2023 Volvo C40 Recharge Review: Base Hit

One of many Volvo EVs to come, the C40 Recharge is a solid first effort.

2023 Volvo C40 Recharge, Ultimate Blue, front quarter leftChristian Wardlaw

Review QuickTakes:

Volvo was among the first legacy automakers to commit to carbon-neutral company operations and to convert its vehicles to electric drive. By 2030, Volvo says all its models will be fully electric, and by 2040 the company expects to achieve carbon neutrality.

On the path to these objectives, all Volvo cars and SUVs now have electrified drivetrains for the 2023 model year. The solutions include mild-hybrid gas engines, plug-in hybrid powertrains, and fully electric drivetrains. The purely electric vehicles, the 2023 Volvo C40 Recharge and 2023 Volvo XC40 Recharge, are small crossover SUVs with dual-motor all-wheel drive and range estimates of 223 miles (XC40) and 226 miles (C40) on a full battery charge.

The XC40 Recharge arrived first, and the C40 Recharge debuted last year. The two models share a platform, drivetrain, front styling, and forward cabin. However, from the middle roof pillars back, the C40 Recharge is doing its own thing, styled like an SUV coupe with a tapered roof and slightly more restrictive passenger and cargo space.

For this 2023 Volvo C40 Recharge review, I test-drove one with Ultimate trim in Southern California. It came with extra-cost Fjord Blue paint, bringing the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) to $61,890, including the $1,095 destination charge. Volvo provided the vehicle for this C40 Recharge review.

2023 Volvo C40 Recharge, Ultimate Blue, side viewChristian Wardlaw

2023 Volvo C40 Recharge Review: The Design

Some people like SUV coupes, and some people don’t. Typically, they cost more and have less interior room, and that’s true when comparing the C40 Recharge with the XC40 Recharge. However, the price premium is small, and the reduction in passenger and cargo space is almost not worth mentioning, so if you prefer the rakish roofline on the C40 Recharge, there aren’t many downsides associated with choosing it.

Open the driver’s door, and traditional Scandinavian minimalism with a touch of whimsy greets you. The test vehicle had a black-over-blue interior treatment, with blue door panel inserts, blue carpeting made of partially recycled materials, and blue floor mats.

2023 Volvo C40 Recharge cargo spaceChristian Wardlaw

Mood lighting produces a soft blue glow after dark, and the topographic-pattern dashboard and door trim panels are translucent and backlit at night. Add unusual expressions of digital instrumentation and infotainment systems, and the C40 Recharge’s interior is pleasant yet quirky.

Although Volvo reduces the physical controls and their markings to a minimum, most of the C40 Recharge’s technology proves intuitive to use. From the standard Google Assistant voice control to predictive functions such as how the SUV asks if you’d like to find a charging station when the remaining range drops below 50 miles, there is a natural order to how the C40 Recharge works, so it causes little frustration or tension.

2023 Volvo C40 Recharge, Ultimate Blue, black interior, dashboardChristian Wardlaw

Traditionally, Volvo seats are among the most comfortable of any vehicle. Unfortunately, that’s not true of the C40 Recharge. They are supportive, and I found a suitable driving position, but they don’t envelop you with soothing comfort like the seats in the company’s other models. So, they’re comfortable, but not enough that you’d rather sit in the car than in your house.

I expected compromise concerning back-seat comfort, but the C40 Recharge is unexpectedly accommodating of average-height adults in terms of legroom and headroom. Taller people will find their legs in contact with hard front seatback trim and their heads brushing the roofliner.

Every C40 Recharge includes a UV-treated panoramic glass roof. Unfortunately, it does not open, it does not come with a sunshade, and its forward edge is too far back for the driver and front passenger to see out of it. So, it’s just for the benefit of the rear-seat passengers, who might wish it came with a shade.

Volvo equips the C40 Recharge with generous storage areas, including four cupholders, large bins in each door panel, small trays in each armrest, a wide wireless charging tray forward of the shifter, a good-sized glove box, and an unexpectedly roomy center console bin underneath the center armrest. Perhaps the automaker is making up for the trunk, which at 15 cubic feet, offers no more cargo space than a midsize sedan. However, the C40 Recharge can carry 49 cu-ft of cargo if you fold the back seats.

