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Volvo C40 2023 review: Recharge Twin Motor long-term | Part 2

The C40 Recharge is a good-looker, but its boxier XC40 sibling holds more appeal for this reviewer. (image: Justin Hilliard)

I've already spent two months living with the 2023 Volvo C40 Recharge Twin Motor!? Time really does fly by, but what an enjoyable time it has been so far.

As promised, in this instalment of my long-term UrbanGuide review, I'm going to share my thoughts on the C40's design inside and out, as well as deep-dive its practicality. I'll also share an update on its efficiency. Let's get to it, shall we?

Design-wise, there's a lot to like about the C40 – but it's still not my favourite-looking small SUV from Volvo. That title still goes to the XC40 Recharge. Of course, styling is subjective, but for mine, the boxier look of the latter is more appealing than the swoopier approach of the former.

From the B-pillars backwards, the two are quite different, and I'm not saying the C40 doesn't look good from behind, because it does, but it just isn't quite as right as the XC40. Call me a traditionalist if you will.

Specifically, the C40's sloping roofline lends itself to a sportier aesthetic, and that point is rammed home by its wing spoiler. It's not Lancer Evo big, but it's still very much there.

Then there's the vortex generator above it. Who said Volvo doesn't take performance seriously? Although in this instance, all of this is more about improving the drag coefficient and, therefore, driving range.

  • Design-wise, there’s a lot to like about the C40. (image: Justin Hilliard) Design-wise, there’s a lot to like about the C40. (image: Justin Hilliard)
  • But it’s still not my favourite-looking small SUV from Volvo. That title still goes to the XC40 Recharge. (image: Justin Hilliard) But it’s still not my favourite-looking small SUV from Volvo. That title still goes to the XC40 Recharge. (image: Justin Hilliard)
  • From the B-pillars backwards, the two are quite different, and I’m not saying the C40 doesn’t look good from behind, because it does. (image: Justin Hilliard) From the B-pillars backwards, the two are quite different, and I’m not saying the C40 doesn’t look good from behind, because it does. (image: Justin Hilliard)
  • Overall, it looks purposeful and premium. (image: Justin Hilliard) Overall, it looks purposeful and premium. (image: Justin Hilliard)

For the record, the XC40 goes with a more traditional roof spoiler instead – and that's it. No vortex generator or heavily raked tailgate to speak of. Although it and the C40 have their own takes on Volvo's signature tail-light design. Both look good.

Otherwise, the C40 and XC40 are identically styled inside and out, and that's no bad thing. Up front, the headlights have Volvo's signature 'Thor's Hammer' daytime running light (DRL) signature, while there's a closed-off grille area, given the reduced cooling requirements. The front bumper is pleasantly designed, too. Overall, it looks purposeful and premium.

Around the side, the 20-inch alloy wheels have a simple diamond-cut five-spoke design. They're my least favourite exterior feature, as, while they're chunky, they're just a bit boring. A good set of rims can go a long way in elevating a vehicle, after all.

That said, the doors are nicely sculpted, while the obligatory black plastic cladding isn't overwhelming.

Inside, the C40 is even more like the XC40. In fact, it's damn near impossible to tell the two apart, which isn't a bad thing.

However, the C40 does go its own way by being the first Volvo to be leather-free, all in the name of sustainability. That's right, there's no cow hide to be seen – or felt.

Specifically, the C40’s sloping roofline lends itself to a sportier aesthetic, and that point is rammed home by its wing spoiler. (image: Justin Hilliard) Specifically, the C40’s sloping roofline lends itself to a sportier aesthetic, and that point is rammed home by its wing spoiler. (image: Justin Hilliard)

Instead, the steering wheel is trimmed in basic vinyl, while the seats and centre armrest are upholstered in 'Microtech' vinyl, with the former also getting some recycled textile cloth accents. And in no way does this approach cheapen the C40.

In fact, the C40 feels very premium inside, with credit also going to the illuminated topographic map inserts on the dashboard and front doors.

During the day, it appears to be as dark as the rest of the soft- and hard-touch plastics that surround it, but at night, it shines bright like a... map.

I promise it looks really cool and is arguably the interior's statement piece. And if it's too much for you, you can choose the lower of the two available brightness levels.

Either way, gloss-black trim is a little too prevalent for my liking, but the metal accents used elsewhere are genuinely impressive alongside the Harman Kardon sound system's grate-like speaker grilles.

