2021 Volvo XC40 Recharge Review: First Drive

Kyle Patrick
by Kyle Patrick
On paper, pizza is pretty much the perfect food.

Every food group is present. It runs the gamut, from affordable to fancy. Pizza is the great equalizer, the obvious party food choice. Do you really trust anybody who dislikes the ‘za? Or the heretics, like the folks who eat their pizza ice cold?

Similarly, the XC40 is a great sub-compact premium SUV. It’s stylish, comfortable, fun to drive, and practical. For 2021, Volvo has introduced a new flavor, the all-electric XC40 Recharge. It essentially takes the recipe from the Polestar 2 and sticks it in a new pint-size pan.

SEE ALSO: 2021 Polestar 2 First Drive Review

Even on a too-short first drive, it’s clear Volvo’s got a tasty offering here. Like a fresh margherita pizza though, it’s clearly best enjoyed at a warmer temperature.

Battery Transplant

The XC40 Recharge rides on the same CMA platform as its traditionally-powered brethren, designed from the start to accept electrification. The 78.0-kWh battery pack sits in the floor, sending electrons to a pair of 201-horsepower motors, one at each axle. That makes this particular XC40 one of the most powerful Volvos you can buy (402 hp, 486 lb-ft of torque), despite also being the smallest model. Then again, it’s a chunker, overloading the scales to the tune of 4,740 lb (2,150 kg). That’s significantly more than a Tesla Model Y, and right in line with big brother XC90.

Like most other EVs though, the XC40 masks its weight well when the right pedal drops. Once you move past a slight hesitation at the top of the pedal, the squared-off rig surges forward without fuss. Volvo says the run to 62 mph (100 km/h) takes just 4.9 seconds—a second and a half quicker than the gas-powered model. Right in the thick of the largest single snow drop of the year, the Recharge felt good for that number. It will surprise you come time for a multi-car pass on the highway.


Motor: 2x electric motors, 78-kWh battery
Output: 402 hp, 486 lb-ft
Transmission: 1AT, AWD
US fuel economy (MPGe): 85/72/79
CAN fuel economy (Le/100KM): 2.8/3.3/3.0
Starting Price (USD): $55,085 (inc. dest.)
As-Tested Price (USD): $58,630 (inc. dest.)
Starting Price (CAD): $66,965 (inc. dest.)
As-Tested Price (CAD): $72,215 (inc. dest.)

As quick as it is, the XC40 can never truly outrun the effect the extra battery weight has on it. Volvo’s engineers are very smart, but they’re not magicians: the laws of physics still apply. Turn-in on dry surfaces feels slightly slower than the gas-powered XC40 I drove late last year. It’s by no means ponderous, however, with the same crisp, light steering feel from the wheel. On the flip side, all that extra weight being so low down in the chassis keeps the Recharge very level through turns. It rides with grace, soaking up bumps and keeping the cabin comfy and quiet. Sportier driving modes inject weight into the steering, but like the gas XC40, the regular mode feels best.

Android-Infused Interior

The general Recharge interior experience is the same as the rest of the XC40, which is a very good thing indeed. It’s a high-quality space, with excellent front seats nailing the balance between comfort and support. All of the clever practical touches are here too, from the built-in trash receptacle to the bag hook on the glovebox. No, the bigger change is the switch to the Android Automotive infotainment system, the first such application for Volvo.

SEE ALSO: 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E Review: First Drive

Right from the off, the new setup is snappier in its responses. The clean layout makes the most of the 9.0-inch screen, with clear, familiar icons for the most-used apps. If you have an Android phone you should feel right at home, though even this iPhone user was able to quickly get comfy. The almighty Google also powers the voice assistant, which responds quickly and accurately to natural voice commands. Navigation, climate, audio (via Spotify)—it all works without issue. That’s a big deal for the tech-forward target buyer. Drivers can also customize the 12.3-inch digital instrument panel. Google Maps shines here, keeping directions front and center.

The switch also enables over-the-air (OTA) updates. The Recharge includes four years of 4G LTE data, so buyers can easily update for new features. They’ll want to: at the time of testing, satellite radio and Apple CarPlay were both planned for future updates.

Second-row adult passengers will find enough head- and legroom, though going three-wide is best avoided except on short trips. Trunk space is only fractionally smaller than gas models, at 16.0 cubic feet (452 liters) with all seats up. Drop the rear row and you’ll find 46.9 cubes (1,328 liters). Plus, there’s a small frunk in the nose for the charger cable and other gubbins.

Short-Range Volvo

Volvo rates the XC40 at 208 miles (335 km) of range. On the face of it, that’s low, but acceptable—most EV charging happens at home, remember. An 11-kW on-board charger is standard. Hook up to 220-volt wall outlet and you’ll see a full charge in around eight hours. A 150-kW DC fast charger can top up 80 percent of the battery in 40 minutes.

Boy does winter change things, though. We picked up the Recharge with a healthy 99-percent battery. After only 75 miles (120 km), the battery was showing just 40 percent juice remaining. Yes, the Recharge had to contend with snow, slush, and a photo shoot. Even still, shaving over a third off the expected range is a tough pill to swallow. Complicating matters, for reasons unknown to us, Volvo has decided to not show the remaining range, only the charge, until the Recharge falls below 25 percent. Sorry, you’ll have to do the math in your head—or ask Google, we suppose.

Buyers looking to travel longer stretches will aim for the Model Y (326 miles / 525 km) and Hyundai Kona EV (258 miles / 415 km).

Verdict: 2021 Volvo XC40 Recharge First Drive Review

The XC40 remains one of the best sub-compact SUVs on the market, and the Recharge adds another appealing angle. It sacrifices none of the recipe’s inherent practicality or style.

There’s some pineapple on this pizza though, in the shape of its short range, especially in chillier climes. The Recharge is a pricey pie, too: as tested, this Sage Green model rings up at $58,630 ($72,215 CAD), including destination. Depending on where you live, you can take advantage of different federal or state/provincial rebates—something not necessarily available in Elon’s world.

The 2021 XC40 Recharge is fun to drive, and has one of the better infotainment systems out there now. If your particular use case doesn’t exceed its meagre range—and you live somewhere more year-round warm than Toronto—this could be just the right slice.

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  • Strong, accessible power
  • New Android infotainment
  • Same great interior


  • Cold weather decimates range
  • Pricey for the size
  • Tight rear seat
Kyle Patrick
Kyle Patrick

Kyle began his automotive obsession before he even started school, courtesy of a remote control Porsche and various LEGO sets. He later studied advertising and graphic design at Humber College, which led him to writing about cars (both real and digital). He is now a proud member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC), where he was the Journalist of the Year runner-up for 2021.

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