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Car reviews - Volvo - XC40 - Recharge Plug-in

Our Opinion

We like
Handsome styling, strong powertrain, build quality, refinement, interior space, comfortable interior and ride.
Room for improvement
Inconsistent brake pedal, electric range doesn’t match claim, hefty price premium.

Volvo adds electrification to beloved XC40 portfolio and the results are mighty fine

29 Jun 2021



THE XC40 Recharge plug-in is the first electrified member of Volvo’s ever-popular compact SUV portfolio and a precursor to the looming Pure Electric version due here in August.


Not only is it the most expensive variant in the current XC40 line-up – until the BEV arrives – at $64,990 plus on-roads, it’s also comfortably the most powerful with its turbocharged 1.5-litre three-cylinder PHEV powertrain churning out a meaty 195kW – 10kW more than the T5 R-Design.


Volvo doesn’t quote a combined torque figure, but the force-fed little triple churns out a decent 265Nm all by itself (and contributes 135kW to the total 195). 


While the power output is impressive, it’s the XC40 Recharge’s economy figures that prove the most eye-catching.


Combined fuel consumption is rated at just 2.0 litres per 100km on the combined cycle while the all-electric driving range is rated at 46km thanks to its 10.7kWh lithium-ion battery.


We already know the XC40 is an extremely well-rounded drive, but we wanted to see if the PHEV version was a worthy addition to the range and if it could justify its $8000 price premium over the T5 R-Design.


Drive impressions


The XC40 has long been one of the best-looking SUVs on the market and the Recharge continues that trend by looking identical to the rest of the range save for a subtle ‘Recharge’ badge on the C-pillar and the extra flap covering the charging port.


Its interior is the same too, meaning everything is laid out logically with the majority of controls contained within the vertically oriented 9.0-inch infotainment touchscreen. 


The system itself is intuitive and easy to use with a crisp resolution and speedy functions.


Looking and reaching around the cabin, there is an abundance of premium feeling materials with no cheap or nasty plastics to be found anywhere and all the buttons and switches feeling sturdy and solid.


This premium sense of quality translates across to the driving experience, the XC40 Recharge being every bit as polished and refined as you would expect it to be – with the powertrain being one of the key highlights.


On a full charge, Volvo says its electrified little family hauler will cover around 46km on battery power alone before the internal combustion engine kicks in.


In the city or on an open freeway run without a headwind, you may well be able to achieve that figure but during our time with the car – a lot of which involved hilly country driving – we were lucky to cover even 30km on pure electric power.


When the petrol engine does eventually take over, it’s almost imperceptible with the only real indication that the little three-banger has activated being the activation of the tacho.


Rather than rely decidedly on electric power and petrol power separately, a much better solution is to just leave the little PHEV in ‘hybrid’ mode where it can alternate between to two fuel sources as it sees fit, something it does incredibly well.


Doing this will see the combined fuel figure comfortably dip below the 4.0L/100km mark, but we never saw the indicated figure get close to the claimed 2.0L/100km either in town or on the open road.


Speaking of the open road, one thing we were curious about was how frugal the turbo-three was without any electrical assistance.


On an extended run up the Kwinana freeway towards Perth with zero charge in the battery, the little petrol chugged away quite happily, returning an indicated and inoffensive 5.3L/100km at the end of the 80km cruise.


Getting caught up in the refinement and frugality of the powertrain can make it easy to forget just how much grunt this family-friendly little SUV actually has at its disposal.


Dial up ‘sport’ mode with even a drizzle of charge in the battery and the whole car suddenly feels like it’s straining at the leash, desperately wanting to launch up the road.


Plant the throttle and that is exactly what it does – the XC40 Recharge plug-in is a genuinely quick SUV more than capable of scaring and straight up passing most warm hatches.


It’s never going to be an SQ3 killer or GLA35 rival, but for an eco-friendly family hauler it’s almost uncanny.


What makes the grunt even more surprising is just comfortable, sedate and refined the XC40 is to drive.


There’s plenty of room in all directions for front and rear occupants alike, the seats are comfortable, supportive and almost infinitely adjustable and NVH levels are as good as you would expect from a $65,000 Volvo, all of which combine superbly with the sense of quality we mentioned earlier.


The chunky steering wheel feels great in your hands, with the steering itself being accurate and well-weighted, complemented nicely by the polished ride and competent body control through corners.


While the suspension does a fine job of ironing out and coping with the vast majority of bumps, the standard 20-inch alloy wheels and low-profile rubber mean smaller bumps, surface changes and irregularities can be felt though the cabin from time to time.


Our only real complaint with how the XC40 Recharge drives though is its inconsistent brake pedal, with the first few centimetres of pedal travel being light and totally devoid of any feel or support.


The brakes themselves are strong and dependable but we struggled consistently at coming to a smooth, gradual halt around town as the pedal seems to go from nothing to everything in the space of a few millimetres, often resulting in a jolting stopping experience.


Over time we’re sure you would get used to the system and eventually find the sweet spot, but over the course of our week with the car we never managed to fully perfect the stopping procedure.


Ultimately though the XC40 Recharge plug-in hybrid is a predictably well rounded, if slightly niche, premium SUV befitting its Volvo badge.


It’s typically handsome, extremely well built, spacious, comfortable and relatively economical – though not frugal as claimed – but we’re not sure about its $8000 price premium over the T5 R-Design.


If you specifically want a premium hybrid or plug-in hybrid compact SUV then it’s definitely a sound choice, but if the powertrain isn’t a contributing factor we’d save the $8000.

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