Volvo C40 Recharge review

Volvo C40 Recharge

Volvo is doing its bit to save the planet, and it has an ambitious plan for a zero emissions future.

By 2025, 50% of its global sales will consist of fully electric cars. By 2030, it aims to sell only EVs before turning “climate neutral” 10 years later.

The Swedish car maker’s latest model, the C40 Recharge, is a case in point. It’s electric-only (there will be no petrol or hybrid variants) and it’s manufactured using a variety of sustainable materials.

Volvo C40 Recharge

For instance, the carpets are made from 71 recycled plastic PET bottles, and thanks to renewable wool fibres, it’s the first Volvo to feature leather-free upholstery.

You could even say the car itself has something of a recycled feel to it because it shares its EV powertrain and much of its body with the XC40 – Volvo’s big-selling SUV.

Unlike its sibling, it’s sleeker with a lower roof line and steeply-raked rear window, while the front end introduces a new face for electric Volvos. Here, the signature Thor’s Hammer headlights are augmented with pixel technology designed to avoid dazzling other road users.

Volvo C40 Recharge

It’s also fitted with the latest version of Volvo’s infotainment system, jointly developed with Google and based on the Android operating system.

So now there’s access to Google Play apps and services like Google Assistant and Google Maps. It’s also capable of over-the-air updates, which means the car is constantly kept up to speed with the latest software.

The voice commands (prompted by “Hey Google”) usefully cut down on the swiping, pinching and scrolling otherwise needed to control the features within 9.0-inch central touchscreen.

Volvo C40 Recharge

C is for Crossover and Volvo claims the C40 Recharge provides buyers with the high seating position that its owners prefer. The reality is that there’s very little difference between the siblings apart from the design.

And I don’t mean that in a bad way because the pure electric XC40 Recharge is a fantastic package, offering the combination of style, practicality, performance and a decent range of up to 259 miles.

The C40’s lower roof line looks smarter and makes it more aerodynamic, resulting in a higher range of 273 miles.

It also differs from other models in the Volvo range because it can only be bought online and it’s also available with a ‘Care by Volvo’ package (monthly subscription from £729) which offers a warranty, servicing and roadside assistance, as well as insurance and home charging options where available.

Volvo C40 Recharge

At launch there’s just one version of the C40 Recharge available with an eye-watering ticket price of £57,400, though in time we can expect other more affordable specs.

Like the XC40 Recharge, the C40 has twin electric motors – one on the front and one on the rear axle – and is powered by a 78kWh battery that can be fast-charged from 10 to 80% in about 40 minutes (via a 150kW rapid charger).

Inside the factory

We were given a quick tour of Volvo’s impressive state-of-the-art plant at Ghent in Belgium, where the C40 is assembled on the same production line as the XC40 and V60 estate.

Volvo C40 Recharge production line in Ghent, Belgium

Volvo is increasing EV capacity at the facility to 135,000 cars per year, and already expects more than half of the plant’s production volume in 2022 to consist of fully electric cars.

On the road, the C40 offers the same combination of blistering performance and polished road manners as the XC40 Recharge.

Developing a combined 402hp, it can sprint from 0-62mph in just 4.7 seconds, which is almost supercar fast. Plant your right foot on an A road and before you know it, you’re travelling at the legal limit.

Volvo C40 Recharge

The ride is smooth and refined, the light steering is sharp and it handles well for a relatively heavy crossover.

There’s surprisingly good body control in faster, more challenging corners and plenty of traction thanks to all-wheel drive.

The brakes are progressive, which is relatively rare in EVs, and the regenerative braking system (which recovers kinetic energy otherwise lost during braking to recharge the battery) works well, especially in one-pedal mode where a simple lift off the accelerator is usually enough to slow the car down without using the brakes.

Volvo C40 Recharge

Ultimately, the C40 is a smoothie, at its best cruising. And as most EV drivers will tell you, the challenge of squeezing as much range as possible out of the battery is irresistible, so apart from the odd burst of instant-torque acceleration, it’s more about economical driving.

I have a few criticisms. I would have liked some drive modes (no Sport or Normal – just one-pedal or not). And even though the C40 Recharge ticks lots of eco-friendly boxes, the lack of leather and Scandi chic wood veneers made the interior less special to me.

The lower roofline also results in a slight headroom penalty for rear passengers six-foot or over, while the rear window itself is more post box than panoramic, so the view behind is on the challenging side.

