Home » I Drove The New Volvo EX30 On Ice In Sweden And Now I Want To Give Volvo $35,000

I Drove The New Volvo EX30 On Ice In Sweden And Now I Want To Give Volvo $35,000

Volvo Ex30 Huibert Ts1
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I just attended my very first media event, and it involved Volvo flying me to Sweden, taking my dogsledding, and then letting me drive the new EX30 EV on ice. My impressions?: Back in November, Jamie Kitman wrote that you should order the new Volvo EX30 immediately, before even reading his review. I’m here to tell you that he was absolutely right.

Full disclosure: Volvo flew me to Sweden, put me up in some swanky and cool hotels and served me some of the best food I’ve had in a long time, hoping I would write nice things about their new $35,000 small electric SUV, the EX30. But I’m not one to be bought. No sir. I’m not going to say nice things unless they’re deserved, and this car deserves it.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

[Ed Note: This is Huibert’s first-ever car review, though he’s extremely experienced with evaluating vehicles, as he was a dynamics engineer for decades, leading the design of the suspensions for legendary vehicles like the Tesla Model S, Ford GT, and Lincoln LS. -DT]. 

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After driving the EX30 in both rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive guise through the frozen tundra of the Swedish north, on public roads and a frozen lake, I came away impressed by how well the car performed. It wasn’t perfect by any means, but it did many things very well. While I was impressed by what the car could do, I was equally impressed by what the car wasn’t trying to do.

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The EV space is filled with family sedans that can go 0-60 in 3 seconds or less. I’ll be the first to admit that performance like that has a strong appeal, but do we need it? No. In fact, I would argue that it’s borderline irresponsible to put such a missile into the hands of a public that, considering the state of driver education in this country, is ill equipped to handle it.

The problem is that equipping an EV with that level of performance carries few penalties. Unlike IC engines, where increasing power is accompanied by decreasing fuel efficiency due to internal friction and pumping losses, high torque electric motors aren’t really less efficient at low speeds (in some cases, larger motors are actually MORE efficient). All you really need to do is put in a bigger motor and use batteries and control circuitry that can handle higher currents. There’s a cost penalty for this but not an efficiency loss when you’re tootling around town and not using the extra capability.

Volvo decided to take a more pragmatic approach in this regard. The EX30 makes no pretenses of being a sports car. The rear-wheel drive version goes 0-60 in 5.1 seconds while the all-wheel drive version can do it in 3.4 seconds. Not slow by any means but neither is going to set your heart aflutter when you can find any number of EV’s these days that will do it in much less time. Personally, I’m OK with that.

Ex30 Badge
Image: Jamie Kitman

I’ve driven a Model S Plaid, and the acceleration of that car makes my brain hurt. Literally. It’s actually uncomfortable, and once you’ve gotten past the party trick that it is, you start to avoid it. It becomes wasted potential beyond bragging rights.

The EX30 is a perfect example of a car company deciding it doesn’t need to go down that road. The performance is more than adequate. I can’t believe I’m saying that considering it wasn’t that long ago that a 5 second 0-60 time was considered world leading.

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Ride is another area where Volvo clearly understood what the EX30 was and also wasn’t. It’s a family vehicle that needs to be comfortable. And it most certainly is. The ride is compliant and quiet but still well controlled. Only when the road gets rougher with bigger undulations does the car feel under damped. Then you see the compromises Volvo made for comfort. The car does a “double tap” coming down off the bigger road yumps where the suspension, especially the rear, undulates twice before settling down again. It’s not uncomfortable by any means, but it does make you slow down a bit. And that’s ok. Again, this is not a sports car and doesn’t pretend to be. This is not the car to take down the Tail of the Dragon along with your buddies in their WRX’s.

Road noise is another area that impressed me. So much so that my driving partner and I both noted that while the cars were all fitted with studded tires (Michelin P245/40R20 X-Ice North 4), even on dry pavement, there was no road roar intruding on our conversation. I had expected much worse.

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On the Ice

The drive Volvo had planned, took us from Luleå, Sweden to Harad along back roads and highways. Harad is about 1 1/2 hours north of Luleå and 31 miles south of the Arctic Circle. It’s up there! During winter, everything in this part of the world is frozen, even the ocean. Every lake and every river has at least 1-2 feet of ice on it. Good snow and ice driving capability is paramount in conditions like this.

