Reviews are reviews — meh, bleh, thank you man. But what are reviewers NOT telling you? Okay, I actually like EV reviews too, and we do our own EV reviews to try to help people out in their car shopping, but there’s also clearly something lacking in many car reviews. The reviewer presents their take on the vehicle and quickly notes one item or feature after another with no discussion or debate. What about the holes in the reviewer’s message, the missed critiques, the counterpoints to their points?
I’m actually not sure what triggered this idea, but it came to mind late at night last week at the end of a long workday, and then when I brought it to Jo Borras, he said he had just had essentially the same idea! So, here’s what we’re doing: every week, we’re picking two vehicles. I will have a preference for one of the vehicles (naturally) and Jo will prefer the other. We will go back and forth on which EV is better and why. Will there be blood? Unlikely, but I can’t say that with certainty.
Hopefully, this will be entertaining — we do aim to have fun. But perhaps more usefully for viewers and readers, we expect that this will pull out details and nuances of vehicles that often get brushed over or completely missed in formulaic reviews of cars, trucks, and box-mobiles (SUVs).
First on our list: the Hyundai IONIQ 5 (Hyundai’s webpage for the car here) versus the Volvo C40 Recharge (Volvo’s webpage for the car here). The IONIQ 5 is one of the coolest new cars on the market, and one of the few cars that have ever made me consider testing out life with a non-Tesla EV. Jo is a legit Volvo nut (in a good way … I think) and can tell you more about Volvo than I can tell you about my daughter. (I hope that’s not true, but now that I drop the joke in here, I’m starting to wonder. … How much does Jo really know about Volvo? How much is there to know?) If a Volvo hater and Jo were in an office waiting room for 12 hours, I’d have to bet money that blows would be thrown at some point.
Anyway … I’m going to now tell you why I think the IONIQ 5 is better, and Jo’s going to respond with why the C40 Recharge is better.
We’ve engaged in this debate in two ways. First of all, we had a back-and-forth text debate — see the rest of this article below the video. We also got on a video chat and debated the pros & cons of the IONIQ 5 and C40 Recharge there — see the video embedded directly below. (And, yes, Jo’s mic was too quiet and we’ll fix that next time. In the meantime, I found the sound is much better using Airpods than computer speakers.)
Zach: Cars are about identity, character, and culture. Which car design and brand “speaks to us” is often much more important than we admit. What I love about the IONIQ 5 is, in some ways, simple: it looks super cool. I’ll also admit that I’m almost embarrassed to say that. The IONIQ 5 is so blatantly futuristic in its design that it’s a bit like a caricature, and clearly not as futuristic as it tries to tell you it is. But at the same time, I don’t care — it is fun, makes me dream, taps into some deep impressions from childhood and Hollywood, and makes me want to look at it and stick it in my driveway. The Volvo … well … it’s bland, traditional, fine … but boring. It makes me think more of a stuffy banker or corporate accountant than my “dream me.”
Jo: I’m sorry — what!? The C40 is bland and traditional? I don’t recall any 400 horsepower, Scandinavian-ly stark, two-tone high-roof fastbacks in A Christmas Story, and for a very good reason: the Volvo C40 is a thoroughly modern electric car, with a broad-shouldered, “bulldog” sort of stance that hunkers down over its massive, steamroller wheels and tires with an aggressive, purposeful attitude.
The Volvo C40 positively screams “2022,” and that’s despite the fact that it draws heavily on the Concept 40 design language that was first rolled out way back in 2016. This car is so good-looking, that it still looks totally current nearly seven years after it was first shown off to the public.
Where the Hyundai looks like a futuristic toy, the Volvo looks like a modern-day classic. It’s the sporty high-roof hatchback for grownups.
Zach: Right, a modern day “classic,” great car for middle management. I’ll leave it at that.
