First drive review: 2022 Volvo C40 Recharge trades function for style

With the arrival of the 2022 C40 Recharge, Volvo is truly starting to lay the groundwork for a future after internal combustion engines. The C40 Recharge isn’t the automaker’s first electric car, but it’s the first model to be sold solely as an EV. There will be no gas-powered equivalent of the C40 Recharge. And […]

With the arrival of the 2022 C40 Recharge, Volvo is truly starting to lay the groundwork for a future after internal combustion engines.

The C40 Recharge isn’t the automaker’s first electric car, but it’s the first model to be sold solely as an EV. There will be no gas-powered equivalent of the C40 Recharge. And it’ll only be sold online.

When the fastback electric crossover arrives from Ghent, Belgium in the first quarter of 2022 its biggest competitor might just be sitting across the showroom, for a similar price—in the form of the somewhat taller, boxier, more practical but more mundane looking, XC40 Recharge. Fashion and style is rarely clear cut.

I flew to Brussels, ate some delicious fries, and spent some time driving the 2022 C40 Recharge to learn what sets it apart from the competition, including its XC40 Recharge sibling.

2022 Volvo C40 Recharge

2022 Volvo C40 Recharge

2022 Volvo C40 Recharge

2022 Volvo C40 Recharge

2022 Volvo C40 Recharge

2022 Volvo C40 Recharge

Fashion first

In short, the C40 Recharge is a fashion statement. The raked windshield, low, fast roofline, and fastback hatch are what set this EV apart from its more upright counterpart.

The front bumper is tweaked with slightly different aero and unique headlights while the rear features a fastback design. The air deflector that trails off the roof isn’t just there to make the C40 Recharge look better. It hides the hinges for the tailgate to keep them from intruding in the interior and cutting further into the already meager rear headroom. The rear spoiler is functional and helps control the airflow off the rear.

2022 Volvo C40 Recharge

2022 Volvo C40 Recharge

But it’s the C40 Recharge’s dramatic take on Volvo’s taillights that steals the show with an animated startup sequence that begins at the bottom and zips up to the top of the lightning element upon unlocking the crossover. Anders Gunnarson, director of exterior design for the C40 Recharge, told Green Car Reports he’s still frustrated that the taillights couldn’t be seamless with one lighted element and one piece of plastic. During development the plastic lens was cracking due to too much tension. This led to the vertical portion of the taillights having gaps as “one gap would look broken,” Gunnarson said.

2022 Volvo C40 Recharge

2022 Volvo C40 Recharge

2022 Volvo C40 Recharge

2022 Volvo C40 Recharge

2022 Volvo C40 Recharge

2022 Volvo C40 Recharge

Inside the dashboard is nearly the same as that of the XC40 Recharge, with a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster and 9.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system. The distinct difference is the C40 Recharge can be optioned with recycled plastic on the floor and doors in a terrific blue color (charcoal is the standard color) and there isn’t an ounce of leather to be found. In fact, leather isn’t an option. Textured topography trim that glows (though it can be turned off) at night is a new twist on in-cabin ambient lighting and is standard on the C40 Recharge.

2022 Volvo C40 Recharge

2022 Volvo C40 Recharge

Quick and buttoned-down

The C40 Recharge holds no surprises behind the wheel. It feels, and drives, like the XC40 Recharge, and even similarly to the Polestar 2 dual-motor. Which is to say the ride is firm and buttoned-down, but never jarring even over Ghent’s cobblestone roads despite the standard 20-inch wheels. Road and wind noise are muted; it has less wind noise on the highway than a Mustang Mach-E. The true surprise is the nicely weighted steering that doesn’t feel overboosted in low-speed parking lot situations. There’s a “firm” setting that introduces too much artificial heft, but the normal setting is the perfect weight and allows the C40 Recharge to track nicely on the highway with no input corrections needed.

2022 Volvo C40 Recharge

2022 Volvo C40 Recharge

One-pedal driving is easy to use in the C40 Recharge, with the ability to toggle a setting in the Drive Settings panel. With this feature off, the C40 Recharge can creep forward as a gas-powered vehicle would from a stop. Letting off the accelerator essentially lets the crossover EV coast. With the one-pedal mode on, the C40 Recharge has strong regenerative braking that can abruptly thrust occupants forward if not modulated, especially at highway speeds. I rarely touched the brakes over the course of two days of driving, and found the one-pedal setup to be ideal for all but panic stops.

If this sounds familiar it’s because it is. Under the skin nothing’s changed between the XC40 Recharge and C40 Recharge, not even the ride height or suspension tuning, as confirmed by head of Volvo product strategy Jonas Engström.

2022 Volvo C40 Recharge

2022 Volvo C40 Recharge

Every C40 Recharge is powered by a 78-kwh lithium-ion battery pack and two electric motors—one at each axle—with a combined output of 402 hp and 486 lb-ft. Volvo said the C40 Recharge can sprint 0-60 mph in 4.5 seconds.

