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The C40 retains the SUV-coupe look.Jeremy Sinek/The Globe and Mail

The concept of planned obsolescence may not be as cynically manipulative as it once was, but most automakers still practise mid-life freshenings that are little more than a cosmetic nip ‘n’ tuck, plus perhaps a larger touchscreen or added driver-assist features.

Not so with Volvo’s 2024 redo of its C40 and XC40 Recharge electric crossover siblings. Here the alterations are all about powertrains, and they’re nothing minor.

Previously, Volvo’s little battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) were sold in Canada only in all-wheel-drive twin-motor configuration, with a 150-kilowatt motor on each axle, while the single-motor version in other markets was front-wheel drive. Now, the single motor has migrated to the rear, while the twin has a more powerful motor in its tail than the one in its nose (the XC40 is also available with a gas engine, but the C40 is BEV only).

The single-motor rear-wheel-drive (RWD) option now replaces the all-wheel-drive (AWD) version as the cheapest C40 option, since getting AWD now requires an extra fee. The AWD version in 2023 started at $59,950, the same price as this RWD version for 2024.

The motors are all-new, and of Volvo’s own design. In the RWD model, now in Canada and tested here, the motor is rated at 185 kilowatts. The twin’s front and rear motors generate 110 and 190 kilowatts, respectively. Battery size is unchanged at 79 kilowatt-hours, but higher motor efficiency and a 5-per-cent improvement in battery power density stretch official range figures to 414 kilometres from 363 on the twin, while the single-motor C40 claims 478 kilometres.

Further boosting the C40′s long-haul potential, fast-charging capability has increased to 205 kilowatts (where available) from 150. That’s good for a 10-to-80-per-cent recharge in 28 minutes, Volvo says.

My late-December test with the C40 didn’t include any long drives, and ordinarily, range wouldn’t matter in daily local driving, as I could top up at home. However, I didn’t recharge until I had to. My range “anxiety” peaked after just 316 kilometres, with 3 per cent charge and 17 kilometres of range remaining, for a projected down-to-the-wire range of 333 kilometres. That’s about a third less than the maximum official range.

I had expected better, especially as I managed without the heater some of the time in temperatures that hovered a few degrees above zero. However, having to use max defog was an energy hog. Of course, not recharging overnight also meant forgoing the opportunity to prewarm the cabin and the battery while plugged in. And the car spent every night parked outside.

I did enjoy driving the C40, though. It handles spryly, and moving the motor to the rear leaves the light steering uncorrupted by drive forces or traction issues, though the helm lacked much feel, even in its driver-selectable Firm setting. You don’t really feel the tail-heavy weight distribution (48 front/52 rear) in routine driving, though once or twice, when driving provocatively on wet curves, I felt the stability control step in to harness an incipient tail-wag.

While I remain skeptical of the SUV-coupe concept, at least Volvo doesn’t ask you to pay more for less headroom and cargo space: The Core trim’s $59,950 base price is the same as for its boxier XC40 sibling (and other small, premium EV crossovers squeezing in under the threshold for the $5,000 federal rebate). You get dinged an extra $1,500, though, for a climate package that includes a heat pump, heated steering wheel and heated rear seats.

Two higher trims start at $68,000 and $72,250, both single-motor. The twin powertrain adds $3,550 on the Core and $2,500 on the other trims.

It all adds up to a lot money for a not-especially-roomy and not-especially-quick subcompact crossover. Still, nothing at this price point is a rational purchase. If you like its distinct look, the C40 makes an agile daily-driver companion with enough practicality and people room for a fun-about-town lifestyle. And once you accept its limitations as a long-haul conveyance, opting for the ridiculously rapid twin would max out the fun for not a lot more money.

Tech specs

2024 Volvo C40 Recharge single motor

  • Base price/as tested: $59,950/$72,250, plus $2,620 for freight and pre-delivery inspection, plus other fees and taxes.
  • Motor/battery: 185-kilowatt / 79-kilowatt-hour
  • Transmission/drive: One-speed/rear-wheel drive
  • Energy consumption (litres-equivalent per 100 kilometres): 2.0 city/2.4 highway
  • Alternatives: Audi Q4 e-tron, BMW i4, Genesis GV60, Mercedes-Benz EQB, Mini Electric, Tesla Model Y, Volvo XC40
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The single-motor C40 claims 478 kilometres of range.Jeremy Sinek/The Globe and Mail


The stubby C40 carries off the fastback silhouette surprisingly well, achieving a certain Tonka-toy cuteness. A panoramic fixed-glass roof is standard, as is the test car’s distinctive Cloud Blue paint; boring black, grey or white are $900 options.

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It may be an EV, but the cockpit layout and decor is traditional and may be confining for larger occupants.Jeremy Sinek/The Globe and Mail


Unlike in many EVs, the C40′s cockpit presents as quite traditional. The gauge cluster is digital, but inhabits a conventional shrouded binnacle, and the vertical infotainment screen is integrated into the centre stack. A toggle-style shift handle sits atop a traditional barrier-like centre console. In the buttons-versus-touchscreen divide, the C40 skews more to touchscreen controls.

There’s ample at-the-wheel adjustability, but visibility to the rear is poor and there’s no rear wiper. The feeling of intimacy in the cabin is heightened by dark interior colours. The one light touch is the backlit fake wood accents, their pattern inspired by the topography of a scenic mountain district in northern Sweden.

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At test’s end, The Globe 'filled up' at a DC Fast Charger that promised 180 kilowatts, but showed only 80-to-90 kilowatts and took 35 minutes to go from 3 to 64 per cent.Jeremy Sinek/The Globe and Mail


In cold hard numbers, the 7.3-second zero-to-100-kilometres-an-hour time is respectable for a small single-motor EV, and quicker than the base Audi Q4 e-tron. On a hard launch, the single-motor’s measured, linear gathering of speed is palpably tamer than the lurid lunge of the twin-motor (zero to 100 in 4.7 seconds), but routine driving still provides the quickly-quietly effortless feel we expect of an EV. Two weeks of late-December puttering around the Greater Toronto Area posted average energy consumption of 23.2 kilowatt-hours per 100 kilometres.

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The digital gauge cluster certainly doesn’t try to overwhelm you with information, but you can configure the centre to add other displays, such as maps, or trip information.Jeremy Sinek/The Globe and Mail


The powered-by-Google infotainment system includes four years free access to voice-activated Google Assistant, Google Maps and Google PlayStore. Numerous alert-and-avert driver-assistance technologies are standard, plus traffic-sign information, but adaptive cruise control comes only with the Ultimate package, as part of Pilot Assist, a hands-on-wheel level of semi-autonomy.

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The deck floor is configurable or there’s useful hidden storage below; there’s no spare wheel, and the tire inflator kit resides under the frunk floor.Jeremy Sinek/The Globe and Mail


What it may lack in cargo volume (404 litres seats up and 1,205 seats down) the C40 makes up in usability. There’s a pass-through ski hatch in the rear seat, its seat backs fold commendably flat, there’s lockable hidden space below decks, and the foldable load floor can be reconfigured as a divider and a grocery-bag holder. A front trunk (frunk) in the nose is a good spot to store the charging cable and washer-fluid bottles.

The verdict

The new single-motor version of Volvo’s electric “cute-ute” trades performance for range. It’s a little charmer, but it’s expensive; if you’re spending that much, you might as well spend a little more for the much faster wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing twin-motor version.

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