Review: 2021 Volvo XC40 T5 Recharge - The gateway drug to pure EV ownership
Arif · May 9, 2021 08:49 AM
Owning a PHEV is a gateway drug to a full-fledged EV ownership. That was exactly my thoughts after driving the 2021 Volvo XC40 T5 Recharge for a couple of days.
You get the silent start-up, instantaneous torque, special parking spots, and the ability to charge the car at your own porch. And you get all that without having to worry about range anxiety or charging station hoggers. Good stuff.
However, it takes a special kind of taste to appreciate the Volvo XC40 T5 Recharge. Hybrid system aside, its exterior styling is not “classic and iconic” like a MINI, and its interior styling is rather sombre when compared to a compact SUV from Mercedes-Benz.
It wins easily over something like the BMW X1, but the XC40 could use a little bit more flair to stand out.
Exterior – Car designers have become no different than fridge designers
I’ll be honest here, the styling of the XC40 is not in any way iconic. Yes, its sedan and station wagon siblings look fantastic, but the XC40 merely adopts the familial look. It is unmistakably a Volvo, but not the best-looking Volvo you can get.
Nonetheless, the XC40 looks youthful with the compact proportions and vibrant styling balancing out the rather serious-looking face that it has.
It strikes a good balance between maturity and youthfulness and one could say, that it is quite sophisticated.
However, I do find that the XC40 doesn’t manage to break away from the typical look of the compact SUVs. In “Coral Red” especially, it almost looks ubiquitous.
With cheaper compact SUVs imitating the XC40’s looks, it feels as if the exclusive feeling of owning one has been compromised.
My suggestion then, is to get in a colour that is more distinctive from the common compact SUVs.
Interior – Sombre or mature? You decide
Although sriking a good balance on the outside, things are very serious and mature inside the cabin of the XC40. Other than the slight sprinkle of patterns across the mid-dashboard, there’s nothing else to cheer up the ambience.
Depending on your taste, the interior of the Volvo XC40 can be described as either depressingly sombre or proudly mature.
Lack of colour aside, the XC40’s cabin is made with decent materials. The tactile points give off a decent and well-built feeling and the well-integrated hard plastics are almost unnoticeable.
The felt-lined door pockets give the cabin a cosier feeling, although they may be impractical in the event of spillage.
What about the seats? They're very supportive. And the Nubuck textile running down the centre offer a soft yet grippy texture that prevents you from sliding about.
Passenger space is decent as the XC40 offers ample space for 4 adults. 5 adults can sit comfortably too, although we would not suggest it for long journeys.
Being a PHEV, a little bit of storage space is compromised, but the XC40 is still very practical.
There is no spare wheel as the 12V battery and the charging cable compartment have been placed under the boot floor.
And like the Volvo S60 T8 PHEV, the hybrid battery compromises the storage space in the centre console.
Driving experience - Zippy
As a quick runabout for the family, the XC40 drives excellently. It’s no performance hybrid, but the hybrid boost makes it zippy and gives you confidence when merging lanes and exiting junctions. It basically allows you to enjoy surface-level benefits of an EV.
In our century sprint test, the XC40 T5 Recharge PHEV clocked 7.7 seconds - not astonishing, but good enough for a what it is.
It is easy to drive. Even when only running on the electric motor, the vehicle's speed is still easy to control, allowing you to inch closer in tight parking spaces with ease.
The transition from electric motor to combustion engine is smooth, albeit the noticeable 3-cylinder sound.
It is no grand tourer, but the 1.5-itre turbocharged engine (180 PS/265 Nm) provides enough power for a decent experience on the highway. Paired to the engine is a 7-speed wet DCT.
Together with the electric motor, a combined total power output of 262 PS and a combined total torque of 425 Nm is achieved.
Those with a passion for driving may find the hybrid brakes annoying as they feel more digital than analogue. However, the average commuter may not have any problem with this at all.
The suspension leans on the firmer side, allowing you to chuck the XC40 around a little bit in the corners.
Ride comfort - Firm and satisfactory
From the outside, the XC40 can get a little bit noisy. Even in fully-electric mode, the fan noise can be heard from a distance. The three-cylinder chatter, as mentioned earlier, is also quite noticeable.
On the inside however, the XC40 T5 Recharge does feel refined. You almost don’t hear any sound from under the bonnet unless you pay close attention.
Sharp bumps on the road invade the cabin slightly, but for a compact SUV, the overall ride of the XC40 is fluent.
Admittingly, the added weight of the PHEV system compromises the ride as it we find the combustion engine version of the XC40 rides more commfortably.
Our cabin noise test reported some unimpressive readings (69 dB at 110 km/h), but subjectively, the cabin noise is at a minimum, with wind noise being the most apparent.
Volvo XC40 T5 Recharge cabin noise levels
The cabin is also roomy and the plush materials give off a cosy and welcoming feeling.
The sporty-looking seats are actually very comfortable to sit in. Excellent lumbar support as always from Volvo’s current line-up.
Fuel/Energy consumption – the EV range is not impressive
To obtain the best fuel consumption figures for the Volvo XC40 T5 Recharge, you will need to be very disciplined in driving and charging the car.
In our fuel consumption test (with initial charge of 80%), we managed to obtain a fuel consumption rate of 5.9 l/100km. The car was set to “hybrid” mode for the entire test duration and the test route (113.8 km) was 50% highway and 50% city.
The EV range doesn’t last that long, going almost flat after 20-30km of driving in “hybrid” mode and driving at a normal pace.
It can feel a bit disappointing if you’ve charged your car for a few hours (with a standard electric socket) only to have the battery deplete so fast.
Unfortunately, the XC40 T5 recharge can only be charged at a rate of 3.7 kW (AC charging) at best.
Of course, there is an option to charge the battery with the combustion engine, but it takes away from the EV experience.
The current battery in the XC40 T5 Recharge only has a capacity of 10.7 kWh with a claimed BEV range of 44 km.
If you want to give electrification a try, the Volvo XC40 T5 recharge is a decent option. It provides a partial EV experience that is good enough considering the still-developing EV infrastructure and policies in Malaysia.
As a PHEV, the XC40 provides a satisfactory experience. Although I may complain of the small battery capacity, it is still quite large for PHEV standards. Its refined powertrain gives you a smooth driving experience, almost like that of a full EV.
As a family runabout vehicle, the XC40 is a breeze to drive and is very welcoming to passengers of all shapes and sizes.
As a fashion statement, the XC40 is still quite subtle when compared to compact SUVs from MINI and Mercedes-Benz. It is still a desirable compact SUV, with cheaper brand models imitating its looks.
It is a great introduction to those who have never tried anything electrified.
Previously an engineer in an automotive manufacturing company and a highway concessionaire. A part-time research student on biofuels and diesel engines. Obsessed with vehicle electrification and the future of transportation.