Friday, February 3, 2023
First Reviews 2021 Volvo XC40 P8 Recharge First Drive Review: Charming To The Last

2021 Volvo XC40 P8 Recharge First Drive Review: Charming To The Last

We’ll go right out and say it: The new 2021 Volvo XC40 Recharge may be the most appealing EV money can buy today

  • Starting price is $64,950 in Canada, $53,990 in the US.

  • The XC40 Recharge is Volvo’s first full-EV.

  • It combines the XC40’s many talents to a potent electric drivetrain.

Let’s focus, to start, on what appealing means: The word refers to something that is attractive or interesting. The all-new 2021 Volvo XC40 P8 Recharge is both eye-catching and engaging. It might not be the best EV for any number of reasons but it is undeniably very good at what it is.

2021 Volvo XC40 Recharge | Photo: Olivier Delorme

I want to preface this review by saying that a “good deal” for an EV, in 2021, still requires shelling out well over $50,000 in Canada. As the years will pass, pricing will drop to a point when a $35,000 EV will be considered value-packed, but this is not the case at the moment.

Let’s then briefly address what one gets for $64,950 in the 2021 Volvo XC40 Recharge. It is delivered with a 12.3-inch digital instrument panel, a 9-inch touchscreen, satellite radio, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Nubuck leather seats, a power hatch, and a full-on battery of safety features. Complete though this may be, the tested unit included nearly all options such as the Climate and Advanced Packages, and the Harman Kardon premium sound system. Final price rings in at $70,200 for an impressively premium small luxury SUV.

Volvo quality and design

2021 Volvo XC40 Recharge | Photo: Olivier Delorme

This is still a considerable amount of money however the vehicle that is being purchased is impeccably assembled both inside and out. Crafted with exemplary materials and designed to appeal to all senses, a Volvo is truly as premium as any German luxury brand. And applies even to the entry-level XC40.

The small Volvo SUV is superbly unique as well. Its design is unlike any other, unmistakenly Swedish, and inoffensive. Many automakers strive for a striking and aggressive look but not so with Volvo, their vehicles are as special as there are elegant.

This also translates into the cabin where a spartan and clean dashboard layout is matched to perfection with distinctive shapes and textures. The seats are impressively supportive, there’s plenty of room in all seating positions and the trunk is beyond adequate for a vehicle this size. There’s also a frunk but it can handle little more than a backpack.

2021 Volvo XC40 Recharge | Photo: Olivier Delorme

The interior highlights include Google Assistant, Google Maps, and Google Play Store as the vehicle’s infotainment system. The whole of the menus is intuitive and fairly easy to navigate. Some functions required a tap too-many on the screen but overall, it’s a very good system.

The power and the comfort

The 2021 Volvo XC40 Recharge is built on the same CMA platform as the other XC40 versions which means nothing but good things. To it is mounted two identical AC permanent magnet electric motors, one per axle, with one inverter per motor. The system’s total output is rated at 402 horsepower and 486 lb.-ft. of torque. As always, the torque and power are immediately available, and entertaining. The electric XC40 will launch to 100km/h in 4.9 seconds (0-60mph in 4.7 seconds) but this is not the best part about the driving experience.

2021 Volvo XC40 Recharge | Photo: Olivier Delorme

One of the reasons why we enjoy the XC40 as much as we do is the small SUV’s chassis. It strikes the perfect balance between real damping and competent handling. The platform’s inflexibility enables the struts to absorb road irregularities with impressive ease. Of all EVs I’ve driven, only the Audi e-tron Sportback, with its standard air suspension, is more cosseting.

The XC40 Recharge is available with one-pedal driving. As the description states, it is possible to never have to call upon the physical brakes when driving. The system is extremely aggressive, so much so that on icy and snowy surfaces, I noted the front wheels locking up. Within minutes, however, modulating the pedal becomes second nature. The only issue here, and perhaps the only “bug” with the Recharge, is that toggling between “one-pedal” and “normal” driving requires clicking through the touchscreen a few times.

2021 Volvo XC40 Recharge | Photo: Olivier Delorme

An absolute pleasure to drive, the 2021 Volvo XC40 Recharge is endowed with a 78 kWh battery that, on a 150 kW fast charger, will go from 0% to 80% in 40 minutes (8-10 hours on 11 kW home wall box). This means that while out on the road, no more than 30-35 mins will be needed to reach 80% as few will ever dare to drop anywhere near 0%.

Range and possible concerns

All of the mechanical bits are shared with the Polestar 2 but even so, ranges vary considerably. Although the Polestar’s range is rated at 375km (233 miles), the XC40 is estimated at 335km or 208 miles. Weight does not seem like a valid explanation here as both hover between 4,700-4,800lbs. This is the Volvo’s most evident weakness, especially when compared to the competition.

2021 Volvo XC40 Recharge | Photo: Olivier Delorme

Having said that, most actual EV owners have long-ago set aside range issues as they’ve come to properly analyze their actual usage and daily travels. With more charging stations being built every day and the easy opportunity to “fill’er up” at home, 335km is more than doable.

Another possible apprehension is availability. This is not an unusual situation as most EVs are plagued with a demand to exceeds production allocations. At the moment, a few hundred units of the XC40 Recharge have been allocated for Canada. Although an exact number was not divulged, Volvo Canada representatives did hint that 500 to 600 examples can be expected.

Today, above all others

2021 Volvo XC40 Recharge | Photo: Olivier Delorme

In this still narrow segment of fully-electric SUVs, the options lie with the Ford Mustang Mach-E, the Tesla Model Y, the Polestar 2, and the upcoming Chevrolet Bolt EUV, Nissan Ariya, and Volkswagen ID.4. Other alternatives include the Hyundai Kona EV, Kia Niro EV, and that’s about it for now. Price ranges vary widely, between $40,000 and about $75,000.

At $65,000, the 2021 Volvo XC40 P8 Recharge is not only attractive, wonderfully put together, but it’s delightful to drive. For the moment, it’s certainly an appealing charmer.

2021 Volvo XC40 Recharge | Photo: Olivier Delorme

2021 Volvo XC40 Recharge | Photo: Olivier Delorme

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Matt St-Pierre
Trained as an Automotive Technician, Matt has two decades of automotive journalism under his belt. He’s done TV, radio, print and this thing called the internet. He’s an avid collector of many 4-wheeled things, all of them under 1,500 kg, holds a recently expired racing license and is a father of two. Life is beautiful. Send Matt an emai


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