Volvo XC40 Recharge Pure Electric (2020 - 2023) used car review

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By Jonathan Crouch

Introduction

The XC40 Recharge Pure Electric crossover is pretty much everything you'd expect a Volvo full-EV model to be. This fashionable battery-powered compact premium SUV offers a choice of single motor and twin motor drivetrains, the latter with a prodigious output of 408hp. The drawback is premium pricing but otherwise, a lot of boxes seem to have been ticked here. Let's check this car out as a used buy.

Models

5dr SUV (EV)

History

Electrification is the biggest change the motor industry has seen in decades. Which for Volvo back in 2020, made the introduction of its very first full-EV, the XC40 P8 (later re-badged the 'Recharge Pure Electric') one of the most significant milestones in this Swedish brand's history.

The XC40 sits on the same CMA platform used for the fully-electric Polestar 2 model, so it was pretty straightforward to create a milkfloat mobility version of this little SUV. Mind you, with 408hp on tap from the Twin Motor version that was first put on sale, this car was a long way from milkfloat mobility. In 2021, a front-driven smaller-battery 69kWh Recharge Pure Electric model joined the range. And in 2022, Volvo introduced a sleeker C40 Recharge body shape too.

In Spring 2023, the XC40 Recharge Pure Electric got some really far-reaching changes; a switch from front to rear-wheel drive for the base 'Single Motor' version; and different front and rear e-motors for the 'Twin Motor' version. Plus faster charging times and higher EV driving range figures across the line-up. It's the earlier 2020 to early-2023-era models though, that we examine here from a used buyer's perspective.

What You Get

The main visual difference marking out this Recharge Pure Electric XC40 model is its blanked-off front grille, which is rarely a great adornment for an EV - and isn't here. Otherwise, there's the XC40's usual 'robot-inspired' styling, plus piercing 'Thor's Hammer' LED headlights and a clamshell bonnet.

From the side, this battery-powered remit of this Pure Electric variant is difficult to spot; there's a 'Recharge' badge on the sharply angled rear C-pillar but that's about it. Even the charging flap looks exactly like a fuel filler cap. Otherwise, this BEV XC40 variant has all the hallmarks of a well equipped XC40 including a contrast-coloured 'Black Stone' roof, High Gloss Black integrated roof rails and big wheels, usually 19-inches in size but 20-inchers on the top version of the 'Twin Motor' model.

You might do better identifying this Volvo's Zero Emissions BEV status at the rear; there's an identifying badge and of course, tail pipes are absent. Like any other XC40, this one rides on the brand's 'Compact Modular Architecture' platform, which is why it rolled down the same Ghent factory production line as its combustion-fuelled range stablemates.

At the wheel, you get the usual cool Scandinavian vibe that helped to make the XC40 one of the best selling premium-badged compact SUVs of its kind. Which means digital dials, a dose of Swedish minimalism and door bins bigger than any you'll have ever seen (because the lower door cards don't have to accommodate big audio speakers). The two screens do of course incorporate specific EV features. The 12.3-inch 'Progressive Driver Display' you view through the 3-spoke wheel has a speed meter on the left and a drive meter on the right, the latter showing you whether you're using battery charge or regenerating it. And the 9-inch Centre Console Portrait Touch Screen can show a location map with marked charging points, along with charging and 'Driving' sections, the latter allowing you to select a 'One Pedal Drive' option that maximises the effect of regenerative braking. The central monitor also showcases Volvo's Android infotainment set-up which includes worldwide navigation to Google Maps, advanced voice recognition by Google Assistant and access to the Google Play Store for a range of in-car apps.

The rear of the cabin is exactly as it would be in any other XC40 and headroom remains generous, even though the system battery pack is sitting right below your feet. Even the top model's panoramic glass roof shouldn't compromise head space too much unless you're exceptionally lanky. We're not so keen on the way that the angled style of the rear C-pillar might create something of a claustrophobic feel in the back for younger folk; if you've children, take them along on the test drive to make sure they'll be happy there.

The central positioning of that battery pack means that boot space isn't compromised either. The standard powered tailgate rises to reveal 452-litres of it. There are some really nice convenience touches in the cargo area, principally a neat divider, which can rise and divide the space laterally to stop your shopping from sliding around. The hinges of this divider even stand proud of its top edge, giving you hooks from which you can hang shopping bags.

