Volvo is among the most progressive proponents of climate neutrality, a fact supported by its rapidly electrified vehicle line-up and greener production processes. It’s also rolling out brand new fully electric vehicles every year, with the ultimate goal of becoming a full-fledged electric carmaker by 2030.

The thing about Volvo is that it operates at a much smaller scale globally compared to the German giants. Throughout 2021, it sold close to 700k cars, whereas the BMW Group sold twice as many cars in the first half alone. It’s a blessing, in a way, because that allows Volvo to expedite its transformative efforts.

Take the XC40 Recharge Pure Electric for example. It’s the first ever full EV to be locally assembled in the country, and the third CKD XC40 variant. Volvo Car Malaysia (VCM) will even be launching the C40 Recharge later this year, plus at least one brand new EV every year for the next five years.

These cars, which are destined for the local and ASEAN export markets, are all assembled in Shah Alam. In case you didn’t know, the plant is the longest running automobile assembly plant in Malaysia, and it’s ready for the electric era.

UPDATE: Volvo Car Malaysia has officially announced the pricing for the XC40 EV. It goes for RM262,460 (inclusive of the sales and services tax exemption). Deliveries will begin at the end of April 2022.

What’s unique about the XC40 EV?

Well, it’s fully electric, for one. Secondly, pricing. While we won’t know exactly how much it will cost until April 4, VCM does have a very consistent track record of offering more performance-per-dollar than its rivals. Just compare any T8 Twin Engine models against their direct rivals and you’ll know what we mean.

If we were to guess, the XC40 EV will cost somewhere in the region of RM280k, making it a very compelling alternative to the single-motored Mercedes-Benz EQA. Even in terms of sheer looks, the EQA doesn’t stand a chance against the suave Swede, but it’s the performance that really steals Stuttgart’s thunder.

You see, the XC40 EV arrives in the sole P8 AWD guise, meaning it has one electric motor per axle. The total system output is 300 kW, or 408 PS and 660 whopping Newton metres of torque. With a century sprint time of 4.9 seconds, the electric XC40 is the hardest accelerating Volvo SUV that you can currently buy.

Power is pretty much available on tap. We tested its “in-gear” acceleration at 80 km/h alongside a Mk7 Golf R, and there was absolutely no contest – the XC40 pulled away instantly and held its pace until 160 km/h. This was uphill on Karak, by the way. In true Volvo fashion, the top speed is 180 km/h.

In everyday driving, the rear motor will do most of the work, which is why the rear tyres are 20 mm wider. This staggered wheel setup is a first for a modern Volvo, and the reasoning is purely physics.

EVs rocket off the line. Anytime you accelerate, the weight of the car gets shifted to the back. The harder you accelerate, the more drastic the weight transfer. Having more weight resting on the rear axle inherently creates more grip (especially at standstill), so the most efficient way for a vehicle to transfer power onto the road is by driving the rear wheels. It’s why race cars always have a staggered wheel setup, and they are hardly ever front-wheel driven.

There’s no push-start button, so driving off is as easy as stepping into the driver’s seat and shifting into D. It’s instantly ready to be driven, without needing to wait for fluids to reach optimum operating temps. No such thing as cold starts here.

Pros of owning an EV, and areas the XC40 EV can improve upon

Vibration is something all drivers are accustomed to, and it’s something we expect all cars to have. For EVs, this is profoundly minimal. Electric motors are sealed and require no maintenance, so the service interval can be as long as every 30,000 km or two years. This is the actual service interval for the XC40 EV in Australia, but we’ll have this updated for the local market once further details are out.

There’s no gearbox oil to change as well, because the gearbox is the motor itself. The one-pedal driving mode also means you won’t have to use the brake pedal as often, thereby increasing the lifespan of the brake pads and rotors. Also, electricity is cheaper than subsidised petrol in Malaysia, so all things considered, the potential cost savings appear substantial.

The only issue with EVs is battery weight. Until denser solid-state units arrive, lithium-based battery cells will add hundreds of kilos on top of an ICE-equivalent vehicle. The XC40 EV is up to 440 kg heavier than the petrol-only T5, which accelerates the wear and tear rate of rubber components, namely suspension, bushings, linkages and the costliest of them all, tyres.

Oddly enough, Volvo did not make any suspension tweaks to compensate for the EV’s massive weight gain, so the car wallows a lot more in the corners and the ride becomes noticeably busier over undulating surfaces. It doesn’t matter what centre-of-gravity benefits the skateboard layout brings – weight is weight, and weight must be managed properly.

Another niggle we have with the car is the lack of granular control over the one-pedal drive mode. At speeds below 120 km/h, deceleration forces feel too abrupt when lifting off the throttle completely. Right now, we’re left with either learning to modulate the pedal, or disable one-pedal mode altogether. MINI had this figured out with Cooper SE from the start, and so did Honda with the City RS i-MMD.

Cultivating the habit of charging

If you’re serious about making the switch to electric, you’ll have to get into the habit of charging your car. It’s easier said than done, just ask a PHEV owner. But unlike a plug-in hybrid, EVs ship with a far larger battery pack – the XC40 comes with a 78 kWh battery as standard, giving you a projected range of 418 km (WLTP cycle) on a full charge.

That’s more than enough to get over range anxiety on your daily commute to work. We used roughly 60% of charge on our 160-km round trip from The Saujana to Bentong, including a short sprint up towards Goh Tong Jaya. If we extrapolate the numbers, 400 km on a full charge certainly seems achievable.

The projected range is very accurate, right down to single-digit percentages. It varies depending on your driving style, but it’s far more reliable than having your fuel gauge needle dipping below E. The Google Maps navigation system (available thanks to the new Android-based OS) also provides an estimate of how much battery percentage the trip from point A to B will use, which helps with journey planning and potential charge stops. More cars need this, it’s very handy indeed.

Charging time depends on several factors, namely ambient temperature, current battery temperature, charging equipment, battery condition and car condition. A standard three-pin domestic socket will take anywhere from 40 to 72 hours to charge the battery from 0% to 100%, so it’s best to have a wallbox installed, if possible.

Maximum AC charge rate is 11 kW (Type 2 connection), which translates to 7.5 hours (or 50 to 60 km per hour) for a full charge. For DC charging, the maximum 150 kW (CCS2 interface) will juice up the battery from 0% to an 80% state-of-charge in 33 minutes. You may refer to the list of DC charging stations for your future commutes. Pro tip: top up whenever possible. It’s good habit.

Key takeaways

Volvo has always been synonymous with safety, but these days the cars are also stylish, powerful, and very decently equipped. As standard, the XC40 EV gets full LED headlights and tail lights, 14-speaker Harman Kardon sound system, the automaker’s latest Android-based head unit, model-specific digital instrumentation, plush leather/Nubuck seats, and the full range of advanced driver assist systems.

As far as compact EVs go, this one is off to a great start. If you’re shopping around, the Ioniq 5 is also a fantastic choice, if not for the fact that you’ll be on a one-year wait list. Yeah, global demand for the Hyundai is that good, so good in fact our man Hafriz Shah couldn’t resist the temptation to get one for himself.

The XC40 is not the perfect EV. It won’t please keener drivers – steering feel is next to dead and ride is on the busy side, but your regular Joe won’t care. Things like a silent, vibration-free driving experience, a premium cabin with the latest gadgetry, a thumping sound system and an explosive acceleration matter more, and the little Volvo does all of that really, really well.

GALLERY: Volvo XC40 Recharge Pure Electric Launch