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First drive: 2024 Volvo EX30. Image by Volvo.

First drive: 2024 Volvo EX30
Will Volvoís first foray into the electric compact SUV market fly, or will it be a disappointing flop?

   



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2024 Volvo EX30

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Volvo is embarking on a mission to become a fully electric brand by 2030. Itís already well on the way, with battery-powered versions of the XC40 and C40 already on sale (in fact, into a second generation with the launch of the updated rear-drive versions recently) and the imminent (but delayed) arrival of the all-electric EX90 that will replace the long-serving XC90.

While we weep at the recent news that Volvo is binning its estate models in the UK, Volvo is taking its first step into the burgeoning compact crossover market with this, the all-electric EX30. Itís a trim five-door crossover, with a choice of batteries and rear- or four-wheel drive powertrains. But how does it stack up in an already crowded marketplace?

Test Car Specifications

Model: 2024 Volvo EX30 Single Motor Extended Range
Price: £42,045 as tested (EX30 starts from £33,795
Motor: 200kW rear-mounted electric motor
Transmission: single-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Battery: 69kWh lithium-ion battery
Power: 272hp
Torque: 343Nm
Emissions: 0g/km
Range: 295 miles
0-62mph: 5.3 seconds
Top speed: 112mph
Boot space: 318 litres

Styling

The EX30ís styling is about spot on, we reckon. Itís not over-styled, and indeed in some ways it may be a touch too subtle for some, but there are nice touches that lift it above the crowd. The animated pixel LED headlights look great, and the little ĎVolvoí script in the rear lights, thatís only visible when theyíre switched on, are also lovely touches. The contrast black roof comes as standard, and with the smallest alloy wheels measuring 18 inches across, the EX30 looks neatly chunky at the kerb, but without being overly tall or bulky.

Interior

The cabin is the EX30ís best bit. Amid competition that includes the overly plasticky Volkswagen ID.3 and the rather cheap-feeling Jeep Avenger, the EX30ís cabin is good enough to have you double-checking the price list to see if theyíve snuck in a £50,000 version with an upgraded cabin. What Volvo has really nailed here is the tactility of the major touch points, such as the door handles (real metal, not cheap-o plastic), and the squared-off steering wheel (the Austin Allegro was right all along!).

The front seats are astonishingly comfortable, and are slightly squishy, rather than the most usual over-firm cushioning that most car makers prefer, which makes them feel more like a favourite armchair. Meanwhile the column stalks behind the steering wheel ó which look after lights, wipers, and gear selection ó look and feel impressive, as well as being rather more rotund and chunky than is the norm.

Weíre less enamoured with the 12.3-inch central touchscreen. This takes on the duties of both infotainment screen and instrument panel, as thereís no screen in front of the driver, not even an optional head-up display. This Tesla-like devotion to a single screen has a couple of reasons behind it. Volvo wants the EX30 to have an impressively low whole-lifecycle CO2 emissions figure, and having a single screen, rather than two, helps to save a few precious grams here and there (not to mention associated wiring and so on). It also makes the EX30 easier to recycle at the end of its life.

However, it seems to us that, for a brand forged in making vehicular safety a hot-button issue, this is a backward step. The carís speed readout, along with gear selection, whether youíre using the adaptive cruise and lane-keeping systems, and a visual representation of whatís happening around the car, is contained in an always-on panel at the top of the screen. In theory, say Volvoís engineers, itís right in your natural line of sight, but we found that not only did it subjectively feel as if it was taking longer for us to flick our eyes over to it, it was also distracting us because the speed is displayed at the top of a big, feature-packed screen.

That screen runs on a Google Android-based system, and itís impressive for its slickness, speed of response, and graphical clarity. Having native Google Maps makes for an excellent navigation system, while pairing your phone for either Apple CarPlay or Android Auto is a cinch.

Taking away all the physical buttons is still, in our books, a mistake though. Again, it just takes too long to look to the screen, find the right button, work your way through the menu, and finally find the thing you were looking for. OK, so you can use voice control for some features, but thatís as hit and miss as ever, and items such as moving the angle of the door mirrors have now become almost impossibly complicated, and actually downright dangerous should you wish to simply nudge your mirror in or out a bit while driving. Such things really were better, and more intuitively, taken care of by real buttons.

On the upside, we like the quirky patterns of the panels on the fascia and doors which are made of recycled plastics, some of them from old window frames and roller shutters. You can choose from a variety of patterns and colours, including one which looks, at first glance, slightly like a tweed cloth but which on closer inspection is actually more like drizzled plastic icing.

