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Test Drive: 2021 Volvo XC40 Recharge

Volvo XC40 Recharge
2021 Volvo XC40 Recharge in Glacier Silver Metallic (a $645 option)

2021 Volvo XC40 Recharge

ClassElectric Vehicle

Miles driven: 400

Battery capacity: 78 kWh

CG Report Card
Room and ComfortB+
Power and PerformanceA
Fit and FinishA
Fuel EconomyA
Report-card grades are derived from a consensus of test-driver evaluations. All grades are versus other vehicles in the same class. Value grade is for specific trim level evaluated, and may not reflect Consumer Guide's impressions of the entire model lineup.
Big & Tall Comfort
Big GuyB
Tall GuyB+
Big & Tall comfort ratings are for front seats only. "Big" rating based on male tester weighing approximately 350 pounds, "Tall" rating based on 6'6"-tall male tester.
Engine Specs402 horsepower
Engine TypeElectric motors
Transmission Automatic
Drive All-wheel drive

EPA-estimate MPGe: 85 city/72 hwy/79 combined

EPA-estimated driving range: 208 miles

Consumer Guide range estimate (ideal conditions): 208+ miles

Base price: $53,990 (not including $995 destination charge)

Options on test vehicle: Climate Package ($750), Advanced Package ($1300), metallic paint ($645), Harman Kardon premium sound system ($800), heat pump ($350), 20-inch wheels ($800)

Price as tested: $59,630


Quick Hits

The great: Better-than-expected passenger and cargo room within tidy exterior dimensions; snappy acceleration; interior looks and feels convincingly upscale

The good: Comfortable-yet-nimble driving personality; youthful-yet-sophisticated styling

The not so good: Pricey; complicated infotainment system; not quite as much range as some EV rivals

More XC40 price and availability information


John Biel

If you’re a good-enough motor vehicle to be a Consumer Guide “Best Buy” your makers might not have to try too hard to top themselves, at least for the short term. How might they make such a vehicle better should they want to? Well, in the case of the Volvo XC40, they could raise the level of standard equipment—or, if they’re feeling really ambitious, add an EV.

Volvo’s smallest SUV is now available as a pure-electric Recharge model, with a healthy 402 horsepower.

Both of those things happened to the 2021 Volvo XC40 premium subcompact crossover SUV, but it is the all-electric Recharge version that concerns us here. Unlike its gas-engine running mates, it comes only with all-wheel drive—thank the front and rear motors for that—and in a single trim level. Starting price, with delivery, is $54,985, which is a considerable $12,540 more than an AWD gas-engine XC40 in top-rank Inscription form costs. With options, our Glacier Silver Metallic tester peaked at $59,630.

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A classy cabin design and upscale trim are XC40 strong points that carry over to the Recharge version. The stubby shift lever has an unconventional “double-push/double-pull” action that we acclimated to very quickly.

The basic package from which the Recharge is fashioned is familiar yet still somewhat new, having made its debut for the 2019 model year. Thus, it’s the powerplant that really sets this XC40 apart from others that CG has tested.

Drawing on a 78-kWh lithium-ion battery, the motors combine for 402 horsepower and 486 lb-ft of torque managed by a single-speed shift-by-wire transmission. With this much power at the ready, there is excellent immediate acceleration from a standing start. Highway cruising speeds are easily maintained as well.

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Our test vehicle’s seats were comfortable and nicely upholstered. Rear-seat room is better than you might expect.

The 2021 XC40 Recharge’s EPA-estimated driving range 208 miles, and that seemed borne out in this driver’s experience with the vehicle. After 118.9 miles, 70 percent of which was done in city-type driving, the trucklet reported that 37 percent of charge remained—enough to crack the 200-mile ceiling. (Note that for 2022, the EPA-estimated driving range has been bumped up to 223 miles.)

When it was time to plug in to CG’s 240-volt charging station, the instrument-panel display initially said it would take nine hours, 45 minutes to fully replenish the vehicle, gaining 13 range miles per hour of charge. When we checked back later, after ambient temperatures had risen to a more favorable mid 50s Fahrenheit, we were told we were getting 14 miles per charge hour and the total recharge time had lopped off 45 minutes.

