“Form follows function” is a widely adopted design philosophy and the core ethos at Volvo Cars. Their utilitarian vehicles offer minimal flourish and embody the notion that luxury can be derived from simplicity. The new C40 Recharge electric vehicle at first challenges this philosophy with a more aggressive design than we’re used to from the Swedish manufacturer: in this case, flourish is part of its function. As the first electric-only body shape added to their line-up, one of its most important jobs is to promote electrification and Volvo’s commitment to being fully electric by 2030. We recently traveled to Ghent, home of the C40’s factory, to test drive the new model and learn more about its design.
Though we found the design more aggressive than we are used to from Volvo, it is hardly dramatic in the grand scheme of automotive form. Distinguishing the C40 from its XC40 sibling is the falling coupé roofline which adds emphasis to the large, strong wheels it sits above and behind. Further definition is created by the low and lateral shapes carved through the doors and behind the taillights. The roof is only available in black which helps draw the eye down the side of the vehicle, giving it an even lower, more stout feel.
Volvo’s approach to lighting has always been a perfect balance of safety and character, especially in the shape of their rear lamps. The C40 diverges from the traditional vertical elements by segmenting them in to a series of four dashes. The effect lends a futuristic element and further supports the signaling of its electric propulsion. Interestingly, the dashed taillights were born from necessity, given the necessary seam in the lower portion of the red lens.
Driving the C40 is a pleasure. Like most EVs, it has great acceleration, plenty of power and is incredibly responsive. Braking is regenerative by default and we found the tuning of that one-pedal movement to be smoother than most. The interior design, however, is what really makes the experience feel special. Carpets and door liners are made from 100% recycled PET plastic bottles and the trim panes are made from recycled plastic, as is the seating material which still has a leather-like touch. These materials aren’t just sustainable, though. The deep marine-toned blue of the carpet and the topographic map-inspired trim offer a modern-looking, nature-inspired vibe.
Also of note is that the C40 is among the first Volvos with Google’s Android Auto built-in. The system does not require a phone to be paired or plugged in to use Google Assistant, Maps or Play yet offers the same features those apps deliver on a mobile device. It’s incredibly easy to use. We love listening to and dictating text messages using Apple’s CarPlay and are pleased to find that it’s still possible to do so with an iPhone paired to this system over Bluetooth. And the Volvo-developed range app offers real-time information about the ways your driving style and climate control impact the distance you can go between charges.
The Volvo C40 Recharge can be ordered online and starts at $58,750 which includes pretty much every option. Adding in all of the optional accessories brings the “fully loaded” price up to $61,585.
Hero image by Josh Rubin