Fold the rear bench forward and up to 1,328-litres of total capacity is revealed if you load to the roof. That's only 67-litres less than you'd get in Volvo's larger XC60. Because no engine is needed beneath the clamshell bonnet, Volvo used the space to create a 'frunk', a 31-litre space that's perfect for the two provided charge leads.

What You Pay

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What to Look For

There aren't many major issues here, other than a few electrical and software issues; go thoroughly over all the powered and infotainment functions of the car you're looking at. Eventually, when the battery is on its way out, you'll obviously find that it won't go as far on each charge - and when it starts to run low on charge, you'll find that the car will particularly start to struggle going uphill.

If the car won't charge, it could be a problem with your home electrics (or those at the public charge point you're using). Check the charge light to make sure that electricity really is going through the charge port. And make sure there really is charge in the socket you're using to power from - plug something else into it to see - say, your 'phone. If that charges OK, it could be that your charging cable is demanding too much power, so try another power source. Another problem could be that the circuit may have tripped due to a circuit overload. Or perhaps there could be a problem with the charge cable: this needs to be cared for properly. Repeatedly driving over it (as previous owners may conceivably have done) will damage it eventually. Make sure you do a charge-up before signing for the car you're looking at. When you do this, make sure that when you plug in to start the charge cycle you hear the charge port and the cable locking and engaging as they should; that's all part of the charger basically confirming with the car's onboard computer that everything's good to go before releasing power. But if the charging cable fails to lock as it should, then that won't happen. If there is a failure to lock, the issue could be actuator failure, caused by a blown fuse.

Otherwise, it's just the usual things; look out for stone chips and alloy wheel scratches. And insist on a fully stamped-up service history.

Replacement Parts

(approx based on a 2021 XC40 Recharge Pure Electric Twin Motor ex VAT) A wiper blade will cost you from about £11 to around £34. Front brake pads sit in the £67 bracket; rears will sit in the £33 bracket. Front brake discs sit in the £58 bracket; a pair of rear discs are about £87. An pollen filter is around £18-£31.

On the Road

The AWD version of this XC40 Pure Electric uses the larger 78kWh battery pack and twin electric motor set-up (one on each axle) that by 2020 we had already seen on the top version of the extremely rapid Polestar 2 EV sports saloon. There's 408hp on tap (yes, you heard that right), which seems like it'd be rather excessive for the needs of most likely customers. Which is probably why Volvo also offered lower-powered front driven versions of this Pure Electric Recharge model. But in the AWD variant, you have to have the gutsiest powerpack, which sprints you to 62mph from rest in just 4.9s with more torque than you'd get in a Nissan GT-R super sports car - 660Nm of it, at which point, the motor's spinning at a heady 14,000rpm.

The driving range on offer isn't quite what you'd get from that equivalent Polestar 2 - or some notable rivals. With earlier XC40 Recharge Pure Electric Twin Motor models, Volvo quoted a best of up to 270 miles, which was 32 miles less than the original dual motor Polestar 2's figure, that deficit being down to this XC40's boxier shape. The Single Motor 69kWh version was rated at up to 264 miles in its earliest form. To get the claimed mileages, you'll need to engage what the Swedish maker calls 'One Pedal Drive', selectable from the 'Driving' menu provided on the centre-dash screen. This dramatically increases the regenerative braking effect when you come off the throttle, to the point where, as advertised, the brake pedal will hardly ever be needed. As for charging, well a 0-80% charge can take just 40 minutes using a 150kW DC fast charger. A full charge using the onboard AC charger plugged into your garage wallbox will take 8 hours.

Overall

This XC40 Recharge Pure Electric model is a very well engineered little electric vehicle. But, like all its direct rivals, it costs quite a considerable amount. And then there are the usual EV issues: not only that you might run out of range but also that you might turn up at a charging point and find it's out of order - or there's a queue. Or perhaps you'll plug your EV in at night, then an hour later find out that you're required 150 miles away with only 80 miles charged into the battery.

There are lots of things we like though, about what Volvo tried to do here. Like the sophisticated Google-based tech for the media and Pilot Assist driving systems; and the practical front storage area. The brand's really thought carefully here, not only about what customers might want but also what they might really need in a premium EV of this kind. Which makes this XC40 Recharge Pure Electric model a difficult car to ignore if you're seeking a premium compact crossover from the 2020 to 2023 era that allows you to more easily make that seismic switch to EV motoring. It's an electric vehicle; with a bit more of a spark.

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