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In same-day, same-place comparisons at the AJAC Eco Run, the Genesis averaged 17.4 kWh/100 km to the Volvo’s 18.6.Jeremy Sinek /The Globe and Mail

If you want a small, premium electric SUV that doesn’t look like a box, you don’t have to stretch your wallet to a Tesla Model Y. Several less-expensive products have recently entered this curved-roof corner of the luxury-crossover EV segment, including these two subcompacts.

The new-this-year Genesis GV60 brings a different shape that leaves you wondering exactly what category it occupies (Genesis calls it a coupe SUV). The Volvo C40 Recharge is essentially an XC40 with a fastback silhouette; unlike its boxier sibling, however, the C40 comes only as a full electric.

The Volvo starts at $59,950 for the Core trim, but you could get that up to $69,995 (Plus package) or $74,600 (Ultimate). The more expensive models add luxury, convenience and safety features, but no more performance than the standard 300 kilowatts.

The Volvo is a better performance value than the “base” Genesis GV60 Advanced, which brings only 234 kilowatts at its $71,150 suggested price. However, if you spring $79,000 for the Performance model tested here, you get 320 kilowatts routinely, with an available “overboost” to 360 for up to 10 seconds.

Complicating the price comparisons, Genesis pricing is all-inclusive, while freight, pre-delivery inspection (PDI) and other fees have to be added to the Volvo. On the other hand, only the Volvo qualifies for the federal $5,000 iZev rebate because it has a suggested base price of less than the $60,000 maximum.

Looks

The Genesis looks longer and lower than the Volvo.Jeremy Sinek /The Globe and Mail

The Genesis looks longer and lower than the Volvo because, well, it is. That said, only you can decide whether you prefer the voluptuousness of the Genesis, with its cab-forward proportions and clamshell hood, or the chunky, pugnacious Tonka-toy shape of the Volvo.

Interior

The C40’s cockpit doesn’t overly challenge one’s tolerance for change.Jeremy Sinek /The Globe and Mail

A low-profile dashboard on the GV60 is topped by a superwide free-standing glass panel housing two 12.3-inch screens – a digital gauge cluster in front of the driver, and an infotainment screen to the right. There’s plenty of actual knobs and switches but their bright metallic finish renders them challenging to read. A floating centre console above the flat floor is home to a twist/toggle/tap screen interface, plus a “fortune-teller’s” crystal ball that provides mood lighting when the car is off, and rotates to become the rotary drive selector when you’re ready to go.

All this imaginativeness leaves the C40′s cockpit looking decidedly traditional by comparison. Its gauge cluster is also a screen, but inhabits a conventional place on the dashboard. The vertical infotainment screen (powered by Google Android) resides separately on the centre stack. A toggle-style shift handle sits atop a traditional centre console that creates a barrier between the front foot wells. Getting comfortable isn’t difficult, but the overall effect is intimate (claustrophobes beware), in contrast with the GV60′s “open space” theme.

In terms of space, airiness and new-age design, the Genesis is everything the Volvo is not.Jeremy Sinek /The Globe and Mail

Numerous standard Genesis comfort-and-convenience features, including power passenger seat, heated steering wheel and heated rear seats, need the expensive Ultimate pack on the C40. And no C40 at any price has Genesis party tricks like face-recognition unlocking, and fingerprint-reading keyless start.

For passengers, the C40 is about as roomy as you’d expect in its size class while the GV60 is a space-efficiency overachiever. Most notably, it contains about 75 millimetres more overall legroom than its smaller-on-the-outside rival.

Performance

The GV60’s gauge cluster can be configured in a variety of ways.Jeremy Sinek /The Globe and Mail

Their range figures are unremarkable, but the GV60′s 378-kilometre claim (Performance model) edges the Volvo’s 364 (battery capacities are almost identical at 77.4 and 78 kilowatt hours, respectively). Both can recharge in about eight hours at 11 kilowatts on a Level 2 charger. On a suitable DC fast charger, the 800-volt Genesis can go from 10 to 80 per cent in 16 minutes; the 400-volt Volvo is limited to 149 kilowatts and takes 31 minutes (figures from ev-database.org).