  • The C40’s cabin is punctuated by its 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and 9.0-inch central touchscreen. (image: Justin Hilliard) The C40’s cabin is punctuated by its 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and 9.0-inch central touchscreen. (image: Justin Hilliard)
  • Up front, it does little to disappoint. (image: Justin Hilliard) Up front, it does little to disappoint. (image: Justin Hilliard)
  • The second row is where things get really challenging, though. (image: Justin Hilliard) The second row is where things get really challenging, though. (image: Justin Hilliard)
  • Speaking of which, map pockets are attached to the front seat backrests, while the fold-down armrest has two cupholders. (image: Justin Hilliard) Speaking of which, map pockets are attached to the front seat backrests, while the fold-down armrest has two cupholders. (image: Justin Hilliard)
  • The glove box is wide and deep but not tall, so it really only accommodates the driver’s manual. (image: Justin Hilliard) The glove box is wide and deep but not tall, so it really only accommodates the driver’s manual. (image: Justin Hilliard)
  • Comfort is also aided by the directional air vents at the rear of the centre console. (image: Justin Hilliard) Comfort is also aided by the directional air vents at the rear of the centre console. (image: Justin Hilliard)

Otherwise, the C40's cabin is punctuated by its 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and 9.0-inch central touchscreen. Controlled by physical steering-wheel buttons, the former tells you everything you need to know – but it isn't very customisable.

In fact, your only option is a proper satellite navigation integration, or just turn-by-turn directions in the centre – that's it. But, it gets the job done.

Despite being on the small side, the other display has a lot more to offer, though, with it too powered by Google's Android Automotive multimedia system, which we're starting to see in more brands than just Volvo and its Polestar sibling.

Point being, it's a very slick piece of software, that opens up a lot of possibilities for drivers and passengers, even if there is only one hard button (home).

For example, the Google Play Store is available, so I logged into my Google account and immediately downloaded the Spotify app, so I could stream music directly and, therefore, forgo the need to plug in my iPhone to use Apple CarPlay – which is what I'd usually do. It's worked flawlessly.

But Android Automotive also opens the door for meaningful over-the-air updates, of which I experienced two in month two.

Using the C40's 4G connection, the new software was relatively easy to install, with 90 minutes and a locked and stationary vehicle required to do so. My first attempt was unsuccessful due to the poor reception where I was parked at the time, but the second worked fine at home.

So, what changed? In the first instance, deeper integration with Apple CarPlay was added, namely Apple Maps support for the digital instrument cluster.

Also, the cruise control button on the steering wheel gained the ability to switch between the adaptive and Highway Assist modes.

The second was just a bug fix, for the record. Either way, it's cool to see these types of meaningful ongoing improvements becoming available in more than just Tesla models.

As I'm sure you can imagine, the C40 is quite practical – but that doesn't mean it's without flaws.

  • The boot is still pretty impressive, though. (image: Justin Hilliard) The boot is still pretty impressive, though. (image: Justin Hilliard)
  • Measuring just 4440mm long (with a 2702mm wheelbase), 1873mm wide and 1591mm tall, the C40 still manages to offer 413L of cargo capacity. (image: Justin Hilliard) Measuring just 4440mm long (with a 2702mm wheelbase), 1873mm wide and 1591mm tall, the C40 still manages to offer 413L of cargo capacity. (image: Justin Hilliard)
  • That can increase to 1205L with the 60/40 split-fold rear bench stowed. (image: Justin Hilliard) That can increase to 1205L with the 60/40 split-fold rear bench stowed. (image: Justin Hilliard)
  • That's an action that can easily be undertaken from behind with the manual release latches on offer, which auto-fold the headrests to extend the flat load area. (image: Justin Hilliard) That's an action that can easily be undertaken from behind with the manual release latches on offer, which auto-fold the headrests to extend the flat load area. (image: Justin Hilliard)
  • That all helps with bulky items, after all. (image: Justin Hilliard) That all helps with bulky items, after all. (image: Justin Hilliard)
  • There’s also an underfloor storage area, which is perfect for any charging cables. (image: Justin Hilliard) There’s also an underfloor storage area, which is perfect for any charging cables. (image: Justin Hilliard)

Having said that, up front, it does little to disappoint. The central storage bin is surprisingly large and even has a small rubbish bin ahead of it, complete with swivelling lid. Handy. 

