MOTORS REVIEW: Volvo’s C40

AS an indicator of how far electric vehicles (EV) have come in the past three years a butt-clenching drive from Rotherham to the North Yorkshire seaside provides a fair old test.

Back when I was running a Volkswagen e-Golf long-term test car in 2018 I abandoned plans for a trip to our regular coastal favourite Whitby and steered for the safe harbour of Scarborough with its shorter journey and public charge points.

Despite a stop off at Wetherby Services, we made it back feeling brow-beaten after a nerve-wracking end to the 180-mile round trip as the battery’s remaining mileage ebbed into single figures.

The 2022 festive period delivered a breakthrough.

Volvo’s C40 Recharge Twin might have fallen short of its 274-mile potential – in part, no doubt, to the icy winter weather – but it transported the Sharpe family the 210 miles to Whitby and back while avoiding a tabloid-stoked seasonal scrum at the public chargers.

That the coupe-inspired Swedish crossover also serves-up a 414PS all-wheel-drive drivetrain that will propel it to 62mph in just 4.7 seconds makes its performance all the more remarkable.

It was not all plain sailing.

Volvo’s infotainment system – developed in co-operation with Google – told us as we left home that the trip would consume 106 per cent of the 75kWh battery’s capacity.

A swift glance at my partner and the heated seats and steering wheel were switched off, her smartphone removed from the charging pad and, Bob’s your uncle, our ‘non-stop’ journey became a possibility.

Had I been inclined to stop and charge, the C40 can blast from 10 per cent battery capacity to 80 per cent in 37 minutes if you can track down a 150kW rapid charger. At home it takes 12 hours, empty to full.

A smartphone app allows you to see the charge status remotely and do things like warm the car up ahead of a journey.

Over the course of my festive road test the C40 proved an utterly effortless drive, as most EVs are for the vast majority of the time.

In daily use the C40 Recharge Twin proved comfortable and devastatingly quick.

Depress the accelerator pedal firmly and it launches itself at the horizon like no Ford Puma-sized crossover has a right to.

The sensation of being pressed firmly into your seat feels at odds with Volvo’s efforts to pioneer road safety.

Powerful regenerative braking as standard means C40 drivers will quickly learn to drive without the need to use the brake pedal.

I like the control that such a set-up delivers, mimicking the sensation of being in a low gear in a petrol or diesel car. Rather than using more ‘fuel’, though, in an EV it recuperates power.

The C40 offers decent accommodation for four and a 413-litre boot, but drivers above my 6ft 1ins should be mindful that headroom is limited up front.

At 4.44m long, 1.91m wide and 1.6m tall the C40 has a small footprint and while it rides with finesse and feels secure, it feels less dynamic than its prodigious acceleration might have you expect.

There is some lean in corners and I felt aware of the limits of lateral grip, despite impressive traction offered by front and rear motors splitting the power 50:50, front to rear.

That said, the C40 is extremely quick point-to-point.

It is also firmly in the premium part of the market.

While prices start at £47,100 in front-wheel-drive Core trim, the range-topping Pro tested here comes in at £61,950.

Among the Pro’s range-topping trim is a 12-speaker, 600-watt Harman Kardon sound system and headlights which each feature 84 LEDs to provide a dip function for up to five cars on the road ahead to maintain some high beam brightness.

Inside, it is high-quality Volvo fare. A 12.3-inch instrument display, nine-inch portrait-oriented touchscreen infotainment system and a panoramic sunroof are all standard.

The eco-friendly C40 is a leather-free model, with the cabin’s architecture and trim created from recycled materials.

Eye-catching back-lit door cards and dash panels feature a design based on the topography of Sweden’s Abisko national park, meanwhile.

The C40 is an EV with real premium polish and a fitting addition to an extremely strong Volvo range.

To my eyes more stylish and rapid than the Mercedes-Benz EQA, more enjoyable drive than Auto Q4 etron and serving up a greater range than the Lexus UX 300e, it is the class of its segment.

Nevertheless there remain larger family EVs that will travel further now available for less.

That there is such a breadth of choice now present in the sector shows just how far zero-emission transport has come.