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New compact crossover balances commitment to the environment with fun driving.

PMG PHOTO: JEFF ZURSCHMEIDE - The all-electric 2022 Volvo C40 Recharge provides performance, comfort and good range.We've all heard that electric vehicles are good for you and the planet. If that was all people cared about, the compact Chevy Bolt hatchback would be the best selling vehicle in the country because it is the least expensive EV on the market, starting at just $25,600 before incentives. But although the Bolt is a genuine bargain, many EV buyers are eagerly paying more for status (think Tesla), luxury (think legacy luxury manufacturers), and performance (think Ford Mustang-E GT).

And that's what makes the 2022 Volvo C40 Recharge so competitive at around $60,000. Although the all-new compact crossover may never become a status symbol, Volvo has successfully reinvented itself as a genuine luxury manufacturer over the years and the C40 Recharge really performs — with racy looks, 402 horsepower, standard all-wheel-drive and a firm suspension, it is as much about having fun as protecting the environment.

PMG PHOTO: JEFF ZURSCHMEIDE - The liftback design of the 2022 Volvo C40 Recharge increases its practicality.

Volvo has made two bold promises for the future. The first is that all vehicles introduced after 2019 will be hybrid or all-electric. The second is that they will only be sold online, although models will still be available for test drives at dealerships. Oregon offers up to $10,000 in financial incentives.

The C40 Recharge is the first Volvo that meets both promises. To further encourage the transition, it has a reassuring 226 miles of range on a full charge. And online buying is simplified because it is only offered in one version, the fully-loaded Ultimate.

The C40 Recharge is closely related to the larger all-electric Volvo CX40 SUV. The squared off rear end is replaced with a shorter, sloped hatchback giving it a sportier appearance. Other than that, the C40 shares the front and rear electric motors with the CX40 that give it AWD. The batteries are under the floor and center tunnel, creating a spacious interior and a front-trunk (frunk) instead of an engine compartment. The low center of gravity gives it balanced handling, high grip in curves, and precise, responsive steering.

PMG PHOTO: JEFF ZURSCHMEIDE - The interior of the 2022 Volvo C40 Recharge features a nine-inch center touchscreen display that uses the Google Assistant operating system, just like a Google smart speaker.

The interior of the C40 is also groundbreaking. First, unlike all other Volvos, there is no leather. Instead, it is covered with high-quality wool and synthetic materials made from recycled water bottles, used wine corks, and other sustainable materials. It still feels very comfortable and upscale, however.

Second, the technology package includes a nine-inch center touchscreen display uses the Google Assistant operating system, just like a Google smart speaker. The language capabilities are so advanced, you can just tell the C40 what you need, from climate to music or destinations. The screen itself is not the most intuitive on the market and takes some practice to master.

Volvo first made its reputation building safe vehicles. The company's earlier boxy cars and wagons appealed to families who appreciated their advanced safety features. The C40 continues this tradition. It's rated as a Top Safety Pick+ by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and comes with every possible advanced safety and driver assistance system. They include adaptive cruise control, collision mitigation, blind spot monitoring, lane keeping, and more.

PMG PHOTO: JEFF ZURSCHMEIDE - The interior of the 2022 Volvo C40 Recharge includes environmentally-friendly materials, such as high-quality wool and synthetic materials made from recycled water bottles, used wine corks, and other sustainable materials.

All EV reviews need to ask whether potential buyers are really ready for one. Do they have a convenient recharging location? Secure garages or at least carports are best, especially if they can be equipped with a Level 2 (220-240V) charger, where the battery in the C40 will go from 0% to 100% charge in approximately 8 hours. At DC fast charging stations, such as those installed in a growing number of locations in the Portland metro area, the battery can be charged from 0% to 80% in approximately 40 minutes. But depending on them requires advanced planning and finding available stations. Fortunately, I have both a 220-240V outlet in my garage and a fast charging station located at a nearby Fred Meyer.

In a week of test driving, the 2022 Volvo C40 Recharge Ultimate proved itself to be a very competitive compact crossover luxury EV. The fastback styling helps it stand out in the increasingly crowded field, and it has a surprising amount of interior that makes it feel even larger. The bigger draw was the performance, however. It is very fast — with a recorded zero to 60 time of just 4.7 seconds — but also incredibly smooth and quiet on most roads. Some might find the suspension too firm on broken pavement, but I found it a reasonable compromise, given the overall handling and responsive steering.

COURTESY PHOTO: JEFF ZURSCHMEIDE - Because the batteries in the 2022 Volvo C40 Recharge are under the floor, there is a large amount of storage capacity under the liftback.

The bottom line is, if you're considering an EV that offers more than the least expensive options, the 2022 Volvo C40 Recharge Ultimate should be near the top of your shopping list. Make that, your online shopping list.

2022 Volvo C40 Recharge Ultimate

Base price: $59,845 (before incentives)

Price as tested: $59,845 (before incentives)

Type: Compact crossover

Engine: Dual electric motors (402 hp, 486 lbs-ft)

Transmission: Direct drive

EPA estimated range: 226 miles

Overall length: 174.8 inches

Curb weight: 4,700 pounds

Final assembly: Ghent, Belgium

COURTESY PHOTO: JEFF ZURCHMEIDE - The 2022 Volvo C40 Recharge can go up to 226 miles on a full charge of electricity.


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