So too are the two cupholders on the other side, but then the end of the centre console also features a small lidded cubby, perfect for coins, and an open space that houses a wireless smartphone charger, a 12V power outlet and two USB-C ports.

The glove box is wide and deep but not tall, so it really only accommodates the driver's manual.

The front door bins are also tight in the sense they can just fit large bottles, but you have to shove them in.

Another annoyance is the fixed glass roof's lack of a sunblind, which can make the C40 an uncomfortably hot place to sit in on hot days. At least it has a thoughtful ticket holder on the driver's side of the windshield?

The second row is where things get really challenging, though. No points for guessing that the coupe-like profile of the C40 leads to several occupant space compromises.

  • Loose items can also be stored in the ‘froot’ (front boot). (image: Justin Hilliard) Loose items can also be stored in the ‘froot’ (front boot). (image: Justin Hilliard)
  • Which, while far smaller than the actual boot, has its own plastic cover. (image: Justin Hilliard) Which, while far smaller than the actual boot, has its own plastic cover. (image: Justin Hilliard)

The main issue is headroom, as my 184cm frame is unable to sit upright without having its head pressed firmly against the roof. It's a bent neck for me, then.

It's worth noting this issue is as severe as it is also because of the stadium seating. With a large battery underfloor, rear passengers are positioned higher and, therefore, get reduced under-thigh support, too.

Not such bad news for child seats taking advantage of the two ISOFIX and three top-tether anchorage points, though.

But despite the large central tunnel encroaching on foot-room, it's not all bad news in the back, as I have several inches of legroom and plenty of toe-room behind my own driving position.

Comfort is also aided by the directional air vents at the rear of the centre console. Note two USB-C ports are positioned below them for convenience.

Speaking of which, map pockets are attached to the front seat backrests, while the fold-down armrest has two cupholders. That's good news because the rear door bins are so small that they can only take medium bottles at a pinch.

In month three, though, I’m planning to increase the share of highway driving to get a better sense of what the C40 is capable of. (image: Justin Hilliard) In month three, though, I’m planning to increase the share of highway driving to get a better sense of what the C40 is capable of. (image: Justin Hilliard)

But there are shallow storage trays at the ends of the bench base. No, seriously. I still don't know what to use them for.

My biggest practicality gripe with the C40, though, is the level of visibility on offer. Simply put, the rear window is a letterbox due to the steeply raked tailgate, and is easily concealed by the large second-row headrests when in use.

After a week of driving with them upright and not seeing a damn thing, I permanently stowed them. But even so, rearward vision is still heavily obstructed. So, another reason why I'd opt for the XC40 Recharge instead.

The boot is still pretty impressive, though. Measuring just 4440mm long (with a 2702mm wheelbase), 1873mm wide and 1591mm tall, the C40 still manages to offer 413L of cargo capacity, but that can increase to 1205L with the 60/40 split-fold rear bench stowed.

That's an action that can easily be undertaken from behind with the manual release latches on offer, which auto-fold the headrests to extend the flat load area. That all helps with bulky items, after all.

Around the side, the 20-inch alloy wheels have a simple diamond-cut five-spoke design. (image: Justin Hilliard) Around the side, the 20-inch alloy wheels have a simple diamond-cut five-spoke design. (image: Justin Hilliard)

Loose items can be captured with either the six available tie-down points or the two bag hooks. But there's also an underfloor storage area, which is perfect for any charging cables.

They can also be stored in the 'froot' (front boot), which, while far smaller than the actual boot, has its own plastic cover.

Either way, there's no spare wheel and the power tailgate's kick sensor is overly sensitive, as I've had it close on me several times without wanting it to. Usually it's the other way around.

But what about my average energy consumption for the month? Well, with 707km travelled, I managed 23.3kWh/100km, which is 0.6kWh/100km higher than I recorded in month one. However, once again, I did the vast majority of my driving within the city limits.

In month three, though, I'm planning to increase the share of highway driving to get a better sense of what the C40 is capable of. After all, it hasn't been particularly efficient so far.

Speaking of the third and final instalment of this UrbanGuide long-term review, I'll also be sure to finally share my drive impressions of the C40 and then, ultimately, deliver my final verdict!

Acquired: May 8, 2023

Distance travelled this month: 707km

Odometer: 7696km

Average energy consumption this month: 23.3kWh/100km

$82,490

Based on new car retail price

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$82,490

Based on new car retail price

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