Volvo's first fully-electric model is finally here, and it could just be the most accessible EV out there right now.

Volvo is set on making half its lineup fully electric by 2025, but the company has only just recently launched its first EV model – the 2022 XC40 Recharge Pure Electric.

While it officially launched in Australia last year, global supply chain issues have seen the range already retooled to keep up with customer demand. Although originally promised as a 300kW all-wheel drive powerhouse, a 170kW front-wheel drive variant has also been added to the range to help get more examples of it on the roads.

However, it’s the full-fat AWD model we were given the keys to, which comes priced from $76,990 before on-road costs – an incredibly reasonable $4000 premium over the FWD model’s starting price.

It’s worth mentioning also that the Volvo XC40 Recharge Plug-in Hybrid has been killed off by the introduction of the Pure Electric models; it was only just introduced in 2020 as a short-term stepping stone between standard petrol versions and these new EV variants.

For the most part, you’ll be hard-pressed to pick the difference between a regular XC40 and this electric version. Beyond the blanked-out body-coloured front grille, the differences between this and a T5 R-Design are minimal.

That’s probably a good thing given many of its rivals at this price point – such as the Hyundai Ioniq 5 – can be a bit polarising, whereas the agreeable and attractive styling of the XC40 isn’t likely to put off anyone. Granted, it will look slightly different for 2023 as the model is set for a facelift, but it’s a pretty mild facelift at that.

Inside, there aren’t any major changes to speak of either. There’s no oddball shifter arrangement or funny steering wheel shape – it’s the same high-quality cabin you’d find in any other XC40.

With that said, it does feel its age a bit – the XC40 first launched in late 2017 and has barely changed since, so it feels somewhat old-school inside against its more modern EV competiton. However, with a cabin this practical and well-designed, there was no real need to change it.

There is at least one change where it matters, though – an entirely new infotainment operating system that runs off the Android Automotive platform. Admittedly, I was actually a fan of the old system, although many other reviewers weren’t as happy with it, but this new system is definitely a step up.

It uses Google Maps which is obviously a breeze to operate, and it will calculate how much range you should have left when you arrive at your destination. Although it’s missing a satellite view like some Audi models offer, that is set to come down the track as well.

However, it does feature Google Assistant voice control, as well as Google Play and Spotify integration, with your music or audiobooks played to you through a Harman Kardon audio system.

There’s plenty of charging data and settings you can easily go through as well, with the charging speed and maximum charge capacity able to be easily adjusted to help keep the battery healthy in the long term.

Plus, the 9.0-inch infotainment and 12.0-inch instrument cluster displays both look incredibly slick – the latter was the one that needed some improvement before, too.

The only other real change inside is the fact there’s no starter button anymore. Instead, you now simply open the door and hop behind the wheel, and it powers up automatically. This will be something familiar for Tesla owners, although it’s a bit odd if you’re used to having to press a button or turn a key.

Of course, the other big change is that when you open the bonnet, there’s a ‘frunk’ there instead of an engine.

In all-wheel drive models like this, you get an electric motor on each axle which together produce a stonking 300kW and 660Nm. That makes this unassuming SUV good for 0-100km/h in just 4.9 seconds.

Power is derived from a 78kWh battery back that gives it a promised 418km range. Using a public fast charger, Volvo claims you’ll be able to get from 10 to 80 percent in 40 minutes.

The first thing that strikes you when you do hop behind the wheel is just how smooth the Volvo XC40 Recharge Pure Electric is even by EV standards. Unless you set it to its one-pedal driving mode, the regenerative braking is incredibly minimal, meaning while it doesn’t automatically recoup as much energy, it feels far more normal to drive.

In AWD models, you get the Dynamic Chassis as well, meaning it’s incredibly comfortable no matter the road surface – despite the fact it’s on 20-inch rims and sporty Pirelli P Zero rubber – but also offers great responsiveness from behind the wheel.

Two levels of steering weightiness are on offer so you can choose whether you’d like it lighter or heavier; either way, it feels tight and direct. For an SUV, it’s a seriously good thing through the bends, with the low-slung battery pack of course helping keep the centre of gravity lower down.

Given how normal the Volvo XC40 Recharge feels – both design-wise and from behind the wheel – it really is easy to forget this thing is electric. Certainly, easier than in many other EVs that constantly remind you of it.

That is, of course, until you plant the accelerator pedal and it throws you back into your seat. That big torque figure can certainly be felt, although the gearing ratio has been carefully selected to help it feel more relaxed at higher speeds. Were it shorter, though, this thing could be an absolute weapon.

The wisely-selected gearing combined combined with the size of the battery ensures there’s enough range to largely keep the anxiety at bay. Over the course of my 470km driving it, I saw energy consumption of 22.0kWh/100km. At that rate, it would afford just under 355km per charge.

However, I was typically giving this thing a beating as you may expect. If you drive it more normally, you’ll find it hovers around the 19kWh/100km mark, making the promised range quite possible.

For those looking at the FWD model, you’ll find it offers slightly less range – 380km – due to its 68kWh battery pack. With a 170kW/330Nm electric motor up front, it’s also slower, getting from 0-100km/h in 7.4 seconds. It only features 19-inch wheels as well.

Do consider also that Volvo is set to release its next fully electric model here in Q3 2022 – the C40 Recharge Pure Electric. It’ll offer the same drivetrain options as the XC40, but in a more aerodynamic body.

While I’ve been critical of EVs in the past for perhaps not being as green as they should be in terms of their entire life cycle, Volvo is, at least, happy to address that point as well.

The company compiled an extensive report comparing lifetime CO2 emissions of the petrol-powered XC40 to this Pure Electric model. This level of transparency is something I, as a journalist, wholeheartedly appreciate.

This report found that the Pure Electric did produce fewer tonnes of CO2-equivalents – 54t to the ICE car’s 58t. However, it does acknowledge the EV has a shorter use phase, far greater emissions through production when including the battery, and that “the choice of electricity source in the use phase is a crucial factor in determining the total life cycle Carbon Footprint.”

That honesty alone tells me two things. One, Volvo has been very considerate about how it’s producing its EV models; and two, the company is only going to want to make them even more of a lower emitter with the next generation of models.

If you’re prepared to be an early adopter, though, I reckon the Volvo XC40 Recharge is possibly the best gateway yet from a conventional ICE car to an EV.

2022 Volvo XC40 Recharge Pure Electric AWD List Price: $76,990
  • 8.5/10
    Performance - 8.5/10
  • 8.5/10
    Ride & Handling - 8.5/10
  • 8/10
    Tech & Features - 8/10
  • 8.5/10
    Practicality - 8.5/10
  • 8/10
    Value for Money - 8/10

Pros: Looks and feels conventional, brilliant new Android Automotive infotainment system, incredibly smooth and powerful, brilliant ride and handling tuning
Cons: Feels a tad dated in some areas although a facelift model is coming, the arrival of the C40 will present a tough decision for which to actually buy

In a nutshell: As you’d perhaps expect, Volvo smashed it out of the park with its first EV model. The XC40 Recharge presents the perfect stepping stone from a traditional ICE car to an EV yet, offering the enticing performance of an electric car with none of the off-putting unfamiliarity.

Principal photography by Marcus Cardone. Additional photography by Patrick Jackson.

Full Disclosure: The vehicle tested here was provided by Volvo Cars Australia for a week and was fully charged upon delivery.

Patrick Jackson
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