Once we reached Harad, we parked on the edge of a huge lake where Volvo had setup two test tracks on the ice. One consisted of two back and forth slaloms while the other was a 3.7 km handling course with 75 corners:

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We were provided with several new cars evenly divided between rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive versions, and after a brief orientation and a lead/follow drive through the tracks, they let us loose to fend for ourselves. All they asked was that we keep it on the ice.

Driving on the handling course, it became immediately clear that these cars are very good. The stability control did a remarkable job keeping the car going where we pointed it, and I was impressed by how fast we were able to go. The system wasn’t overly intrusive, but it did take the fun out of the drive. Of course, not even a capable stability control system can save you from doing something stupid, but as long as we weren’t trying to go too fast, the system worked exceptionally well. That was true for both the rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive versions.

There is an option to turn the stability control off and it does make things a lot more fun. But like most ESC systems these days, it never truly turns completely off. There are still some remnants of it left functioning to try to stop you from being a complete idiot. Still, with the system turned off, both the rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive versions could be made to hang the tail out quite easily. The bits that were left functioning did prevent you from powering out of a slide, though. Mash the throttle during a full lock sideways slide and the system just shuts the motors down. You’re left to wait until the car recovers or spins out completely so you can start over. For most drivers, that’s perfectly OK.

Efficiency

Volvo Ex30 Cloud Blue Exterior
Volvo EX30 Cloud Blue Exterior

Volvo claims that the EX30 RWD will use 26.5 kWh per 100 miles. This equates to 3.77 miles per kWh, which, while not the best is still very respectable. The best EV’s these days get over 4 miles per kWh. Considering the car has a 64 kWh (usable) battery, that would give a range of 241 miles for the RWD version. Not bad, but not great either. During our public road drive which lasted nearly 1 1/2 hours, we saw a usage of about 17.7 kWh per 100 km which equates to 3.5 miles per kWh. Not too bad considering we were driving at 0 deg C and on studded winter tires.

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The Nuts and Bolts Of It

So, what’s the hardware that makes all this performance possible? The EX30 is built on the new SEA (Sustainable Experience Architecture) platform developed by Chinese OEM Geely. It is used in the new Zeekr X and Smart #1, and looking at those vehicles you can certainly see the similarities.

Zeekr X

Image via: ZEEKR X | ZEEKR

Smart 1

Image via: Explore the spacious smart #1 | smart UK

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Zeekr, Smart, and Volvo are owned by Geely and Volvo provided significant input during the design of the platform to ensure it would meet their needs.

The front suspension is a standard MacPherson strut while the rear uses a five-link design. Unfortunately, there was no chance to put any of the cars up on a hoist to have a better look underneath so I can’t give you much more detail than that. Images available online are poor and don’t help much and Volvo wasn’t able or willing to provide any better information. What I do know is that the Zeekr X rides on a 2750 mm wheelbase while in the EX30 it was reduced to 2650 mm. That 100 mm (4 inches) smaller wheelbase was chosen to give the car a more agile feeling and make it easier to maneuver in cities.

Zeekr X Suspension

Image via: ZEEKR X | ZEEKR

The image above shows the Zeekr X chassis and from it we can draw a few conclusions. You can see the front strut suspension which looks very standard. In the rear, we can see four of the five links:

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Rear Supension

The lack of a visible spring suggests it sits directly on the rear lower link that we can’t see. Also fairly standard. The whole rear suspension is mounted on a rubber isolated subframe which also holds the rear motor and inverter.

Braking is accomplished via four-wheel disc brakes and while the Zeekr looks like it uses four-piston fixed front calipers (at least in the top line version), the EX30 uses floating calipers. Brake actuation is done via a Bosch Integrated Power Brake Booster which combines the booster, master cylinder and ABS hydraulic controller into a single unit.