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The XC40 Recharge’s cargo volume is quite good, considering its subcompact exterior dimensions. There’s 16.0 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats, which grows to 46.9 cubic feet with the rear seats folded.

The smallest of Volvo’s SUVs—it’s approximately 10 inches shorter than the compact XC60—the XC40’s styling is a little more daring than you’ll find in the rest of the Volvo lineup. Within is a not-bad-looking cabin. Seats are upholstered in Nappa leather with suede-like Nubuck inserts and are heated in front, with heated rear seats and steering wheel available in the Climate Package option. All doors have soft, padded surfaces on their tops; door centers reprised the Nubuck material all the way down into the storage pockets. Nice chrome accents and patterned-metal trim across the dash brighten the interior.

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There’s also a bit of “frunk” space underneath the hood–not a lot, but enough to hold the vehicle’s charging cable.

Other standard equipment is a mix of comforts, technology, and safety features. A panoramic moonroof rests overhead and a hands-free tailgate covers the back. Keyless-entry door handles are illuminated. The power front seats include memory settings for the driver. The climate system is dual-zone. Drivers are informed via a 12.3-inch digital display with three presentation modes. A nine-inch touchscreen is the access point to the Sensus infotainment system. Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone functionality is included. The test vehicle’s audio system was the extra-cost Harman Kardon premium unit, but the sole radio choice remained FM. The standard safety complement includes forward collision warning and mitigation with pedestrian/cyclist/large-animal detection, lane-departure warning and mitigation, lane-keep assist with oncoming-traffic avoidance, rear-obstacle detection, blind-spot and rear-cross-traffic alerts, front and rear obstacle detection, and the Volvo On Call remote services. Low-level autonomous operation is possible with the Pilot Assist system (including adaptive cruise control) that was a component of the Advanced Package option on CG’s tester.

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In addition to the “blanked-out” grille opening up front, the XC40 Recharge can be identified by the charge port on the driver’s side rear quarter panel and subtle debossed lettering in the rear roof pillars.

Driving controls are displayed well. The virtual gauges have a speedometer on the left and power-use dial (it indicates how much power or regenerative charging is happening) on the right, with plenty of room for clear vehicle-information readouts between them. This driver is no fan of the vertically oriented touchscreen, with its smartphone-style swiping to access desired information and functions, some of which are pretty well buried. A few climate controls are on the dash, but most are accessed through the screen. An unconventional shifter needs forward pushes to go into Reverse and rearward taps to access Drive, with a separate Park button.

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Our tester was equipped with the optional 20-inch wheels; 19s are standard.

Head- and legroom are good in the front row and a couple of adults riding in the back seat will find decent headroom with livable legroom—if front passengers don’t need to stretch out to the extreme. Note that rear seat backs don’t recline beyond a fairly upright limit. Driver vision to the sides and over the shoulder is blunted by wide door posts and thick rear roof pillars. Steering is easy, if a little short on feel, but the XC40 Recharge corners well. Ride on the optional 20-inch alloy wheels was firm.

Personal-item storage is handled by a large glove box, a less generous console box, pockets in all four doors, and net pouches on the backs of the front seats. A bay at the front of the console houses electronic-device inputs and the optional wireless charger. Cup holders reside in the console and the pull-down rear armrest.

Cargo space is good with the 60/40-split rear seats up. The rear seat incorporates a pass-through for skis and other long items. With the rear seats down, 57.5 cubic feet of load space exists. There’s a fairly deep bin under the cargo floor that’s good for discreet storage, and small open cubbies form at the sides of the cargo floor. A little bit of a frunk under the hood is a bonus exclusive to the Recharge.

Volvo has positioned the XC40 as an upscale urban vehicle that targets a younger audience—though considering the prices, we doubt that they will be typical first-car buyers. That’s especially true of the Recharge, which broadens the horizons of an already compelling small SUV.

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Though Volvo has also entered the pure-EV market via its fledgling Polestar division, the XC40 Recharge is the Volvo brand’s first all-electric vehicle. It’s quite pricey, and there are cheaper EVs that offer better driving range, but the XC40 Recharge benefits from the strengths of the basic XC40 platform, and it’s downright zippy with its 402 hp.

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