New Lexus UX 300e vs new Volvo XC40 Recharge Pure Electric: interiors

Both of these family SUVs promise to combine zero emissions with luxury. But which should you choose: the first ever fully electric Lexus or its equally fresh-faced rival from Volvo?...

Lexus UX300e 2021 dashboard

Behind the wheel

Driving position, visibility, build quality

From behind the wheel, the Lexus UX 300e doesn’t feel like an SUV so much as a regular hatchback, because you sit quite low. On the plus side, standard eight-way electric seat adjustment (including for lumbar support) provides plenty of movement to allow even leggy drivers to get comfortable.

The Volvo XC40 Recharge Pure Electric, on the other hand, feels much more like a proper SUV. The upright, high-set driving position gives the commanding view down the road that many buyers look for; only the Range Rover Evoque matches the XC40 for that satisfying, big 4x4 driving position in this class, and you can’t get a fully electric version of one of those.

The seats in the XC40 are some of the comfiest you’ll find in this price bracket, although this entry-level model has manual adjustment (albeit with four-way adjustable lumbar support). You have to step up to mid-spec Plus trim to get an electric driver’s seat with memory function.

Volvo XC40 P8 Recharge 2021 dashboard

Visibility isn’t great in the UX; the windscreen pillars can hinder your view at junctions and you can’t see much if you peer over your shoulder. Rearward visibility could be better in the XC40 too, but otherwise it’s easier to see out of than the UX. At least the UX comes with a rear-view camera and all-round parking sensors to help with manoeuvring; the XC40 comes with rear sensors only.

There’s a greater sense of quality to the materials in the XC40. Although the UX’s interior feels faultlessly put together, it has some scratchy plastics around the doors and lower down.

What the UX does have in its favour is good old-fashioned physical climate control switches that are a doddle to adjust – simple but effective. The XC40’s temperature controls are located on the central touchscreen, and they can be a faff to operate on the move, but at least they’re permanently on display.


Infotainment systems

Lexus UX 300e

Lexus UX300e 2021 infotainment screen

You have to go for the pricey UX 300e Takumi to get a 10.3in colour screen and sat-nav, but the small, 7.0in screen in this model isn’t the biggest issue. The main problem is the touchpad controller, which is a frustratingly awkward way to direct the computer-like arrow cursor around the screen. Having Apple CarPlay and Android Auto phone mirroring is a boon, though, because they’re easier to use than Lexus’s system and you’ll rely heavily on them for sat-nav.


Volvo XC40 Recharge Pure Electric

Volvo XC40 P8 Recharge 2021 infotainment screen

The upright 9.0in touchscreen is the portal to virtually all of the XC40’s controls. Some submenus can be hard to find and the screen isn’t always quick to respond, but the integrated Google software is a boon. Google Maps is easy to use and shows a predicted battery percentage for when you get to your destination. The voice control is more effective than most, too. There’s also Apple CarPlay and Android Auto phone mirroring and over-the-air software updates.