Bosch Booster

Image via: Integrated power brake (bosch-mobility.com)

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This is a fairly new product from Bosch and allows significantly more flexibility in blending regen with normal hydraulic braking. This is done by disconnecting the pedal from the hydraulics completely. When you push on the pedal, you actually are pushing against a “pedal simulator,” which consists of springs and rubber pieces that are tuned to make it feel as if you are pushing on a normal brake system. A sensor measures how far you press the pedal and tells a computer how much deceleration you are requesting. The computer then decides if it can provide the necessary braking force through regen or a combination of regen and hydraulics. This “blending” of regen and hydraulics is completely transparent to the driver and can be done in a way that optimizes the efficiency of the vehicle.

In practice, it works very well. The brake pedal feels natural even though you have no idea what is actually happening under the car. All you know is that the car is slowing down as you would expect.

Since the booster integrates the ABS hydraulic control module, it is responsible for the stability control as well. This is the system that gave the exceptional ice driving performance I talked about earlier.

Steering is also provided by Bosch and has good feel. There was a little more friction on center than I would have liked but it really wasn’t bad. I’m particularly sensitive to it so take what I’m saying with a grain of salt. Most drivers likely wouldn’t notice and would be very happy with the system. Like most electric power steering systems these days, there are multiple settings you could choose from: Light, Normal, and Firm. In the light setting, the steering was a bit video-game-ish while the firm setting felt good and provided adequate feedback. Again, it’s not a sports car, so the steering stayed on the light side of what some drivers might want.

A Few Nitpicks

I do have a few nitpicks with the car though. The interior is very minimalist and although I don’t mind that, I think Volvo took things a little too far.

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I’m not a fan of the everything-through-the-touch-screen school of interior design. I like some buttons, especially for cruise control. In order to change the following distance of the adaptive cruise control, for instance, you have to go down three menu levels. Plus, you have to take your eyes off the road to do it. For someone who changes this parameter often as I’m driving on the highway, this is a major concern.

As you can see from the image above, there is no display in front of the driver. Everything is on the center mounted screen. This means you have to look down and to the right to see how fast you’re going. I much prefer to just look down slightly. A heads-up display would be great here and is available in both the Zeekr X and the Smart #1 even though these cars also have a more traditional display in front of the driver.

There IS what looks like a small display right above the steering column,

Small Dsiplay

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but that’s actually the part of the car that’s watching YOU. Like many other cars these days, a camera tracks your eye movements and makes sure you’re paying attention to the road. If you take your eyes off the road too long, the car reminds you to pay attention or take a break.

Regen Could Be Stronger

Like all EV’s, the EX30 uses regeneration to partially recharge the battery when you slow down. This is done by temporarily turning the motor into a generator and using it to convert the energy of motion into electricity and in the process slow the vehicle down. In practice, it feels like really heavy engine braking like you might get in a manual transmission car when lift off the accelerator in a low gear. The EX30, like many other EV’s, gives you a choice of using either the throttle or the brake pedal to do this. Choosing “One Pedal Driving” via the vehicle settings screen, means most of the regen happens when you lift off the throttle, and while that works well, I would prefer it to be stronger. It felt like the system applied a max of about 0.1g deceleration on lift-off which is too low for my taste. As a comparison, Tesla applies about 0.15g while BMW gave about 0.2g in the I3. Higher deceleration levels on lift-off can make driving more jerky if you lift off too quickly but once you’re used to it, it makes driving without using the brake pedal much easier.

Wiper Controls

Another issue I have is a small one but still bothers me. The windshield wiper control is a wheel at the end of the turn signal stalk. You spin it to turn the wipers on and off and choose between interval, slow and fast settings. What bothers me is that the wheel keeps spinning. It has no stops to denote the ends of travel. As such, there are no markings on the stalk itself and you can’t figure out what setting you are in by feel. The only indication is some text on the center display that is small and difficult to see. Again, you have to take your eyes off the road.

Wiper Control

Image via: Volvo Cars

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The outside mirror adjustment needs some more thought as well. To adjust the mirrors, you have to go 2 menu levels down on the screen, choose which mirror you want to adjust, and then press on the right steering wheel controls:

Mirror Adjust

That whole panel tilts up/down and left/right to move the mirrors but you have to press on it in the right places. It is tempting to just press on the edges and while the panel will still tilt, the mirrors won’t move. You have to press on one of the icons that are there, but the icons have nothing to do with adjusting the mirrors. It’s all very confusing.

