Volvo has its sights set on an electric future.

The Swedish automaker is aiming for 50 per cent of its global sales volume to be fully electric by 2025, with the rest hybrids. By 2030, the fleet will be entirely electric. And this makes the 2022 Volvo C40 Recharge a significant vehicle for the brand’s plans.

Volvo bills this fastback compact crossover as its first dedicated all-electric vehicle – though under its swoopy skin are identical components to the ones found in the XC40 Recharge. But unlike that award-winner, the C40 will be electric only.

Sleek and Stylish

Volvo has gone for a distinctive and daring (for Volvo, at least) look that peers to the future while also honouring such established design cues as the “Thor’s hammer” headlights and bold vertical taillights. Unlike the XC40 recharge, the C40’s snout has no traditional grille; the body-coloured front panel advertises its all-electric status in no uncertain terms.

The roof of this rakish crossover coupe sits 60 mm (2.4 in) lower than the XC40’s, but because it’s a full panoramic glass panel there’s actually a little more front headroom here. However, the tapering profile means rear passengers lose 25 mm (one inch) of hairdo clearance.

Riders are treated to a cabin that adheres to the Volvo template of haute Nordic style and terrific seats, but here it ramps up the green cred by being the first Volvo interior to be completely leather-free. The seat fabrics, door cards, and floor mats are made from 100 per cent recycled plastic bottles – 71 in all, Volvo tells us.

A cool deco feature are the engraved (recycled) plastic trim panels on the front doors and dash that are inspired by a topographical map of Abisko Park in northern Sweden. While they don’t look like much in daylight, soft backlighting at night makes for beautifully ethereal accents. These C40 testers were dipped in Fjord Blue, with the colour transferring inside to the floor mats and door panels. It’s all delightfully Volvo.

As with other Volvos, the C40’s dash is dominated by a 9.1-inch portrait-oriented touchscreen. The fresh infotainment system is Google-based, with the capacity for over-the-air updates. The system is better streamlined and more intuitive, and the embedded Google Maps navigation worked a treat, negotiating me through the maze and congestion of Belgian cities, highways, and ancient cities. The interface still requires too much in the way of screen poking to access basic HVAC functions, however.

A Model of Electrification

Out on the road, the 2022 C40 is a poster child for everything good about full electric motoring. It’s smooth, quiet, and surprisingly quick. Looking at the specs, maybe that’s not so surprising. The twin electric motors (one front, one rear) combine to produce 402 hp and 487 lb-ft of torque, with the latter available from the moment it gets moving. No matter what speed you’re travelling, be it a doddle or 120 km/h, a dip of the right pedal has the C40 surging ahead on a tidal wave of smooth and uninterrupted torque. This thing is quick in a right-now kind of way. No turbos to spool up or transmissions to downshift; just tons of all-wheel-drive torque.

Deceleration in the C40 can be equally different for those not accustomed to electric driving. The selectable one-pedal driving function allows for just that. Lift off the throttle and the car slows down quite aggressively. You learn to modulate this just like with acceleration, and the C40 will come to a complete stop without hitting the brakes (yes, the brake lights are activated). Essentially, the accelerator pedal acts like a volume knob. It’s the most efficient way to drive an electric vehicle (EV), and it works well in this Volvo. During several hours of inner-city, fast highway, and rural driving, I can count the number of times I touch the brake pedal on one hand (and one foot).

There’s no ignition button in the C40 – it “comes alive” when you unlock and enter, and similarly shuts down when exiting. Smart.

With its low centre of gravity and 20-inch wheels, the C40 is a decent handler, although I wouldn’t describe it as overly athletic. The steering is typically Volvo numb, and its ride can get a bit flinty on rough surfaces. But really, all is well within the boundaries of acceptability. About the only real gripe is the extremely limited view through the gun-slit rear window. Thankfully, the mirrors are large and the 360-degree camera views are pin-sharp. It all certainly came in handy when manoeuvring for photos in ancient Brugge.

Like the Polestar 2 and Volvo XC40 Recharge, the C40 uses a 78-kWh battery pack. The battery can be charged from zero to 80 per cent in 37 minutes using a 150-kW DC fast-charger, and in about eight hours for 100 per cent on a Level 2 charger. Volvo Canada has partnered with ChargePoint, one of the world’s largest EV charging networks. For Volvo models with Google Android Auto OS (XC40 Recharge and C40), the ChargePoint in-car app eliminates the need to swipe a card to unlock a charging station, and it consolidates multiple charging network accounts into one.

Going the Distance

And now to the burning question of range. Volvo hasn’t published range figures for the 2022 C40 Recharge yet, but its sister vehicle, the XC40 Recharge, now offers 359 km. Volvo tells us that with its better aerodynamics, the C40 sees a six per cent improvement in range, which could place it at around 380 km. Good, but not great when looking at the Chevrolet Bolt or Ford Mustang Mach-E. I drove the C40 some 200 km and the battery showed 38 per cent charge remaining, with electric consumption of 21.8 kWh/100 km.

Priced at $72,900 before freight and taxes, the C40 comes in only one highly specced trim, and that includes all safety systems and driver aids, a heat pump, a 13-speaker stereo, and more.

Final Thoughts

Built in Ghent, Belgium, this speedy little Swede with the sloping roof surely is a special vehicle to drive. It embraces all that we love about Volvo – unique Nordic design and engineering sensibility blended with safety – and adds a turn of real speed and dashing looks. Volvo admits the C40 will not be for everybody, as it does sacrifice some functionality on the altar of style, but as a distinctive vehicle poised to spearhead Volvo’s big EV push, it’s a mighty intriguing offering. Look for the C40 Recharge to arrive in early 2022.

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