But there’s more to the Hyundai than the way it looks, right? Like, even with a hundred horsepower less than the Volvo, it still feels so quick. It’s so zippy, almost like it’s got wings. It’s compact and fun like a go-kart for adults. (Not that go-karts aren’t for adults, too.) The Volvo is solid, but heftier and not so zippy. Hyundai’s developers looked at the options and said, “let’s inject fun into this.” Volvo’s developers: “meh, that’s not our style.” Like its looks, the IONIQ 5’s powertrain and build are made for truly fun driving. It’s got to be one of the best cars on the market for fun city driving, like the very under-appreciated BMW i3 that I still sometimes wish I could zip around in. Hyundai just approached this project with one thing in mind: fun, fun, fun. I’m not sure how Volvo approached its similarly sized electric entrant other than “let’s make it normal,” and that’s just not what gets me excited.
Jo: This feels like the Casio argument we always have. Or, maybe “Swatch” is a better analogy. As in: a plastic, quartz-movement Swatch watch tells the time as well as — maybe even better than — a Tudor Heritage Black Bay, and the Swatch has fun graphics and a youthful, lighthearted vibe … but they’re different products for different people.
Yes, driving the IONIQ 5 is fun. The light, airy interior is easy to see out of, and the tossable driving dynamics make it a joy to drive, but the Volvo is a different kind of joy. The Volvo, with the possible exception of the “fabric” in the door inserts, feels expensive. It feels crafted, heavy, and special in a way that the more commoditized Hyundai, for all its fun, doesn’t. On the road, you can feel the gravitas and the steamroller-y wheels of the C40 — it’s fast, every bit as fast and a bit faster still than the IONIQ 5, but it accelerates in a different way. More Saturn V than slingshot — and that’s definitely not “normal.”
The interior is pretty far from “normal,” too. It’s quiet as a tomb in there, except for some tire noise (which — they’re immense, so that’s fine). The Volvo seats are top-notch, and they have a very premium feel — whether that’s in the heavy, sustainable wool trim or the leather/suede-like “Nordico” option. Both are vegan — even that fabric I complained about in the door inserts? That’s made from recycled drinks bottles and other “ocean-bound” plastics. That commitment to sustainability is at the heart of the Volvo’s DNA, all the way down to its batteries and electric motors, which use blockchain technology to prove they’re ethically and sustainably sourced.
Zach: Well, I have to be honest, I do like the Volvo C40, especially for what it is. And you know you’ll always melt my knees talking about recycled materials and vegan leather. But the interior of the IONIQ 5 is so light, open, and uplifting. It just feels like the future, like a flying car the Jetsons would have owned (if they were Earthlings). The C40 seems a bit cramped, and dark. And then the screens! The IONIQ 5 has that great new extended screen — not too large but not too small and so much more practical than the outdated dual-crappy-screen system the Volvo has. Hello, ‘90s, you can have your tech back. And the IONIQ 5 has the great blind spot feature on the driver’s screen, the HUD option, and the self-presenting door handles that are normally flush with the door! It’s so futuristic yet elegant and cool. And just look at this picture:
It makes you want the car, no?
Regarding the interior sound, I have to admit that I can’t comment on these matters enough, but I know you can, and let’s just cut to the chase to conclude this debate: if the Volvo is so great, why did you buy the Hyundai?!
Jo: No, no, no, no, no — that’s not fair, is it? You can’t just say, “Well, you bought the Hyundai so I win.”
The question is which one is the better car, and by nearly every objective measure, I think the Volvo is the superior car. I believe that enough that fully half of my two-car garage is stuffed full of XC90, the C40’s bigger, badder, 3-row brother. This isn’t about that … but, yeah — I bought the Hyundai. And not because it was better than the Volvo (it’s not — not really), and not because it’s futuristic, but because, to me, it’s a throwback.
You talked about that “dream me” before. When I was growing up, that “dream me” was Miki Biasion, and in the 1980s — prime “Jo Borras” formation years — Miki drove a Lancia Delta in Martini livery … and that Hyundai? If you were going to build a new-age Martini Lancia in the same way that Volkswagen has been building New Beetles and, now, the ID. Buzz, what you’d end up with is the all-new, “futurific” (© Jo Borras, 2022) IONIQ 5.
— Original Volvojo (@Volvojo1) September 11, 2022
This is my midlife crisis car in other words — and I bought it because it reminds me of the car I wanted when I was a kid — and I love feeling like a kid again … some of the time. The rest of the time? I’ll drive my Volvo, thanks.
In the end, good readers, who wins — the Hyundai IONIQ 5 or the Volvo C40 Recharge? You tell us!
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