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Volvo keeping pace with electric commitment

Volvo’s determination to be first among equals for EV buyers is reflected in the quality of its second all-electric model, the C40.

February 25, 2023
By Peter Atkinson
25 February 2023

False bravado often occurs at the most inappropriate times – in front of a crowd and against better judgment – when promises are easily made without any guarantee of being able to deliver.

A flash of genius during a staff strategy day, perhaps, or countless New Year’s resolutions about health and fitness.

So imagine being a Volvo employee when some company executive – presumably standing on a wobbly chair in the late stages of the company Christmas party – announced that the marque’s entire vehicle range would have an all-electric version by 2026.

The entire range re-engineered.

Thanks boss.

After all, that’s a pretty tight timeframe to make such a fundamental change to so many models.

But as tall as the task must seem, Volvo has made an impressive start. 

Following close in the tracks of Volvo’s first EV model in 2022 – the electric version of the XC40 Recharge – the next big step in delivering the boss’s New Year’s resolution is the C40 EV.

The Swedish marque is obviously doing something the market likes, as Volvo Australia cracked 10,000 sales during 2022 for the first time in the company’s long history Down Under. And this all-new, all-electric crossover is certain to help drive more sales.

The C40 is an interesting thing – both in terms of its dynamics and its design.

But Volvo’s “frenemy” – the Swedish-designed, Chinese-built Polestar2 – left a bigger impression than the C40.

The C40 is handsome, no doubt, but still with impressive space for passengers and cargo alike. So far, so good.

Design-wise it fits into that SUV Coupe category, where lurk key rivals such as the Mercedes EQC, BMW’s iX4 and Audi’s Q2.

Dynamically it’s not quite the pick of that bunch in the form as tested here, which is the $75,900 single-motor version with sufficient, but not exhilarating, power and performance.

Its cousin, the Volvo XC40 Recharged – admittedly sporting two motors, all-wheel drive and the added zip that brings with it – seemed more impressive than its newer, fancier sibling, even though the two vehicles are virtually identical beneath all that sleek styling.

Sharing the XC40’s running gear means a comfortable ride, sharp handling and the same self-assured balance and poise.

Like the XC it offers “one pedal” driving (lift the foot and it will slow virtually to a halt) which is huge fun in city driving and darting in and out of traffic.

It also has the same hop-in-and-drive capability – the car turns itself on when the driver’s door is opened, and off when ‘park’ is selected. No on/off buttons necessary.

Naturally it also brings the same quality interior, including an attractive “vertical iPad” design of its infotainment centre.

And that, in turn, brings an impressive menu of programs and pre-sets, and comprehensive graphics in the second of its two information screens.

The headline numbers on the C40 tell an impressive story. Electric cruising range up to 500km (good), 0-100km/h acceleration in 4.7 seconds (very good), power 300kW, and electric fast charging (from 10 per cent to 80 per cent in 28 minutes).

None of these elements would be likely to stand in the way of buying a C40.

And neither does this number: the list price on the C40 starts from $75,990 which buys the less potent, but quite adequate single-motor variant.

With its 170kW and 330Nm it delivers a more sedate 0-100km/h time of 7.4 seconds – more leisurely than its snappier sibling but no slouch, just the same. With its 69kw/h battery it can travel 438km between recharges.

Of course, if you want the blistering acceleration it will cost an additional seven grand for the dual-motor version, although that also brings a few extra trinkets including gorgeous 20-inch wheels, premium Harmon-Kardon audio and 360-degree all-round monitor.

The interior introduces some new looks, most notably a unique, artistic design on the door and dash trims which, on closer inspection, are actually relief-style renderings of a streetmap of the Swedish city where most Volvos are made.

These are not the typical things once expected from Volvo.

Anyone over 40 will probably recall the boxy design favoured by the Swedish marque for so long.

Yes, the brand managed to earn an enviable reputation for safety and innovation and that remains, even though that translated to “boring” for many potential buyers.

And yes, many of those who did buy Volvos were elderly gentlemen wearing hats while puttering around city streets at roughly half the speed limit. Which makes the current place that Volvo finds itself all the more remarkable.

Whether it’s a hangover from those boring, boxy days it’s hard to know, but Volvo has penned some of the most admired and desired SUV models in recent years.

And the C40 will further enhance that appeal with its modern, sculpted silhouette, its very-Scandi minimalist cockpit, and its judicious use of its iPad-styled control screen and the way it makes the car effortless to manage with a minimum of fuss.

Owners may boast with bravado at the next New Year’s function.


* HOW BIG? It feels a little bigger than its corporate sibling, the XC40 – with the coupe-like styling giving it a feel not unlike a BMW X4. Interior space is good for four adults or a smallish family.

* HOW FAST? Decently so. By way of context, most of Holden’s HSV V8 models could barely crack the five-second mark for 0-100km/h. This bog-standard Volvo does it in 4.7 seconds.

* HOW THIRSTY? Volvo claims a cruising range of 500km – and it can recharge to 80 per cent capacity in about 25 minutes on a fast-charge station.

* HOW MUCH? Prices start at $74,990 which puts it in the thick of the EV-SUV contest.

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