Assistance Systems

In Europe, the C40 will get what Volvo calls “pixel” headlights—smart LED lights that can direct light in specific directions to better light the road without shining glare toward other drivers. These innovative headlights are not yet legal in the U.S.

Volvo hasn’t yet told us which safety features come standard, but judging by other current Volvos, we expect a full suite of active safety features, including forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, and blind spot warning.

The Pilot Assist active driver assistance system will be available on the top-level Ultimate trim.