2023 Volvo C40 Recharge infotainment systemChristian Wardlaw

2023 Volvo C40 Recharge Review: The Technology

Volvo equips the C40 Recharge with a standard Google-based infotainment system that benefits from over-the-air software updates. It includes a 9-inch touchscreen and features Google Built-in, Google Maps, Google Assistant, and Google Play.

Volvo Digital Services provides access to these features, and the C40 Recharge includes a complimentary four-year subscription. You can pay a fee to continue using the digital services when the subscription ends. Oh, and if you’re an Apple person, don’t worry. The C40 Recharge has Apple CarPlay, accessible via the USB port.

In addition to these features, the infotainment system offers Bluetooth, SiriusXM satellite radio, access to several embedded apps such as Spotify, and numerous menus where you can customize the SUV’s settings. A button at the bottom of the display quickly takes you back to the Home screen.

During my time with the C40 Recharge, the infotainment system continually impressed me with its speedy and accurate response to voice commands and thoughtful details. For example, when you’re programming a destination, the technology will show you how far away the point of interest is, how many minutes it will take to get there, and how much battery you’ll have left when you arrive.

When evaluating the system using my standard set of questions and prompts, it stumbled only on this one: “I need to go to a hospital!” Unfortunately, rather than provide a list of nearby hospitals in order of their distance from my location, I got a list of just three medical facilities. And because their names appeared in a small display overlaying the navigation map, I couldn’t tell if any of them were urgent care centers. (I knew they weren’t any of the local hospitals.)

2023 Volvo C40 Recharge safety featuresChristian Wardlaw

The system interpreted a request to listen to reggae, but wanted to send me to an app, not channel 19, on SiriusXM satellite radio. As far as music is concerned, the test vehicle’s Harman Kardon premium audio system delivered terrific sound with all of its settings in the default position.

My C40 Recharge Ultimate had all the available advanced driving assistance systems (ADAS), including Pilot Assist, which pairs adaptive cruise control with lane-centering to create a hands-on, semi-autonomous driving aid best used on highways.

I sampled as many of the systems as possible and discovered the adaptive cruise control does not react smoothly to other vehicles that cut into the gap ahead of the SUV. Also, on stretches of Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) north of Malibu, the C40 Recharge delivered numerous false lane-departure warnings as the road expanded from one lane to two or from two lanes to one.

While running Pilot Assist on PCH, I applied more muscle than necessary to correct the course in curves. The system works great on arrow-straight freeways, but it likes to hug the inner lane markings of curves more than I prefer.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gives the 2023 C40 Recharge a Top Safety Pick+ rating, but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has yet to perform crash tests on this model.

2023 Volvo C40 Recharge, Ultimate Blue, rear quarter leftChristian Wardlaw

2023 Volvo C40 Recharge Review: The Drive

Volvo equips the C40 Recharge with two 150-kW electric motors, one powering the front wheels and the other powering the rear wheels. Together, they make 402 horsepower and 487 pound-feet of torque, enough motive force to accelerate the 4,800-pound SUV to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds.

A 78-kWh battery supplies the energy, and the vehicle accepts 11-kW, Level 2 AC charging and 150-kW, Level 3 DC fast-charging. The C40 Recharge includes a charging cable that connects to a standard household outlet if that’s all you’ve got available.

Volvo says it takes 37 minutes to recharge the battery from 10% to 80% using a 150-kW DC fast-charger. Plug the SUV into an 11-kW AC home charging station, and it charges from 0% to 100% in about 8 hours. Use a 120-volt household power outlet, like the one on my front porch, and based on my experience, you can expect to get 2.5 miles of range for every hour of charging.

Like other high-powered electric vehicles, the C40 Recharge is quick, and the immediate thrust of the motors’ torque pushes you and your occupants deeper into your seats. Lift off the accelerator, and the one-pedal driving system responds with aggressive regenerative braking. It took me some time to get used to it, but I soon found that I rarely needed to use the brake pedal. Of course, you can turn this feature off if you’d rather not use it.

2023 Volvo C40 Recharge, Ultimate Blue, rear quarter rightChristian Wardlaw

The C40 Recharge has adaptive, speed-sensing steering, and you can choose to use the Firm setting or not. I left this turned off and found the Volvo’s steering agreeable. It doesn’t draw attention to itself in a good or a bad way, which is likely fine for the intended audience.

