Volvo EX30 first drive: Charming and eco-friendly with power to spare

Volvo’s EX30 crossover has yet to arrive, but it’s already generated a lot of interest thanks to a killer combination of a charming design and low starting price of $35,000. On top of that, it’s eco-friendly to the core due to its low carbon manufacturing footprint and use of sustainable materials.

There is a “but,” though. All models sold globally to start with, including in the US, will be built in China by Volvo parent Geely. That’s controversial given current geopolitical tensions and it means the EX30 won’t be eligible for federal US tax credits. However, Volvo recently announced that it would build some models in its Ghent, Belgium plant in Europe starting in 2025 to “boost… production capacity for the expected EX30 demand in Europe as well as for global export.”

We’ve finally been able to drive the EX30 in Barcelona and answer a lot of lingering questions. How’s the handling, acceleration and range? We know it’s fairly small, so is there enough interior space for the US market? And how does it stack up against the competition, especially Tesla, considering the lack of tax credits? Let’s dive in and learn more.


We looked at the EX30 when it first launched, examining the controls, infotainment system, storage and more, so check that out if you haven’t. Still, I’ll revisit some highlights here before the drive. 

There are two versions of the EX30, the single-motor Extended Range and the twin-motor Performance model, starting at $34,950 and $44,900 respectively (before the $1,195 destination fee). They’re built on parent Geely’s 400 volt SEA platform, shared by some upcoming Polestar models.

The Extended Range version makes a decent 268 horsepower with 258 pound feet of torque, while the Performance model ups that to a wilder 422 horsepower and 400 pound feet. Both feature 69 kWh batteries, with 64 kWh usable, for an estimated EPA range of 275 and 265 miles respectively (the final figures should be available soon). There’s a 51kWh battery too, but it’s only available in Europe. The maximum charging rate is 153kW, bringing the battery from 10-80 percent in 26.5 minutes.

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Starting in 2025, the 2026 model year EX30 will be equipped with a NACS (North American Charging Standard) port thanks to its recent agreement with Volvo. That means the 2025 model debuting in 2024 will effectively be a unicorn, as it will carry a CCS port instead — though a NACS adapter will be included for Tesla Superchargers, of course. 

The base models are, well, basic, with things like parking sensors and a digital key left out. We tested both with the “Ultra” equipment level, which includes the Harman Kardon sound system, larger wheels, USB-C outlets, power front seats, park assist pilot and more. Those cost $40,600 and $46,600, respectively.

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The EX30 is a looker, with balanced proportions and smooth lines. The design says “friendly” and “accessible” rather than “aggressive,” and it caught a few admiring looks from passersby.

From the outside, the EX30 looks larger than it is, but the 167-inch wheelbase is similar to a Mini Clubman or VW Golf GTI hatch – not large vehicles by any means. It weighs 3,850 pounds, about the same as a Kia Niro EV. All told, it’s Volvo’s smallest SUV by a good margin.

That’s not an issue up front, as the EX30 is relatively wide and has ample headroom for tall drivers. The backseat is a bit cramped, though, especially with tall occupants up front. The rear cargo area can accommodate a decent amount of stuff, and you can make it a bit larger by removing the floor-leveling door. It can be further expanded by folding down the front seats.

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Rather than putting speakers in the doors, Volvo simply used a soundbar-like system built by Harman Kardon. That’s smart, as it should appeal to younger users in Volvo’s target market. With EX30-specific tuning, it sounds really good too.

The interior isn’t as basic as the Model 3, as there are switches and stalks for drive mode, turn signals, lights, volume and other primary functions. The interior is also less sterile thanks to Volvo’s creative use of sustainable materials and color schemes. Everything is soft and welcoming, with a variety of textures and patterns, made from things like old denim and recycled PVC window frames.

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Like the Model 3, though, the EX30 has no dashboard, just a center touchscreen, so important information like speed and charge level is off to the side. Volvo says that it helps you refocus on driving, somehow, but I’m not a fan – it forced me to take my eyes off the road more than I’d like.

All other things are handled by the 12.3-inch center touchscreen. The main display shows key functions like speed, moving map, charge, drive mode and more. Other settings let you change things like the steering firmness, or get maximum boost in the Performance model by choosing all-wheel drive – if you don’t mind a significant hit to range. The on or off one-pedal control isn’t as precise as I’d like, as it lacks multiple braking levels like Kia’s EV6 and other models.


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Now that we know the EX30, what’s it like to drive? In short, it’s a Volvo. That’s not a bad thing – what it lacks in agility, it makes up in comfort. It floats over tattered freeway pavement with little jolting and you’ll barely notice potholes or small speed bumps. It’s a nice car to drive in the city or take on cross-country trips, but it’d flounder on a track.

That’s not an accident; Volvo specifically tuned in a fair amount of suspension travel to favor comfort over sport. Tesla went the other way with the Model 3, so it can nip around corners more precisely, but rides harshly on less-than-smooth roads.

In terms of power and torque, the Extended Range model has enough for most drivers. With a 5.1 second 0-60 MPH time, overtaking is safe and easy at freeway speeds and acceleration is crisp and predictable in all conditions. With that model, the power pairs well with the suspension, striking a nice balance between comfort and control.

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The Performance version is on another level, though. With 422 horsepower and 400 pounds of torque in an EV of this size and weight, acceleration is hair-raising. In fact, it can go from 0-60 MPH in just 3.4 seconds, quicker than any Volvo to date and close to the Model 3 Performance. On tight winding roads with short passing zones, I felt confident enough to zip around trucks or buses. Freeway speed limits arrive almost too quickly, though the EX30 is limited to 180 km/h, or about 112 MPH.

Despite the power, it’s no race car. The suspension is identical to the Extended Range model, which is to say, too soft for high-speed cornering. Just stomping on the pedal from a start can create some drama, as it becomes clear that the suspension isn’t quite up to that level of instant torque. So, apart from the raw horsepower, it’s not an enthusiast car.

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The EX30’s Pilot Assist is reasonably advanced for a relatively inexpensive EV, offering more than just lane-keeping and collision avoidance. As on other Volvo cars, it can also change lanes automatically, make passing easier and adjust your speed to traffic. It also offers a Park Pilot Assist function that can locate spots at speeds up to 14 MPH and then park automatically. The system worked as well as any I’ve tried, squeezing the car into tight spots while displaying synthesized views all around the vehicle.

It also has an advanced driver alert system as standard. It can not only detect if your hands are on the wheel, it uses a special sensor that raises a warning if it thinks you’re distracted, drowsy or inattentive.


After driving the EX30 for nearly a full day, I’m impressed. While not the most nimble crossover EV, it’s comfortable to drive whether you’re on the freeway or city streets full of potholes. Even in the base single-motor model, the acceleration is more than anyone needs. In the dual-motor performance version, it’s borderline insane. It also offers enough range for reasonably long trips, with support for decently fast charging.

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Volvo has more or less nailed the interior, bar a few minor complaints. It ticks all the boxes for buyers looking for an eco-friendly car, particularly the fact that Volvo says it uses 75 percent less CO2 to manufacture than its current EVs. It also uses sustainable materials in the fun but functional interior.

The EX30 has a lot of competition from the likes of Tesla, Volkswagen and Chevy, though, and is at a disadvantage due to the lack of a federal tax credit. The fact that it’s built in China may turn off some buyers, though as mentioned, Volvo just announced it would build some EX30s in Ghent, Belgium, starting in 2025. Still, it should appeal to a lot of consumers looking for something charming, easy to drive and relatively quick, along with fans of the Volvo brand. With all that, the EX30 should be a solid hit in North America and elsewhere.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at 

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