► We drive new all-electric Volvo EX30 SUV
► Single or Twin Motor, two battery sizes, two trim levels
► Priced from £33,795 in the UK
You might expect a new Volvo electric car to be a competitor for the likes of the Tesla Model Y, Audi Q4 e-Tron, Mercedes EQA et al. Surprisingly, though, the new Volvo EX30 SUV is a much more straightforward rival to the Vauxhall Corsa Electric based on price alone – a shining example of how weird things are in the world of electric cars at the moment.
Based on the same Geely underpinnings as the Smart #1 and Zeekr X, but with a distinctive Volvo sheen on top, the EX30 seems almost too good to be true on paper, instantly becoming one of the more affordable EVs in the country. How does that translate into the real world, though?
Pros: Lower models are great value, powerful, decent range
Cons: All-touchscreen interior, some strange material choices, wobbly ride
What’s new about the Volvo EX30?
This is Volvo’s first properly purpose-built EV. Arguably that honour was already won by the C40 SUV, but that was based on the XC40 platform that was initially designed to accept petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid engines. The EX30 sits on the smallest version of Geely’s Scalable Experience Architecture, shared with various products from around the group.
This endows it with similar specs to the aforementioned Smart and Zeekr. Single Motor models have 268bhp and 253 lb ft – Twin Motor Performance ups this to 422bhp and 400lb ft. There are two battery sizes available – 51kWh and 69kWh. The former is available in the Single Motor car and provides up to 214 miles of WLTP range, while the latter can be had in either Single Motor Extended Range or Twin Motor Performance flavours. You get 296 miles and 280 miles from these respectively. Those are reasonable ranges but not groundbreaking in terms of efficiency – a larger VW ID.3 will go further per kilowatt-hour.
The small battery charges at a max of 134kW, the big, 153kW – both of these bring a 10-80% charge down under 30 minutes. A full charge from a home wallbox will take around 12 hours for the larger battery.
These are all – unsurprisingly – very similar stats to the EX30’s platform-mates. Performance figures are obviously quite similar too. Curiously, the Single Motor model will do 0-62mph in 5.7 seconds with the smaller battery or 5.3 with the larger battery, despite power and torque stats being identical between the two. Seems like Volvo’s punishing drivers for being cheapskates. The Twin Motor Performance will do 0-62mph in a frankly daft 3.6 seconds, making it the fastest-accelerating Volvo ever.
In terms of bhp per buck, this is exceptionally good value. The cheapest Single Motor variant is the same price as a mid-range Vauxhall Corsa Electric with a mere 154bhp. The Twin Motor EX30 undercuts a 201bhp VW ID.3 and virtually matches a base-spec Tesla Model 3. Volvo also intends to introduce an even cheaper ‘Core’ model in 2024.
How does the Volvo EX30 drive?
Performance follows the typical small EV template. Put your foot down in the Single Motor car and you set off swiftly and with minimal drama. It’s quick off the line and has more than enough performance to make motorways and country road overtakes effortless, plus its RWD chassis minimises the aggressive wheel-scrabbling you often get from front-driven rivals such as the Kia Niro EV.
Handling is safe, secure and drama-free. The EX30 doesn’t roll as much as its Smart #1 platform-mate, but body control still isn’t its strongest suit – and while the damping is far better than the Zeekr X to which it’s also related, it does still feel uncontrolled at times. Head over a speed bump and there’s a pronounced pitching after the fact.
The ride can also be a touch brittle on the 20-inch wheels of top-end models, though that’s par for the course given the EX30’s weight compared to its dimensions. On the smooth Spanish tarmac of our test route, it generally rode okay – not obtrusively firm. Of course, Volvo’s excellent seats do play a part in improving comfort levels.
The Twin Motor has a curious delay engineered into the throttle by default which actually makes driving it smoothly a little easier than it could otherwise be with 422bhp on tap. To unlock the full hyperactivity of this powertrain you need to tick a virtual box on the touchscreen putting it in ‘Performance’ mode, which gives the usual hair-trigger throttle we’re becoming accustomed to on performance EVs.
