The 2023 Volvo C40 Recharge is a notable example of the growing popularity of electric cars and the compromises that come with them. As Volvo’s second all-electric model and the first to be designed specifically as a battery electric vehicle (BEV) from the start, the C40 Recharge has a distinct and eye-catching design.
However, the C40 Recharge is not positioned as a budget-friendly option. For those seeking an affordable electric Volvo, the XC40 Recharge is a better choice, starting at R1,075,000. The C40 Recharge, on the other hand, begins at R1,285,000. Volvo justifies the higher price by offering a fully-loaded car as the base model. The only additional cost comes from certain paint finishes, as most features come standard. These include dual-zone climate control, a heated steering wheel, heated front and rear seats, a Harmon Kardon audio system, wireless phone charger, 20-inch wheels, a panoramic glass roof, power tailgate, blind spot warnings, cross traffic alerts, a 360-degree camera, cornering front lights, parking assistance, and Volvo’s Pilot Assist hands-on adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping. The C40 Recharge also includes a heat pump, which helps maintain driving range even in colder climates. The absence of ventilated seats as an option is one of the few drawbacks.
From the front, the C40 Recharge resembles the XC40 Recharge, with its chunky styling and modern details like Thor’s hammer headlamps. However, the rear of the C40 Recharge differs, featuring a sleeker design that sacrifices some practicality for aesthetics. The tapering rear, segmented taillights stretching up the rear pillars, and a neat spoiler contribute to its attractive evolution.
The change in design has both upsides and downsides. The curvaceous roofline improves aerodynamics slightly, making the C40 Recharge more efficient than its crossover counterpart. However, the downsides include reduced headroom in the second row and poor rear visibility due to the low positioning of the rear glass. This limitation requires reliance on the side mirrors for visibility. The cargo space is also slightly compromised due to the sloping rear glass.
Inside the C40 Recharge, the cabin design is similar to other Volvo models, with differentiation primarily based on the materials used for the trim. For the electric model, Volvo has incorporated more eco-friendly materials. Inlays in the dashboard and doors are made of backlit recycled plastic, and the floor and doors feature a Fjord Blue carpet made from recycled plastic bottles. The seat cloth also has recycled origins, with an Alcantara-like finish. However, the majority of plastic materials used in the car are still virgin materials, so the overall sustainability is not yet at its peak.
The C40 Recharge features a 12-inch digital instrument cluster for the driver and a 9-inch portrait-oriented touchscreen in the center console. The touchscreen runs on Android Automotive OS, providing access to Google Maps, the Google Assistant for voice control, and the Google Play store for third-party software. The number of available apps is still relatively low, but the car comes with apps like Spotify, Google Play Books, iHeartRadio, and YouTube Music for third-party streaming via its 4G LTE data connection.
The C40 Recharge is equipped with two motors, one for each axle, providing 300 kW of power. The car offers simple drive modes, including an Off-Road setting for surfaces with less traction. The suspension tuning leans toward the firm side, enhancing the car’s playful nature, but it can become uncomfortable on poor-quality roads. The acceleration is impressive, with 0-60 mph achieved in 4.7 seconds and instant torque of 660 Nm, making the C40 Recharge competitive with more powerful petrol cars.
A drained battery can be fully charged in approximately 8 hours when charging at home using a supplied wall box. Charging rates significantly drop off after the battery reaches 80%, which is common among electric vehicles. Charging using a regular wall socket is much slower. However, the C40 Recharge supports fast charging up to 150 kW, allowing a 10% to 80% charge in around 37 minutes.
With a fully charged battery, the C40 Recharge has an estimated range of up to 444 km.
In terms of rivals, the C40 Recharge faces competition from other electric vehicles offering longer range or lower prices. For example, the 2022 Mercedes-Benz EQA starts at around R1 100 000 and has a range of 355 km. The 2022 Mercedes-Benz EQB, starting at around R1 305 000, offers a range of 423 km while the BMW ix1 starts at R1 260 000 and offers 418 km. However, these models may require additional spending to match the C40 Recharge’s level of standard equipment.
In conclusion, the C40 Recharge may not excel in every aspect on paper, but it appeals to those who prioritize style, performance, and the familiarity of the Volvo brand. The experience behind the wheel is entertaining, and the growing diversity in the BEV segment allows room for different models to cater to individual needs and preferences. Volvo, like other automakers, aims to transition its entire lineup to electric vehicles in the coming years, providing options that may suit some customers better than others.
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