Practicality

Up front, the EX30 is very practical, with plenty of legroom, headroom, and comfort even for very tall passengers. Thereís plenty of storage too, with big door bins (which get a soft material liner to help reduce rattles), and a large open storage area between the front seats. The base of this is actually a hinged lid, which opens up to reveal a long, shallow storage area which is also home to two USB-C sockets. Underneath the touchscreen, thereís a small central glovebox (which you have to access the screen to open ó thatís irritating in itself), but thereís no storage area in front of the passenger seat. Under the big central armrest, thereís a slide-out storage tray but thatís been designed more for rear-seat passengers, and itís not really accessible to those in the front unless you bend your arm around a bit.

Sadly, those sitting in the back are definitely getting a slightly raw deal. The optional glass roof lets in lots of extra light, which does make it seem subjectively roomy, but legroom is pretty tight unless those sitting in the front are on the small side. The floor is also quite high, which is not great for your feet nor your knees. Kids will fit OK, but adults will be cramped and the central rear seat is for skinny people who have some kind of elbow fetish.

The boot is also on the small side. Under the luggage cover, it measures just 318 litres (smaller than that of the old Volvo V40 hatchback ó whatís that about crossovers being practical?) although itís a more useful 400 litres if youíre loading to the roof. Thereís a small, but still helpful, Ďfrunkí in the nose too.

Performance

One thing we can definitely say about the EX30 is that itís quick. Even in this rear-drive, Extended Range form itís packing 272hp and 343Nm of torque, so itíll sprint to 62mph in just 5.3secs, which is enough to be described as Ďblimeyí in our books. Thereís more, though ó you can trade up to a four-wheel drive, Twin Motor Performance version, which has 428hp and 543Nm, and which will get to 62mph in a Porsche-rivalling 3.6secs. Thatís less Ďblimeyí and more Ďvomití to be honest, and feels a bit unnecessary in a compact crossover which is, letís face it, aimed more at urban hipsters than driving-glove-wearing enthusiasts.

The EX30 will be offered with a choice of batteries. The most basic version gets a lithium-iron phosphate battery ó which is cheaper to make, and potentially a bit more reliable in the long term than a more familiar laptop-style lithium-ion battery. With a useable capacity of 49kWh, it gives the cheapest EX30 a reasonable 213-mile range.

The Extended Range and Performance versions get a bigger 69kWh battery, which uses the more common lithium-ion chemistry and gives you a range of 295 miles or 279 miles respectively. Donít expect the Performance version to get anything like that figure ó we averaged 2.4 miles per kWh while driving it, but the Extended Range version was hitting its WLTP marks with observed 3.45mi/kWh consumption.

The cheaper, smaller battery can be charged at a maximum speed of 150kW from a high-speed DC charger, while the bigger battery can handle 175kW. Thereís also the option of 22kW AC charging, which is good for making the most of kerbside slow chargers.

Ride & Handling

In spite of the potent performance of even the basic version, Volvo hasnít fitted hot-hatch style suspension or steering. In fact, the EX30ís steering is very, very light no matter which setting you choose for it from the options on the touchscreen. It is quite quick and responsive though, so the EX30ís blunt nose can be pointed quite keenly into a quick corner. That keenness will give way to understeer, though, if the corner is long as the weight of the battery starts to take over and push the nose wide. Itís not badly behaved nor untidy, though. Everything happens progressively and while the EX30 is no driverís car, it is all quite nicely and sweetly balanced.

The ride is fine as long as you avoid the optional 20-inch wheels. On the 19s, it was firm, but pleasant and we suspect would be even more yielding on the standard 18s. On the 20s, it was just too sharp-edged around town, and driving in town is the EX30ís metier, where its good visibility, compact shape, and that light steering make it a doddle to cut through strangulated city traffic.

Value

This is where the EX30 is likely to really pay off for Volvo. With that £33,000 starting price, itís offering a proper, recognisable premium badge for the same price ó slightly less even ó as some mainstream brands. Of course, you have the compromise of a relatively short range for the cheapest one, but if youíre charging at home and an urban dweller, itíll possibly be enough for you, and the upgrade to a longer-range version isnít staggeringly expensive.

Verdict

The EX30 really impresses with its performance (even if the Performance version is over-doing it a bit), that delightful cabin, and itís sharp pricing. The touchscreen we have reservations about, and itís a long, long way from being the most practical car Volvo has ever built, but itís hitting the bullseye of the compact EV crossover market.



Neil Briscoe - 6 Nov 2023



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2024 Volvo EX30. Image by Volvo.2024 Volvo EX30. Image by Volvo.2024 Volvo EX30. Image by Volvo.2024 Volvo EX30. Image by Volvo.2024 Volvo EX30. Image by Volvo.








 

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