Volvo hasn’t really changed much other than the power output, though, so there’s very little pleasure to be had in pushing this car to its potential. Firmer suspension or a quicker steering rack would have at least given the illusion of a slightly sportier model.
There’s a one-pedal driving mode which we didn’t find nearly strong enough, with minimal deceleration from speed and a very gentle braking effect in town. We’d like to see this dialled up to make city slicking a true one-pedal affair.
What about the interior?
It’s quite nice, though some aspects are decidedly un-Volvo. First, the good. It’s light, airy and spacious in here for the front seat passengers, with Volvo’s Scandi-minimalist vibe translating over well. Material choices are interesting and largely do away with swathes of piano black plastic, plus there are numerous nice touches. Volvo’s used plenty of recycled materials in here, with carpet made from 100% recycled PET bottles and floor mats made from fishing nets.
We adore the loading dimensions diagram on the tailgate, helping you know if that IKEA haul will fit before you have to embarrassingly unload it back onto the trolley. It’s a small SUV, though, so you’ll have to accept the limitations of a 318-litre boot and limited rear seat space for adults.
In terms of layout, you get a clean and uncluttered dash and door panel. Volvo’s relocated the door speakers to a Harman Kardon soundbar running the width of the windscreen, which offers acceptably good sound – though audiophiles won’t be blown away.
There are four distinct ambiances depending on your trim level. ‘Indigo’ is a pleasing dark blue and uses recycled denim fibres for the trim finisher across the dash. ‘Breeze’ pairs baby blue seats with an unusual speckled trim that reminds us of the spray-on floor in a school toilet.
‘Moss’ and ‘Mist’ both use an interesting flax texture across the dash, which doesn’t feel as though it’ll age particularly well given the frayed edges on our test models. High points include the truly lovely wool blend seats of the Mist trim, as well as welcome flashes of colour at the bottom of cupholders and storage cubbies. We applaud Volvo for not just making the EX30 another monochromatic box.
What’s harder to applaud is the almost total lack of physical controls. Everything is controlled by the central touchscreen, from the HVAC to the glovebox opening. You don’t get a gauge cluster, either – the top fifth of the screen is reserved for your instrumentation. Mirrors? On the touchscreen. Wiper sensitivity? Touchscreen. Adjusting settings as simple as the temperature is particularly annoying on the move, especially those further up the screen where you don’t even have anywhere to rest your hand.
For a brand so laser-focused on safety as Volvo it’s disappointing that it’s giving into this particular trend. Even engineers, when pressed, admitted that ‘there are arguments that this way is less safe’ than simply having a degree of physical switchgear and a real gauge cluster.
For those less tech-savvy, it’s actually bad enough to make the EX30 one to avoid.
It’s not completely terrible, obviously. The Google operating system means you get perhaps the best sat-nav system baked-in, plus apps such as Spotify for music playback. The safety functions – including the ever-annoying driver attention monitor – are only a couple of menus deep, making it pretty easy to turn them off at the start of every drive. And it’s very clear and responsive, set at a good distance from the driver and not so high that it’ll block any of the road ahead. It’s the concept we object to here, rather than the execution.
Volvo EX30: verdict
Who would have expected the EV bargain of the year to come from Volvo? This is a high-quality, solid-feeling EV with acceptable driving manners, a high-spec interior, and excellent performance, at a price that gives budget brands cause for concern.
It’s certainly the best car we’ve driven yet on this platform, feeling more premium and handling better than either the Smart #1 or the Zeekr X. One of the best electric SUVs? We’ll see what it’s like in the UK before casting that judgement…
Certainly it’d be very difficult to recommend, say, a Corsa Electric or a high-spec Fiat 500e when for the same price you could have an EX30. Some rivals are better to drive – notably the even cheaper MG4 – but provided you get on with its all-touchscreen interior then there are a lot of reasons to choose the Volvo.