Lastly, Volvo has fallen victim to the same window switch disease that infected VW, namely, using 2 switches to control 4 windows.

Window Switches

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Image via: Volvo Cars

The switches are located on the center console and normally operate the front windows. To open and close the rear windows, you first have to touch the “REAR” switch. I know it saves real estate on the console and also costs less, but it’s annoying.

All in all, none of these issues are big enough that they would stop me from buying the car if I was in the market for one. The EX30 is a remarkably good car and definitely worth your consideration once it comes on sale here in the U.S. later this year.

 

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67 Oldsmobile
67 Oldsmobile
15 days ago

I do not want to live in a world where 0 to 60 in 3.4 seconds isn’t face-fuckingly fast.

Sturzer
Sturzer
17 days ago

I’ve leased a 2021 V60 Cross Country, a 2022 S60 T8 Recharge, and now a 2024 S60 T8 Recharge.

Every vehicle has taken more and more buttons/controls away and they’ve “dumbed down” the UI, as in less customization and less features.

My wife really liked this when it was unveiled due to the size and the colors, but the UI in these is a non-starter. Volvo’s top priority should be safety but all of these distractions due to the terrible UI make this a non-starter.

*Volvo employee so I get fantastic lease deals, but I am wondering if it will come to a point where I stop leasing simply because the “everything in a screen” annoyance outweighs the monetary incentive.

I drive a boring SUV
I drive a boring SUV
17 days ago

Add another nitpick: square steering wheel. There is absolutely ZERO reason or benefit for that, as neither of the two popular excuses apply here: 1. This is not a low-slung sports car, so it does not help to get in and out of the driver’s seat. 2. There is no screen behind the wheel, so it does not help instrument cluster visibility.
I can see no benefit to the manufacturer either, be it in terms of cost or ease of manufacture, so I really don’t get why it should be square. Maybe I’m getting old and grumpy, but a steering wheel shaped like that would be enough for me not to consider buying a specific model.

Myk El
Myk El
18 days ago

Hmm. A relatively small EV crossover with 0-60 in less than 4 seconds. I wonder if maybe testing that acceleration might reduce tire life?

Do You Have a Moment To Talk About Renaults?
Do You Have a Moment To Talk About Renaults?
19 days ago

I swear I do not get this fad of moving all controls to the touchscreen, and even worse, menu diving for controls you’re expected to use while driving. I understand that once you have a touchscreen in there it does cut costs to cram everything you can into the operating system, but there seems to be a general consensus about the potential for accidents to go up the more you require drivers to take their eyes off the road and divert their attention from driving. I know modern cars keep their occupants super safe but they’re also increasingly becoming more dangerous for pedestrians, likely due to balooning size, weight and power figures; statistics show that in 2023 the USA reached a 40-year high in pedestrian deaths, and it feels incredibly irresponsible of car companies to double down on features that can further negatively impact those stats.

James Brown
James Brown
20 days ago

Thanks for the review, Huibert! Looks like David and Jason need to send you to far flung places more often: what makes the Autopian so great is the insight of actual automotive experts on subjects like ride and handling.

But I’m with you on the interior. The EX30 is a brilliantly engineered and packaged small car, but that user interface a deal breaker. I’m not giving Volvo $35,000 yet.

BagoBoiling
BagoBoiling
20 days ago

Thanks for the breakdown and comparisons of the regen breaking vs others. One pedal drive is one of my fav things about EV driving. I agree it’s jerky at first but once learned is fantastic. I hate pressing the brake pedal in ICE cars now and and not getting anything in return (recouped energy).

PresterJohn
PresterJohn
20 days ago

Good looking car, awesome interior colors. However there just too many deal breakers in there. I don’t know what it is about EVs but they break interior designer brains and seemingly force them to take things that are easy and make them hard.

There is absolutely no reason to have a novel way to do wiper control. Also I was hoping we dragged VW enough about those stupid window buttons but they seem to be spreading like herpes.

Nick Fortes
Nick Fortes
20 days ago

The Robin’s egg blue interior is the chef’s kiss. I also loved when Volvo did the orange carpeting.