Volvo C40 Recharge

The C40 has less boot space than the XC40 Recharge, but there’s still a useful 413 litres of luggage capacity (down from 452 litres), or a total of 1,205 litres if you flip the 60/40 split rear bench (1,328 litres). That said, rear passenger legroom is generous.

Up front there’s a 31-litre compartment under the bonnet – ideal for storing charging cables. There are also plenty of storage spaces scattered inside the cabin for phones, water bottles and other clutter.

Needless to say, like all Volvos, the C40 is packed with the latest safety and driver assistance tech as standard, including lane-keeping assist, blind-spot monitoring, rear-cross traffic alert, autonomous emergency braking (AEB) and a 360-degree parking camera which makes it easier to get in and out of tight spaces.

However, at this price the C40 is up against tough EV competition – everything from the Hyundai Kona Electric, Skoda Enyaq and Kia e-Niro up to the Ford Mustang Mach-E, Polestar 2, Audi Q4 Sportback e-tron and Mercedes EQA.

Verdict: The stylish new Volvo C40 Recharge is a class act, blending performance, practicality and refinement with a good EV range and extensive safety features. At launch, the sole top-of-the-range model is on the expensive side, but in time the C40 will become more attainable as other variants are offered.

Volvo Cars UK

Cupra Formentor review

Cupra Formentor review

You’ve got to hand it to Cupra, SEAT’s sporty spin-off brand. To take a generic SUV like the Ateca and transform it into a bold, head-turning coupe-crossover is no mean feat.

In fact, the first fully-fledged Cupra model looks like nothing else on the market in its price bracket.

Athletic with a sculpted profile, muscular wheel arches and an elegantly extensive bonnet, it’s longer and sits lower than most school-run SUVs.

Cupra Formentor review

Add Cupra’s trademark copper-coloured alloy wheels, distinctive badge and full-width rear light bar, and you have a car that oozes kerb appeal.

Priced from £28,270 and available with 1.5-litre and 2.0-litre turbo petrol engines, plus a 1.4-litre plug-in hybrid, there’s something for everybody.

Our range-topping test car (badged 2.0 TSI 4Driven) developed 306bhp, sported four-wheel drive, a seven-speed DSG auto gearbox and a ticket price just north of £40,000.

Cupra Formentor review

With a 0-62mph time of 4.9 seconds and a top speed of 155mph, the performance figures speak for themselves.

The claimed fuel economy of 31.4-33.2mpg (you’ll have to restrain yourself in real-world driving to hit 30mpg) and CO2 emissions of 193g/km also tell a story.

However, this version of the Formentor is all about power and handling, so if you want to ease your eco conscience, opt for the plug-in hybrid.

Cupra Formentor review

It’s a class act inside too with subtle copper flourishes throughout, leather upholstery, soft-touch surfaces and supportive sports seats, plus it’s hard to fault the build quality.

A bright and clear 12-inch touchscreen is the nerve centre of an otherwise smart, fairly minimalist dashboard. Like most other new Volkswagen Group cars, there’s a lot of swiping and prodding even to access the most basic of infotainment functions such as climate control, though we had some success with the voice control system.

On the plus side, as well as gear-shifting paddles, the sporty flat-bottomed steering wheel also incorporates a handy drive mode button, just like a Porsche 911 (a great shortcut for selecting for Sport).

Cupra Formentor review

Hit the Start button (also on the steering wheel) and the Cupra fires up, emitting a purposeful growl, though purists will whinge that it’s enhanced via the audio system.

Spacious with ample room for adults in the back and lots of space for stowing smaller items, it has a decent boot capacity of 450 litres, stretching to 1,475 litres with the rear seats folded.

On the road it feels every bit as fast as the stats indicate with plenty of torque on tap, while the dual-cutch transmission efficiently pumps through the gears.

Cupra Formentor review

Thanks partly to its low-slung design, the Cupra is as agile as it handsome, feeling more like an overgrown hot hatch than a 4×4.

Add sharp steering that’s quick and light at low speeds, a comfortable ride and serious amounts of grip, and you have a crossover that can be fun on more challenging roads, yet also effortless on longer hauls.

Cupra Formentor review

It’s safe too, achieving a maximum five stars in Euro NCAP crash tests. Standard safety features for the Formentor include Front Assist with auto emergency braking (AEB) and pedestrian detection, along with side and exit assist, emergency steering, junction assist, lane assist and e-call that will alert the emergency services if the car is involved in a heavy collision.

Verdict: In these days of generic SUV design, Cupra has dared to be different with its athletic Formentor coupe-crossover, which delivers dynamism, performance, practicality, style and the latest technology.

Cupra Official UK

Cupra Formentor review