4.3 out of 5 4.3
Parkers overall rating: 4.3 out of 5 4.3

Volvo's first full EV comes in the shape of the XC40 SUV

Volvo XC40 Electric SUV (21 on) - rated 4.3 out of 5
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At a glance

New price £59,985 - £59,985
Lease from new From £770 p/m View lease deals
Used price £40,040 - £47,635
Used monthly cost From £999 per month
Fuel economy
Not tested to latest standards
View pre-2017 economy specs
Insurance group 32 How much is it to insure?

PROS

  • Quick acceleration
  • Over 200 miles of range per full charge
  • Boot and cabin space unaffected

CONS

  • Initial models are pricey
  • Heaviest XC40 isn't the most fun to drive

Volvo XC40 Electric SUV rivals

Written by Colin Overland on

Volvo’s big-selling compact SUV is its first model to get a pure-electric version. It joins a variety of petrol, mild hybrid and plug-in hybrid XC40s as the first of what Volvo says will be five electric cars over five years.

It has batteries under the floor, an electric motor at each end and all-wheel drive. It claims a range of more than 200 miles, with 40 minutes on a fast charger getting the battery back up to 80% full, and it’s the first Volvo with a new infotainment system co-developed with Google.

Initially it will be available only in Recharge P8 First Edition spec, for £59,985, which includes a lot of equipment without compromising the fundamental simplicity that’s at the heart of the XC40’s appeal.

Practicality better than petrol models

The Recharge P8 benefits from Volvo having planned from the start for the XC40 range to include a full-electric variant. So the batteries don’t eat into the boot or cabin space, being positioned under the seats, while the rear electric motor sits under the boot (essentially replacing the fuel tank), without changing its capacity (a reasonable 414/1290 litres).

You get the bonus of a frunk - a front trunk - using up the space made available by ditching the engine in favour of an electric motor. Don’t get carried away, though: it’s only 31 litres, and that’s mostly swallowed up by the charger cable.

Safety a strong point

Under the skin, the Recharge P8 is substantially different from other XC40s, in that it doesn’t have a combustion engine up front, and there’s a big battery under the seats. Nonetheless, it shares its Euro NCAP safety rating (five stars overall) with the rest of the range. (It’s up to NCAP, not Volvo, to decide to test the EV separately.)

The First Edition comes with every electronic safety aid current offered for any XC40, and debuts Rear Auto Brake (which detects when you’re about to be shunted from behind and applies the brakes to minimise the harm), and a new version of Pilot Assist with upgraded safety sensors.

Pilot Assist, working with Google Maps and the adaptive cruise control, can help keep you in lane, and at a safe distance from other traffic, and will discourage you from speeding up when you’re approaching a lower speed limit. It will also reprimand you if you’re not fully engaged with the steering wheel.

Behind the wheel

It’s really nice in here. Comfortable, reasonably roomy, a simple and intuitive layout, every action nicely damped, and everything you touch feels well made. It’s also well equipped, with a 12.3-inch display and great connectivity. As you should expect from a £60k car.

The most basic (non-EV) XC40 has many of these qualities, if a lot less equipment. Lower-spec and less powerful versions of the EV are expected to follow next year.

Choosing the full-electric Recharge P8 version means you don’t get a conventional gearstick, just a little knob that offers D for forward, R for backwards or P for parking. There’s no ignition key or starter button; opening the door and sitting on the seat tells the car that there’s a driver on board.

And the instrumentation doesn’t make a big fuss about the fact that this is an electric car. In fact there’s arguably too little information, as it shows your remaining battery range as a percentage but not in miles.

However, you can ask the infotainment system, co-developed with Google, and it will tell you how many miles. It merges Google Maps and Google Assistant – as used on millions of smartphones – with familiar Volvo elements, and it works a treat. You spend a lot less time with your eyes off the road, scrolling through menus. It’s primed for over-the-air updates.

Comfort

It’s a reasonably roomy five-seater (or four adults), with a pleasingly light, airy ambience, and lots of cupholders and cubbyholes for oddments in the cabin.

Our pre-production test car was on 19-inch wheels rather than the 20-inch wheels that will be standard on First Edition models, so it’s possible that the production model will feel slightly different, but usually 19s are better than 20s for ride and handling. The suspension – MacPherson struts at the front, multi-link at the rear – copes well with most road surfaces and minimises bodyroll.

The seats aren’t particularly plush, but they’re well shaped, with lots of adjustment and a decent level of support, so most people should find them comfortable for long trips.

Running Costs

Buy one outright and the XC40 Recharge First Edition is a steep £59,985 on the road. Yes, it’s very well equipped (almost every XC40 option and pack is fitted as standard; it’s only things like towbars and cycle carriers that will cost extra), but it’s still a compact SUV, and that’s almost Jaguar I-Pace and BMW iX3 money. PCP and PCH offers have not yet been confirmed, ditto depreciation; at the moment, Volvo is eyeing up early adopters who’ll want to buy outright.

How much you pay for electricity will depend on your charging and supply arrangements, but it seems to be an efficent powertrain, at 2.5-2.6kWh per mile, with a realistic 200-plus miles of battery range (the WLTP figure is 248-260 miles). Recharging with a fast charger can get you from empty to 80 per cent in 40 minutes (that’s a 150kW charger). Otherwise you’re looking at seven and a half hours plugged in to the mains.

Benfit in Kind is zero for 2020-21, and 1% in 2021-22.

Performance - this is the quickest XC40 yet 

The XC40 Recharge P8 has a 78kWh gross (75kWh net) lithium-ion battery pack located in the floor, feeding electric motors at the front and back. All four wheels are driven, via a single gear (plus reverse of course). Combined output is 408hp, with 660Nm of torque, which are impressive figures for a car of this style, although the extra weight goes some way to dulling the effect.

It’s the quickest XC40 from 0-62mph, at 4.9 seconds, and like Volvo's other cars, its top speed is limited to 112mph. The acceleration is lively rather than head-spinning, and most EV owners find that once the novelty of winning a few drag races has worn off they tend to take it easy, to preserve the battery’s range.

The main choice is whether or not to go for one-pedal driving. If you do, then the electric motors do most of your slowing down for you when you ease off the accelerator. If you don’t, the car will coast when you throttle back, and you need to press the brake pedal in the conventional way. There are pros and cons to both – potentially more energy is recaptured in one-pedal driving; it’s generally much smoother with one-pedal configuration off. Different drivers will make their own decisions about which settings best suit which journeys.

Handling is safe rather than fun

There’s nothing wrong with the XC40 Recharge P8’s handling, but it’s nothing to write home about. The P8 is the most powerful and fastest-accelerating XC40, but it’s also the heaviest. Most of the time that’s not an issue, but if you try to make indecent haste then it can feel reluctant to play along.

The 2,188kg kerbweight is on the high side for a compact SUV, but at least it’s concentrated in the area under the seats, which minimises the harm. The steering has a ‘firm’ setting that doesn’t make much difference.

Find out whether you should consider the fully electric Volvo XC40 Recharge on our Verdict page

Volvo XC40 Electric SUV rivals