The rate of new electric vehicles hitting the market is rapidly increasing as automakers like Volvo set deadlines for electrification. So, it’s going to be increasingly more important to separate out the compliance vehicles, like the Mazda MX-30, from the serious contenders, like the 2022 C40 Recharge.
This first electric-only vehicle from Volvo is a little quirky but has a lot going for it in terms of range and drivability. The media drive whetted my appetite for this petite EV, and I can’t wait to get more time behind the wheel. Here’s why.
I’m a sucker for cool design, and the 2022 Volvo C40 Recharge has it in spades. The press preview showcased the Fjord Blue exterior paint, paired with the blue interior accents. And by “accents,” I mean blue carpet and door materials that pop. Paired with a dark interior seating surfaces, this blue looks refreshingly bright – and I love it.
Volvo trends toward minimalist with its design, so the simple dash with textured topographic map panels makes a huge difference in the visual interest arena. The gearshift is also a bit of an art piece with the empty center and trapezoidal shape.
It’s also worth noting that the C40 Recharge doesn’t offer leather surfaces anywhere – not on the steering wheel, shifter or seats. While the name of the game isn’t entirely vegan, it is all about recycled and sustainably sourced materials. This is also on the plus side as the materials throughout the vehicle are attractive and tactilely pleasing.
The one thing I could do without: black lacquer.
One of the biggest issues people have with EVs is range anxiety. Compounding that issue is the inaccuracy of available range as presented by the trip computer. It says you have a certain number of miles, but do you really? On more than one EV test drive, I’ve started with one range and ended up with something vastly different than the car predicted. That’s a scary, scary thought – especially if you’re traveling in a location like the Midwest where fast charging is rare and working Level 2 chargers are at a premium.
With the limited time I spent in the C40 Recharge, I found the predictive range estimates to be fairly accurate, and within 1 or 2 miles I used the amount of range I expected to use for miles driven.
One of the cool things about the 2022 C40 Recharge is it uses a Google-powered operating system. This means the native navigation is Google maps with accurate, crowd-sourced, real-time traffic as well as topographic features. So, when you program your destination into the nav, it’ll not only tell you how long it will take you to get there but also how much range you’ll have left when you get there.
I tested this out, and again considering the limited time I had with the vehicle, the Google map estimate was spot on.
Speaking of Google things, because this system is basically a big Android phone, you’ll get Google Assistant and access to the Google Play store for vehicle-approved app purchases. All of this Googley-ness works really well together, including the voice-activated commands for things like navigation and HVAC controls
The funny ha-ha surprise: Google Assistant can tell jokes. I’ve played around with this on Siri for a while (iPhone users should ask Siri what 0 divided by 0 is), and it’s always good for a laugh. So, I’ve started asking various voice-operated car systems to tell me jokes. Some say “I don’t understand what you’re asking,” but the Google Assistant in the C40 Recharge will actually tell you a joke – complete with sound effects.
The funny weird surprise: All things Google on the C40 Recharge are subscription based. While the vehicle comes with a 4-year complimentary subscription, after the subscription ends, you’ll have to pay up to keep access to things like the internet, assistant and maps. I asked Volvo to clarify what happens when the subscription ends, but apparently the system is so new and 4 years is a long way away. So, the gist of the answer is: I dunno.
The specific reply I received from a spokesperson was this: “In order to maintain access to Google Services, including data, the customer will need an active subscription. If the customer opts not to renew the subscription, they will no longer have access to Google Services. In terms of the actual UX in the car without a subscription, while we are not able to share further details at this time our focus is on providing an intuitive customer experience in our cars.”
To me, that says, you get a blank screen instead of a map if you don’t feel like shelling out extra cash on a subscription.
To complicate matters, the Google-powered system doesn’t have Apple CarPlay. Yet. Volvo execs have said it’s coming but haven’t specified a time frame. If it’s within the 4-year-subscription period, that would be a viable maps alternative, but CarPlay inherently won’t play nice with the Android system, and you wouldn’t get your range estimates like you do on the Google Map system.
Something else to note: Because this is already essentially an Android phone, Android Auto is not available, and there are no plans to make it available.
Because the 2022 C40 Recharge is on the compact side of the spectrum, it actually has a lot of fun-to-drive dynamics. It is a single spec model with all-wheel drive and a dual motor setup that delivers 402 horsepower and 486 pound-feet of torque.
We went through a fair amount of twists and turns during the preview, and the C40 Recharge handled them well. Plus, with the one-pedal drive system, I found that I could speed up and slow down perfectly just by controlling the pressure on the accelerator pedal. This somehow made it even more fun to drive.
Another bonus, the seats, in typical Volvo fashion, are ergonomically correct and really comfortable.
The downside will be a max range of about 226 miles, so this might still be more of an around-town vehicle for someone who has a second vehicle for longer drives and road trips. The good news, however, is if you can find a 150 kW DC fast charging station, you can charge up from 10% to 80% in about 37 minutes.
The 2022 C40 Recharge is the same size as the XC40 Recharge, which is also all-electric. But the big differentiator will be the sloping rear roofline. While I like how this looks, it does create a few problems.
First and foremost, rear visibility will be hindered by the narrow rear window. Your field of vision is very small, and you really only have good visibility of closer vehicles out the back. So, I found myself using my side mirrors a lot more to pay attention to vehicles that were further afield.
The other two issue created by the coupe-like styling involve passenger space and cargo volume. You’ll have less capacity for both. In fact, anyone taller than average will have a very difficult fit in the back seat. I had someone who was about 6-feet-tall sit in the back, and he looked squished, plus his head was touching the headliner.
I liked the 2022 C40 Recharge, but it’s really meant for someone who doesn’t have to carry rear-seat passengers on a regular basis and won’t need it for a road trip. I also really like the single-spec approach. In fact, the only option available is metallic paint. Otherwise, the C40 Recharge is a WYSIWYG, and carries a single price tier of $59,445.
From my perspective, I’d put the C40 Recharge toward the top of my EV like list – along with the Ford Mustang Mach-E. It’s attractive, well-equipped and fun to drive. The only thing that gives me pause is the Android operating system and what happens once the 4-year trial for Google Services ends.