Volvo XC40 2021 recharge phev (fwd)

2021 Volvo XC40 Recharge long-term review: The road trip

$64,990 Mrlp
  • Fuel Economy
  • Engine Power
  • CO2 Emissions
  • ANCAP Rating
We take our long-term Volvo XC40 Recharge for a road trip to see if the benefits of plug-in hybrid tech stack up over longer distances.
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There’s something satisfying about reaching the outskirts of Sydney and seeing a fuel consumption reading of 0.0L/100km. It wasn’t to last, but after around 40km of driving as we set off on our road trip in our long-term 2021 Volvo XC40 Recharge, the fact we’d used no fossil fuel was deeply pleasing.

A quick recap. Swedish brand Volvo has committed to electrifying its entire rage of vehicles by 2025, offering either full electric or plug-in hybrid variants across its line-up of cars and SUVs.

The Volvo XC40 Recharge is one of three plug-in hybrid models offered in Australia by the Swedish carmaker. Pricing starts at $64,990 before options and on-road costs, making it the most expensive XC40 model in the range. And by some margin.

Still, there are plenty of added goodies – a panoramic roof and premium Harman Kardon sound system are standard in the Recharge, a $3000 option elsewhere in the XC40 line-up – that help to defray some of the bill shock when comparing the Recharge to the next model down in the range, the T5 R-Design that asks for $56,990 plus on-roads.

2021 Volvo XC40 Recharge Plug-In Hybrid
Engine1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol-electric motor
Power (petrol / electric)132kW at 5800rpm / 60kW at 4000rpm
Torque (petrol / electric)265Nm at 1500–3000rpm / 160Nm at 3500rpm
TransmissionSeven-speed automatic w/ EV mode
Drive typeFront-wheel drive
Tare weight1760kg
Fuel claim combined (ADR)2.2L/100km
Boot volume (min/max)460L/1336L
ANCAP ratingNot tested (five stars in 2018 for 2.0-litre models)
WarrantyFive years/unlimited km
Price as tested (plus on-road costs)From $69,760

Unlike the non-hybrid models in the range, which utilise a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo, the XC40 Recharge is powered by a 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine paired with an electric motor.

The petrol engine alone makes 132kW and 265Nm, boosted by the addition of 60kW and 160Nm from the electric motor. A 10.7kWh lithium-ion battery pack provides the juice.

All those numbers are sent to the front wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. The dash from 0–100km/h is claimed to take 7.3 seconds, while Volvo says the Recharge will use just 2.2L/100km and is capable of 46km of pure-electric driving.

A lengthy road trip is probably not the best canvas to test these claims, with the XC40’s batteries depleted after around 40km of pure-electric driving. That got us to the outskirts of the city facing several hundred kilometres of fossil fuel motivation, unless we chose to break up our trip with recharging stops. That's not practical when three hours on a regular household-type plug will nett you an indicated 45km of range.

Another option is to switch the drive-mode selector to ‘B’ (for battery) that ups the rate of regeneration under braking and also using the XC40’s ‘Hold’ function, which ensures any charge regenerated is held in the battery until you want to use it. Beware, though, it takes time to regenerate even the smallest amount of charge.

The most realistic option is to let the regen do its thing, and when the system deems there’s enough charge for short periods of electric-only driving, let the car switch between petrol and electric power as it sees fit – more akin to a closed hybrid system as can be found in Toyota's Prius, Camry and RAV4 hybrid models.

In this way, we averaged 5.1L/100km on our road trip that encompassed around 800km, the 48L fuel tank needing just one top-up. That’s still a big improvement on the claimed 7.7L/100km needed by petrol-only variants in the XC40 range.

Getting to the edge of Sydney proved the Recharge’s happy hunting ground. Using just electric power, by using the XC40’s ‘Pure’ mode, the nature of Sydney’s traffic ensured there was plenty of scope for regenerating energy back into the batteries.

Once out on the motorways, though, that opportunity disappeared and at a cruising speed of 110km/h, the energy stored by the XC40 was depleted – and depleted quickly.

However, none of that detracted from the driving experience, the XC40 proving a comfortable and effortless to drive SUV, no matter the conditions.

In Pure electric mode, the XC40 Recharge behaved well, with sharp acceleration and a quietude inside the cabin that’s hard not to like. It’s no Tesla or Porsche Taycan in terms of performance, but it’s decent enough.

The ride, too, is decent despite the 1760kg (tare mass) XC40 sitting on standard-fit 20-inch alloys. Bump absorption is good, while the usual road scars do little to unsettle the small SUV.

Out on the highway, there’s plenty of poke from the 1.5-litre triple, the XC40 getting up to speed effortlessly while also eliciting a pleasing thrum so common in three-cylinder engines. Rolling acceleration is good, too, making passing a breeze.

We also ventured off-road in our XC40 and came away pleasantly surprised. Sure, it’s front-wheel drive only, and yes, ‘off-road’ in this instance meant swathes of unsealed dirt tracks, but the XC40 felt sure under wheel while bump absorption over the often rutted surfaces was commendable.

The cabin also proved its mettle for long stints in the car. Comfortable, supportive seats greet occupants in the front row, while the 9.0-inch portrait-style touchscreen looks sharp. It runs Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and also has satellite navigation and DAB+ radio as standard. However, the touchscreen isn’t the most intuitive to use, and it’s easy to get lost in the myriad menus and sub-menus. No doubt, this will get easier with familiarity.

We had no need for the second row with just the two of us undertaking this road trip. But there’s decent space for two adults, although a large transmission tunnel eats into available foot room for the middle-seat occupant.

With 460L of boot space to play with, there was enough room for all our luggage and accoutrements for a five-day getaway. That expands to 1336L with the second row stowed away, should you need extra capacity.

The XC40 Recharge performed admirably as a holiday hauler, even if the nature of our rural trip made for a scarcity of charging options. Still, we were happy with a fuel consumption figure of just 5.1L per 100km over a round trip of around 800km.

We suspect, though, where the XC40 Recharge will really start to make sense is as a daily commuter, its real-world 40km pure-electric range more than enough for my own daily commute.

Next instalment, we’ll see just how close we can get to extracting the maximum range from the batteries, and see if we can spend a week of fossil-fuel-free motoring.

Stay tuned.