Box Rocket
Box Rocket
19 days ago
Reply to  Nick Fortes

I’ve toyed with the idea of one, and played with the linited configurator tool on their website. If I were to get one I think the Moss Yellow with Pine interior would be my choice, but blue with blue interior is darn good, too.

86-GL
86-GL
20 days ago

Yeah, I was happily reading along thinking, “This could be our next family car!” until I got to the part about the interior, and realized it never will be, not without a major design philosophy about-face.

Sorry Tesla, VW, Volvo, et all- I absolutely refuse to buy a vehicle with essential functions buried in the touch screen, and broken physical controls. Volvo’s past ergonomics, and driver/ passenger centric design are literally why I appreciate the brand.

Hear me loud and clear- I am not simply a cheapskate Jalop/Autopian whining about a missing stick-shift in a car I will never afford to buy- I am very much within the target demographic of this product.

The window switch module is actually more of a deal breaker than the touch screen. No money was saved, and the multi-step selection process almost guarantees drivers will have to avert their eyes from the road, or fiddle repeatedly- Even after familiarizing themselves with the scheme.

The shear audacity to include a driver attention monitoring system, while ruining control system standards (in the name of false cost savings) and removing the speedometer from the driver’s line of sight, is simply comical.

I don’t want to hear ‘Get with the times bro.’ My current vehicle is only a few years old and has an excellent integration of 12” touch screen, and full complement of physical controls, so I know it can be done. It’s just a dumb Ford, but the adaptive cruise following distance is a simple button on the steering wheel that cycles through the range- not buried 3 menus deep. I actually studied industrial design in college- everything about this EX30 interior is objectively unintuitive, and user hostile.

I really like Volvos, both old and new. I’d love to actually drive a new one. Sadly they’re going to have to try a bit harder to earn me as a customer.

Dinklesmith
Dinklesmith
20 days ago
Reply to  86-GL

You may like the Equinox EV, which is now open for orders. Same price, longer range, and has physical buttons

Austin Vail
Austin Vail
20 days ago
Reply to  86-GL

Yeah that driver monitoring system made me re-read the paragraph to make sure I understood it right. You have to take your eyes off the road to do ANYTHING, and the car will hassle you about taking your eyes off the road. It’s an absolute no-win scenario.

The whole interior design gives the impression that the car resents you and wants to make your life a as irritating as possible.

Chartreuse Bison
Chartreuse Bison
20 days ago
Reply to  86-GL

Yup, looks nice on the outside, looks like a Tata Nano inside (with an iPad glued to the dash)

Vert1go749
Vert1go749
20 days ago
Reply to  86-GL

You. I like you.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
19 days ago
Reply to  86-GL

“Hear me loud and clear- I am not simply a cheapskate Jalop/Autopian whining about a missing stick-shift in a car I will never afford to buy- I am very much within the target demographic of this product.”

OK, OK we get it, you think you’re our better…

Jeez.

Rod Edwards
Rod Edwards
20 days ago

No sporty pretensions but does 0-60 in 3.4??!

Mike F.
Mike F.
20 days ago

0 – 60 in 3.4 no longer sets hearts aflutter? What a world we live in.

TDI in PNW
TDI in PNW
20 days ago

So…

Those wiper controls; The mirror adjustment; Controlling the back windows; HVAC by touch screen. The few buttons this car does actually have are haptic feedback. No instrument cluster (and no apparent HUD).

Extremely hard pass.

Greg
Greg
21 days ago

This interior looks like a nightmare, I can’t imagine anyone enjoying it. Imagine having to explain to everyone who gets in your car, how to work it?

How much could i have bought this for without the battery? 20k?

W124
W124
21 days ago

The interior, or mostly lack of the physical buttons and dependability on the touch screen is a letdown, but otherwise this is probably the first electric crossover I’d actually consider if I was on the market to buy a new electric car.

Couple of (Non-Volvo-related) nitpicks: the locality is Harads with an s and being born on the shores of the Bothnian Bay I wouldn’t call it an ocean but a sea, as it is brackish water with very little salinity in it compared to the actual oceans. Otherwise great review and could have been even longer. I’d like to read more Huibert’s reviews in the future!

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