DRIVEN: Volvo C40 is a highly attractive EV option at the price point

The C40 is an SUV with a coupe-inspired profile. Pictures: Volvo Cars SA.

The C40 is an SUV with a coupe-inspired profile. Pictures: Volvo Cars SA.

Published Apr 16, 2024


With its arresting looks and lightning-like acceleration, the Volvo C40 is easily among the most desirable electric cars on the market and R1.32 million (in April 2024) it’s also far from being the most expensive.

To get some politics out the way first, Volvo has committed to an all-electric future by 2030.

There are currently some doubts as to whether the future of the car industry is all-electric, and there are certainly valid concerns and debates that we need to have.

Nonetheless the Swedish carmaker is sticking to its guns and will soon be something of a battery car specialist.

It recently launched the new and far more mainstream EX30, which is likely to become the country’s best-selling EV, while the C40 that you see here will remain as something of a halo product for the brand.

The C40, by the way, has the distinction of being the brand’s first dedicated SUV, although I think that is a bit of a stretch since it is quite closely related to the XC40 compact SUV.

The C40 is an SUV with a coupe-inspired profile. Pictures: Volvo Cars SA.

Nonetheless, the C40 does get its own unique body shell, with a coupe-like C-pillar giving it a fastback profile that’s almost at odds with its chunky SUV proportions. Yet it somehow just works, and quite brilliantly in my humble opinion, particularly thanks to those sporty 20-inch five-spoke alloys and especially when you order it in Fjord Blue.

After stepping inside, getting a move-on is a strange experience in the C40. You literally get in, shift into the right gear and you’re on your way in total silence. There’s no start button as once the car detects the key you’re good to go.

Changing between reverse on the electronic gear stick is perhaps a bit more finicky than it should be, as you have to slot it into neutral before it goes into drive.

Once you are in ‘D’ exercise caution as the right pedal becomes something like a machine gun trigger.

The C40 is deceptively fast, but obviously it’s not a petrolhead kind of thrill. It feels a bit like a rollercoaster, pushing you back in your seat and leaving your stomach back at the stop street. All I can say is it’s a different kind of thrill, and I do appreciate that Volvo lets you experience it as it is rather than pretentious pipe in face exhaust sounds.

With an electric motor on each axle, the all-wheel drive C40 is good for 300kW and 660Nm, and Volvo claims a 4.7 second 0-100km/h sprint time.

But it feels faster than that number suggests, mostly because the instant torque gets you directly off the mark, from 0-40km/h for instance, quicker than almost any petrol-powered car, which would still have to build up revs and in most cases turbo boost.

The C40 is an SUV with a coupe-inspired profile. Pictures: Volvo Cars SA.

It’s an intense, almost weightless, feeling but when you’re not accelerating at full tilt the C40 behaves like a highly refined luxury car.

That said, regenerative braking in this one feels more intense than it does in most over EVs we’ve sampled, which means that one-pedal driving is truly possible with this one. On the flip side it does take some getting used to and you can end up braking sharply just by lifting off the throttle.

The C40 has a 78 kWh lithium ion battery. Volvo quotes a driving range of up to 450km between charges on the WLTP cycle, but at 100% charge our on-board monitor showed a maximum range of just 380km. Of course, constant highway driving will see a figure somewhat lower than that given the lack of regeneration opportunities.

For the record the EV Database website in Europe estimates a real-world range of 330km for the C40.

Volvo says a full charge can take under two hours at a public fast-charging facility, but how long it takes at home will depend on the wall unit you have installed.

Without such a device you’re looking at more than 24 hours from a standard wall socket.

The C40 is an SUV with a coupe-inspired profile. Pictures: Volvo Cars SA.

The leather-free interior of the C40 feels luxurious and the vehicle is well equipped as well as practical, with ample rear legroom and a roomy 489 litre boot. Also included is an Android-powered vertical infotainment system with built-in Google apps and services, which is a big improvement over Volvo’s previous screen unit.

All in all, if you are going the EV route, the Volvo C40 could really hit a sweet spot if you’re shopping in the R1.3 million range.

The only real alternatives are the less powerful Mercedes EQA (140kW, from R1.17 million) and the BMW iX1 (230kW, from R1.2m) and of course Volvo’s own XC40 Twin Motor, which offers identical performance minus the fancy body and at R26,000 less.

We’d pay the extra money for the C40.

IOL Motoring