The Volvo C40’s electric motor has been moved to the rear axle, but does that make the coupe-SUV better than ever? We find out…
4.0 out of 5
Switching to rear-wheel drive makes the C40 a slightly more dynamic proposition, while the real-world improvements in range and efficiency do enough to keep things competitive. By and large, we’d still recommend the more practical XC40, but attractive subscription packages mean that for the time being, this C40 is actually the more affordable option.
It’s not often that a car’s core running gear is fundamentally altered midway through its lifecycle. Yet with the basic C40, as well as the mechanically similar XC40, Volvo has moved the electric motor from the front axle to the back.
Historically, rear-driven cars have been favoured by enthusiasts, although Volvo claims the changes made here are mainly to improve efficiency. As tested – and despite there being no tweaks to the battery size or chemistry – our single-motor C40 in mid-spec Plus trim offers a claimed 295 miles of range, up from 269 miles previously.
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But the maximum charge rate on updated single-motor XC40 and C40 cars drops from 150kW to 130kW, apparently due to a change in battery supplier. It means that they take an extra couple of minutes to charge from 10-80 per cent, requiring 34 minutes.
It’s worth noting at this point that our car featured a slightly more powerful 249bhp motor, which in other markets can be paired with an 82kWh ‘Long Range’ battery. In the UK, that larger battery is only available on dual-motor Recharge Twin cars.
In mixed driving, including longer stints of 70mph motorway cruising – notoriously damaging to an EV’s projected range – our rear-drive model consistently returned more than 3.3 miles/kWh in low temperatures. That translates to a real-world improvement of around 30 miles over the front-drive XC40.
Car group tests
On the road, the updates are subtle. At low speeds you’d never notice the difference; despite freeing up space on the front axle, moving the motor hasn’t resulted in benefits such as a reduced turning circle. On our car’s (new) 19-inch aero wheels the ride is comfortable enough and you can adjust the steering’s weight via the infotainment menu.
Raise your speed and again, you’ll be hard-pushed to separate this new C40 from its front-wheel-drive predecessor. It’s only when you really push the car on a tight and twisty road or floor the accelerator away from junctions that you get the sense power is being sent to the back. Separating the drive and steering inputs means there is a little more grip at the front, noticeable even though our car was fitted with all-season tyres.
Performance is more than adequate. We don’t expect the small power hike on our Euro-spec car to be noticeable in day-to-day use, but with 235bhp and 420Nm of torque, the cheapest C40 should feel peppy. The sleeker of Volvo’s two small SUVs is still quiet, even at motorway speeds, but we’d avoid the biggest rims if refinement is a top priority.
The only other notable difference from the front-drive C40 is the regenerative braking system. Volvo still calls it ‘one-pedal’ but it’s far less aggressive than before, although it’s sufficient to bring the car to a complete stop.
A trim line-up of Core (from £48,355), Plus and Ultimate specs remains, with Plus our pick. The C40 costs between £950 and £1,850 more than the equivalent XC40, depending on trim and motor choice, but the coupé is currently cheaper on the Care By Volvo fixed-price subscription package.
Plus spec adds keyless entry, powered seat adjustment and a heated steering wheel, plus an automatic tailgate, heated rear seats and a heat pump. Basic cars have auto LED lights, two-zone climate control and twin screens, plus, of course, all the safety systems you’d expect from a Volvo.
It does still feel like a few corners have been cut when it comes to overall cabin quality, because the standard and mid-spec C40s struggle to justify their circa-£50,000 price tags, and that’s not helped by the relatively small nine-inch infotainment display. It’s a shame, because the Google software it runs is bang up to date.
Ultimate cars get chintzy details such as a crystal gear selector (not to all tastes, but it definitely ups the interior ambience), 20-inch wheels, a 360-degree camera, a panoramic roof and a Harman Kardon stereo.
Despite its swoopier shape, the C40 makes a pretty good fist of the family stuff. Its 413-litre boot isn’t dramatically smaller than the XC40’s, and there’s space in the nose to store the charging cables. Head and legroom in the rear is generous enough, too.
|Model:||Volvo C40 Recharge Plus|
|Powertrain:||69kWh batt./1x e-motor|
|Transmission:||Single-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive|
|Charging:||130kW (10-80% 34mins)|
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