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

Volvo's first EV sets a new standard in ease of use

Volvo XC40 Electric SUV (21 on) - rated 4.3 out of 5
Enlarge 40 photos

At a glance

New price £48,300 - £56,700
Lease from new From £638 p/m View lease deals
Used price £41,580 - £54,610
Fuel Economy 2.5 - 3.3 miles/kWh
Insurance group 41 - 42 How much is it to insure?
New

PROS

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

CONS

  • Initial models are pricey
  • Sparse info on driver screen
  • Heaviest XC40 isn't the most fun to drive

Volvo XC40 Electric SUV rivals

Written by Colin Overland on

This is the Volvo XC40 we've all been waiting for - the pure-electric Recharge model - which was planned for inclusion in the range from the car's inception. That means there are no comfort or boot space compromises like we've seen in other electric cars that join an established line-up of petrol and diesel models.

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.

Volvo’s big-selling compact SUV is actually 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.

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 452/1290 litres).

Boosting the usability of this in our test car was a fold-up luggage-dividing boot floor, which can be used to divide up the large square space into separate compartments for smaller items of luggage or shopping.

Rear passenger space is unchanged (which is to say it's excellent considering the small external size of the car) and there are a number of useful storage pockets and cubbies up front. There's a large one under your arm, which also houses a small removable bin.

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.

Still, that does at least mean the main luggage compartment isn't compromised by a muddy cable rolling around.

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. A new crash structure up front makes up for the lack of an energy absorbing motor, and the electric XC40 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 has been revamped for this model - it now works with Google Maps to more accurately control your speed according to the topography of the road and local limits, using the and the adaptive cruise control and lane assist to can help keep you in lane, and at a safe distance from other traffic.

It will discourage you from speeding up when you’re approaching a lower speed limit, and if you take your hands off the wheel while using Pilot Assist, it will send you a number of warnings before bringing the car to a stop completely.

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.

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. One difference over the combustion engined range is the fact you only need to press this once in either direction to get forward or reverse drive - other XC40's need two pushes, for reasons we've never quite worked out.

There’s no ignition key or starter (although there is a button blank where the latter used to go); opening the door and sitting on the seat tells the car that there’s a driver on board. Then when you arrive at your destination all you need to do is press 'P' and walk away. In fact, if you're feeling really lazy, you can just open the driver's door. All of this makes the XC40 Recharge very simple to use.

Even 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 far you can go before needing a charge. 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, too.

Some of the functions now controlled by voice include programming the sat nav and the air con, plus you can ask it to read out your text messages or check on the weather. This might not be a desirable function for you but the updated graphics and user interface is a step above the Volvo system used elsewhere in the XC40 range. It's easier to use and nicer to look at.

The driver's screen can display three layouts - one with a map, another with driver assistance information and a third, even more reduced than normal mode. The speed and power meters curve around the edge of the display and are clear and attractive in design.

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.

We drove a pre-production test car on 19-inch wheels and a First Edition model with 20-inchers. The suspension – MacPherson struts at the front, multi-link at the rear – copes well with most road surfaces and minimises bodyroll, although the larger wheels seemed to find bumps in the road we didn't know were there.

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.

How much you pay for electricity will depend on your charging and supply arrangements, but it seems to be an efficient 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.

Either way the charging flap is on the car's rear left - great news for reverse parking. It's located on the front right of our plug-in hybrid XC40 long termer, which means breaking the habit of a lifetime and nose-parking into charging bays. A small difference, but one that adds up to a more annoying driving experience.

Benefit 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.

Most impressive is the progressive feel of the throttle pedal - it's not a binary on-off switch like older electric cars, but feels much more like a petrol or diesel car in use. That is to say, if you press it very gently, you get a small amount of acceleration. Absolutely hoof it and you'll feel the full force of the two electric motors. In practise this means you can drive it a lot more smoothly.

There are no sport or comfort drive modes, 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