That’s one kind of speed. The other is the GV60 Performance model’s ripping four-second run to 100 kilometres an hour, which beats the Volvo’s claimed 4.7 seconds (as well it should, for a $20,000 higher price). That said, we’d expect the Volvo to be quicker than the base GV60.

The Volvo is entertaining in a frisky-puppy way, with lively, taut steering and immediate acceleration off the line (unlike in some EVs, you don’t feel the power is being modulated at launch to prevent wheel-spin). With little in the way of adjustable this and automatically variable that, its dynamics feel real and consistent. What you feel is what you get – including, it must be said, a somewhat restless ride quality.

In contrast, the GV60 Performance (the only version we’ve driven) provides multiple ways to adjust the drive experience, governing performance, suspension, steering, brakes and traction. It even has a Drift mode. That said, we were surprised to find that without even trying to drift, the Genesis feels as if the tail end could let go when pushed hard? if it weren’t reined in by stability control. Even more surprising, that trait was more evident in the default Comfort mode. Switching to Sport mode settled it down without sacrificing much of its superior ride quality.

The Volvo’s digital gauge cluster is more avant-garde, but resides in a conventional binnacle.Jeremy Sinek /The Globe and Mail

For all its adjustability, the GV60 Performance left us lamenting the days when the best cars had just one chassis configuration, done right.

Technology

The GV60′s higher base price reflects its even richer level of standard features. Most notably, the Volvo needs the $14,650 Ultimate pack to get adaptive cruise and other driver-assistance features that are standard on the base GV60. And only the Genesis has a head-up display.

Cargo

The Volvo’s cargo area is smaller, but scores high on versatility and usability.Jeremy Sinek /The Globe and Mail

The GV60′s cargo volumes (680 litres seats up, 1,550 seats down) comfortably exceed segment norms, and the C40′s (413 and 1,205) fall short. The Volvo, however, is more user-friendly; it has a pass-through hatch for items like skis, its seat backs fold flatter, and there’s an available foldable load floor/divider. And while each has a front truck (frunk), the Volvo’s is big enough to take the charging cable.

The GV60’s trunk trades some versatility and user-friendliness for increased space.Jeremy Sinek /The Globe and Mail

The verdict

Both vehicles are in tight supply, but for my tastes, I’d try to find a base C40. Its $60,000-ish price gets you a fast, fun-to-drive EV in a relatively conservative, conventional wrapping – an electric wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing. Your priorities, however, might differ. At give-or-take $70,000, for example, the mid-level Volvo Plus pack is faster than the “base” GV60 Advanced, but the Genesis delivers more space, comfort and features, with love-it-or-loathe-it aesthetics. Moving up to about $75,000, the Volvo Ultimate pack closes the gap on features, but for another $4,000, the GV60 Performance goes ahead on performance.

Tech specs

Genesis GV60 Performance

Base price/as tested: $71,150/$79,000

Powertrain: Dual electric motors, total 320 kilowatts (430 horsepower) with “overboost” to 360

Transmission/drive: One-speed/all-wheel drive

Energy consumption (Litres of fuel equivalent per 100 kilometres): 2.4 city/2.9 highway

Alternatives: Audi Q4 e-tron, Kia EV6, Mercedes EQB, Volvo XC40, Volvo C40

Volvo C40 Recharge

Base price/as tested: $59,950/$74,600

Powertrain: Dual electric motors, 300 kilowatts (402 horsepower)

Transmission/drive: One-speed/all-wheel drive

Energy consumption (Litres of fuel equivalent per 100 kilometres): 2.5 city/2.9 highway

Alternatives: Audi Q4 e-tron, Genesis GV60, Kia EV6, Mercedes EQB

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