On a 150-kw DC fast charger the C40 Recharge should be able to recharge from 10% to 80% in 37 minutes, according to Volvo, while 0-100% will take 8 hours on an AC charger. We didn’t have an opportunity to test any of the crossover’s charging capabilities.

Volvo expects the C40 Recharge to have an EPA estimated range of 225 miles, which is slightly more than the XC40 Recharge. The reason? The C40 Recharge is 6% more efficient due to being slipperier. The rear end design is 4% of that change with the remaining 2% coming from the 2.2-inch lower roofline and smaller frontal area. A heat pump comes standard on the C40 Recharge while it’s part of an optional package on the XC40 Recharge. During my testing in Belgium, which consisted of both city driving and European highway driving with speeds somewhat comparable to what one will find in the southern part of the U.S., I observed Volvo’s range estimates to be reasonably accurate. At high-speed highway driving the range will likely be close to about 200 miles in the real world based on my experience.

As to whether there will be a single-motor, either front-wheel or rear-wheel drive C40 Recharge, Volvo spokesperson Russell Datz told GCR, “TBD.”

2022 Volvo C40 Recharge

2022 Volvo C40 Recharge

Compromised

For as good as the C40 Recharge looks, its packaging and some features are compromised. Some of it will be fixed over time, but other bits are a simple tradeoff for that form.

Up front there’s plenty of headroom for 6-footers, but the standard panoramic glass roof eats into headroom around the pillars for the mounting and safety hardware. In back, occupants sit on two layers of battery modules, as this EV still rides on the ICE-based CMA platform like the Polestar 2, creating a stadium-seating setup. Combined with the tall seat bottoms and fast roofline, at five-foot-10 I nearly skimmed the headliner with my hair. Taller occupants will have to ride up front.

While the upright seating position and front seats being mounted high provide great forward visibility, the rearward visibility is severely limited from the driver’s seat due to the thick C-pillars and tiny, sloped rear window. I found myself lowering my head constantly to see what was behind me.

2022 Volvo C40 Recharge

2022 Volvo C40 Recharge

2022 Volvo C40 Recharge

2022 Volvo C40 Recharge

Just like the XC40 Recharge, the 9.0-inch touchscreen infotainment operating system is Android based. While the homescreen skin looks like the familiar Volvo interface, the functionally has been cut off at the knees. Where previous Volvos running the Sensus system were able to multitask and display Apple CarPlay along with the car’s navigation system, or two functions at once, any app running will take over the entire screen in the new Android-based system.

Volvo UX design manager Anna Arasa Gaspar told GCR this wasn’t a functional limitation of Android, rather a conscious design decision by the Volvo team due to customer feedback and the desire for full-screen apps. The old system gave the option for either, there’s no longer a multitask option. In fact, at launch there’s no Apple CarPlay at all. This will come at some undetermined point in time via an over-the-air software update. Whether XM Satellite radio will come at launch is still yet to be determined. And there is no AM radio, sorry sports fans.

2022 Mercedes-Benz EQB

2022 Mercedes-Benz EQB

2022 Audi Q4 E-Tron

2022 Audi Q4 E-Tron

Genesis GV60 prototype

Genesis GV60 prototype

2020 Tesla Model Y

2020 Tesla Model Y

Competition is coming

In the first quarter of 2022 when it arrives, the C40 Recharge is going to face competition beyond its sibling in the Volvo showroom from all sides of the pond ranging from the Mercedes-Benz EQB electric and Audi Q4 E-Tron Sportback to the Genesis GV60, and of course, the Tesla Model Y. The Y and Q4 E-Tron will both already be on sale and in dealerships while the GV60 and EQB electric are still up in the air in terms of their U.S. arrival. Both the EQB electric and Q4 E-Tron will both be slower, and have less power, than the C40 Recharge, but the Audi is expected to have slightly more range than the Volvo. Both the GV60 and Y will best the Volvo’s range and packaging, though it’s hard to call either pretty compared to the Swede.

2022 Volvo C40 Recharge

2022 Volvo C40 Recharge

Time to shop online

At $59,845 the 2022 Volvo C40 Recharge will actually undercut a comparably equipped XC40 Recharge by $1,190 as it comes standard with everything from a heat pump to a Harman Kardon sound system and heated rear seats, all of which is part of the Ultimate package on the XC40 Recharge. Though, a base XC40 Recharge with less features than its swoopier sibling still undercuts the C40 Recharge by $4,760.

Buying the C40 Recharge will actually be a shift in the way one buys a Volvo: It’s only sold online. Datz did confirm to GCR that while C40 Recharges won’t be stocked on dealer lots and one must order one online, there will be at least one sitting at dealerships for test drives should a customer want to touch and drive one before clicking the order button. And yes, customers can order them while at the dealership, but it’ll be via the same webpage you’d order from while at home on the couch rewatching The Office.

For those looking at an optioned XC40 Recharge who don’t plan to use the rear seat as often and are willing to give up a smidge of cargo room in the name of fashion, the C40 Recharge makes a compelling argument for itself with a chic design.

Volvo flew me to Brussels, Belgium and then had me change hotels three times in three days so we could bring you this first drive review.