On paper, the Volvo C40 Recharge appears to be a bit redundant. Between the Polestar 2 and the Volvo XC40 Recharge, it seems another vehicle in that size class with similar performance might be a bit overkill for a smaller manufacturer. However, after spending some time driving around Belgium — where the C40 is built — I quickly realize that it might be my favorite of the group.
The C40, XC40, and the Polestar 2 all sit on Volvo’s CMA architecture. It’s not specifically designed for EVs, but fills the transitionary role that the company is in. Volvo accommodates a small area up front for storage, but there’s also a hump between the middle rear seats where and exhaust and prop-shaft would run.
For normal buyers, nobody is going to care about that. And you shouldn’t because all three of those cars are excellent products. But let’s talk about the C40 specifically, since that’s why you’re all here.
In the United States the C40 is available only in Twin trim, which means a dual motor, all-wheel drive setup. It has 408 horsepower and 487 lb-ft of torque. Those are the same as the dual motor Polestar 2, if you’re counting, but the Polestar feels a bit quicker. Volvo claims a 4.5 second 0 to 60 mph time for the C40, but we’ll have to wait until its back in the States to independently verify that claim.
Final EPA numbers are still pending on the C40, but under the WLTP test cycle, it should get 420 kilometers of range. In old money, that’s 260 miles. Since WLTP is a bit optimistic, the final EPA should be in the 220 to 230 mile range, we’d reckon. The EPA rates the Polestar 2 at 249 miles of range.
I keep comparing the Polestar 2 to the C40 — even though Volvo prefers I didn’t — because they are similar in a lot of ways. The Polestar is more sports sedan and the C40 is more crossover, and they are tuned to ride a bit differently, but they share a lot of things. That includes the fantastic Google Android Automotive infotainment system with built-in Google Maps support.
In the Volvo C40, that means a beautiful digital instrument cluster with a full color Google map. Flanking each side of the map is a partial analog speedometer and a power meter. The display also shows speed limit information, and trip computer data.
I’m not sure how customizable the display is. On the Polestar you can turn the maps off on the screen, but if you can on the Volvo I couldn’t figure it out. Not that I’d want to, mind you, because the roads in Belgium are unpronounceable for someone who grew up in rural Ohio and having detailed route information right in front of you is important to not get lost.
Our Fjord blue test car also had a fantastic blue and black interior. All of the materials are vegan friendly, and it felt like a modern Scandinavian cafe inside. Where Tesla takes minimalism to the extreme, Volvo uses minimalism with high quality materials to make you feel like you’re sitting in a $60,000 automobile.
On the road the C40 drives exactly like the XC40 Recharge. In fact, most of the car is identical to that model until you get past the front doors. There the design differs wildly, with a sloping rear roofline, aggressive taillights, and quite frankly a more striking rear end.
That change is enough to draw quite a bit of attention, even in a country where Volvos are everywhere. Lorry drivers would look as you’d overtake. One of my colleagues had someone in a XC40 Recharge slow down and speed up next to them on the motorway so they could get a good look at the entire car.
Acceleration is brisk in the C40, as you’d expect from over 400 horsepower, and it’s easy to reach motorway speeds and shoot gaps in traffic. It’s probably quicker than any compact crossover has any right to be. The Polestar 2 is quicker, because it weighs less.
On the motorway the C40 is comfortable and reasonably quiet. A quick look at my Apple Watch reported ambient noise of 60 dB at 120 km/h. What Volvo manages to do well is mask the wind noise of the mirrors. Some EV makers will use smaller mirrors to create less wind resistance, but Volvo kept normal mirrors for the C40. Yet, you don’t hear the wind rushing by them like you would on a comparable Volkswagen ID.4.
There’s a bit more tire noise than I’d care for. I’m not sure if it’s the particular material choice for the tarmac or if it’s the tire OEM, but there’s more tire noise in the C40 than I remember there being in the Polestar 2.
But unlike the Polestar 2, the C40 has softer suspension. Since it’s not trying to be a sports coupe, the C40 gives up some sporty characteristics for improved highway cruising manners and smoother transitions over bumps.
EVs need stiffer springs to support the weight of an EV, but Volvo is getting pretty good as masking that extra weight without making an uncomfortable ride. It wipes the floor with the Tesla Model Y.
Downsides? The infotainment screen is still the same size as the old Sensus screen, which is now a bit tiny with still tiny touch points. I also wish there was a deployable, power shade for the panoramic glass roof. Rearward visibility is great compared to something like the Mazda MX-30, but that stylish rear hatch means the rear glass is a bit smaller and more difficult to see out of.
Overall our first taste of the Volvo C40 is quite positive. It’s quick, it’s reasonably practical, and it’s great to look at. If you’re thinking about a small, electric Volvo it should be on your list.
We’ll give it a more thorough test when it arrives Stateside, but if you’re thinking about one right now, it’ll start at $59,845 with destination and the only real option is metallic paint for $695.
Basically, if you need the most practicality, opt for the Volvo XC40 Recharge. If you want the sportiest feeling (without being jarring), the Polestar 2 dual motor is what you want. But if you want a mixture of the two, the C40 is where it’s at.