You expect a MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension design in a small luxury crossover SUV. Still, with all of the C40 Recharge’s added battery weight, adaptive dampers are in order. This SUV’s ride is frequently choppy and induces head toss, and while these traits make it feel sporty, you don’t always want to experience them.

Similarly, the C40 Recharge is not quiet inside on the highway. Road noise is louder than expected, and it combines with the constant whoosh of the climate system and subtle hints of wind noise to make this EV seem less refined than some rivals. Also, due to the slanted liftgate and its narrow slit of a window, visibility to the rear is awful. You can see about ten car lengths behind you, and then everything else disappears from view. A camera-based rearview mirror would be helpful.

2023 Volvo C40 Recharge frunkChristian Wardlaw

As for the C40 Recharge’s efficiency, the EPA says you should expect the SUV to use 39 kWh of electricity for every 100 miles of driving. I did better than that, at an indicated 37.9 kWh/100 miles. At the start of the evaluation drive, the C40 Recharge had 120 miles of estimated range and a 65% battery charge. After 74.8 miles of travel, the SUV showed 65 miles of range and a 30% charge.

Another great thing about the technology in this vehicle is that it makes it easy for drivers to find and reference data related to the remaining battery charge, the remaining range expressed as an average (with best-case and worst-case estimates), and average energy consumption. You can even identify which driving behaviors are consuming energy at a higher rate and adjust if desired or activate a range-optimization function when the C40 Recharge recommends it.

When you plug the Volvo in, the onboard tech clarifies the current charging rate in kW, how many miles you’ll get after charging for one hour, and what time the battery will fully recharge. It also provides obvious visual charging indicators at the port, and when using the home charging cable, a white ring on the charger pulses to confirm that juice is flowing to the SUV.

Not only is all of this information easy to find and reference, but Volvo also proactively attempts to reduce a driver’s range anxiety. For example, in addition to keeping you well-informed over time, a prompt asks if you’d like the navigation system to find the closest charging station when the battery starts getting low. This transparency in data and proactivity is a genuine blessing, especially if you are new to EVs.

2023 Volvo C40 Recharge charging station locatorChristian Wardlaw

When you buy a Volvo C40 Recharge, you’ll get 250 kW of complimentary charging at Electrify America stations nationwide. My Southern California community of more than 125,000 people just got its first bank of four 150-kW fast-chargers, which happen to be EA stations. So, I drove over, waited 25 minutes for a charger to become available, connected, and used my smartphone app and EA account to initiate a charge. After confirming the charging had started, my kids and I went to a nearby restaurant for dinner.

While monitoring the smartphone app during our meal, it became clear something was amiss. The Volvo was charging slowly, at a rate of less than 40 kW. After 45 minutes, the battery had gone from 16% to 50%. I called Electrify America to find out if something was wrong with the charger, and the answer was yes. Earlier in the day, it had slowed charging for two customers before my session.

While I’m glad the Volvo was not at fault, it is worth noting that this is yet another wrinkle to consider concerning EV ownership.

2023 Volvo C40 Recharge, Ultimate Blue, front quarter rightChristian Wardlaw

Is the 2023 Volvo C40 Recharge a Good Electric Vehicle?

Though it provides a relatively mediocre 226 miles of range, I found living with the Volvo C40 Recharge rather easy. People with an average commute who are willing to plug it in every night might even be able to live with this EV without installing a Level 2 home charging station. Instead, all they’d need to do is visit a DC fast-charger once a week or so for a quick charge back to 80 percent.

Long-distance travel, however, could easily prove frustrating, especially if you encounter a fast-charger that is not operating to expectations. Also, the flinty ride and road noise might discourage extended travel.

Otherwise, I think the C40 Recharge and, by extension, its sibling, the XC40 Recharge, are solid first efforts at building EVs, especially considering that Volvo adapted the electric drivetrain to a platform designed for gas engines.

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Christian Wardlaw
My first word was “car.” That’s what I’m told, anyway. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been obsessed with them. The design. The engineering. The performance. And the purpose. I’m a car enthusiast who loves to drive, but I’m also most interested in the cars, trucks, and SUVs that people actually buy. Anybody can tell you that a sports car is fast. What you need to know is whether or not you should buy that new SUV, and why. My life purpose is to help you make that decision.