I was thoughtfully invited to the reveal of Volvo’s newest, cheapest electric SUV, the Volvo EX30, but because we’re kind of short-staffed this week, I had to decline. Besides, I wouldn’t have gotten to drive it or anything, but, still, I’d have liked to have seen it in person, because this is an important car for Volvo. Hell, it’s an important car for everybody because it’s an electric car that’s starting at $35,000-ish, which while not nearly as cheap as I’d like, is way below the average price for a new EV in America, which is alarmingly close to $60,000. That’s too many dollars!
Now Volvo comes sliding in with a quite upscale-looking small SUV that starts at $34,950 and is the smallest SUV they’ve made and is also, somehow, in the AWD variant, Volvo’s quickest car ever, hitting 60 in 3.4 seconds! There’s a lot to potentially like here, so let’s see what we know so far.
When I was a teenager, I used to work at a computer store, and when a customer would ask me what the specs were on a computer we were looking at, I’d take my sleeve and wipe off the screen and say “Oh, I’m sure it’s just dust.” GOLD. That was gold! I can’t use that gag right now, but I felt it important that you be aware of its existence regardless.
The specs on the EX30, aside from being dust and squashed bugs, are impressive, especially considering the price. The single-motor version drives the rear wheels with a 268 horsepower axle-mounted motor, and the dual-motor AWD version, the one that’ll do 0-60 in 3.4 seconds, those two combined motors add up to 422 hp. The RWD version should be able to get to 60 in just over five seconds, which is still pretty damn good.
For an EV, it’s not that heavy, really: the RWD one is a bit over 3,850 pounds and the AWD version is around 4,100 pounds. It’s also over a foot shorter in length than a Honda HR-V. It’s actually reasonably small!
All variants of the EX30 have a 64 kWh battery pack, and the single motor/extended range version will have a very reasonable range of 275 miles, according to Volvo. Volvo also says with an appropriate fast charger, going from 10% charge to 80% should take only 25 minutes.
Most obviously, we can see what the China-built EX30 looks like, and I think it looks really quite good; it’s got a clean, simple design vocabulary, very much fitting with modern Volvo’s extremely Scandinavian Modern-inspired design. The basic body type is small SUV/crossover, but according to the sacrosanct Three Rules of Wagonhood, the car is a hatchback, and not a station wagon-type of SUV.
This is evident because of the lack of a cargo-area side window, one of the requirements for wagonhood.
Even if it’s not technically a wagon, the proportions are pleasing and I think there’s a lot of appealing detailing on the sides, which have some inset intaglio sections to keep from looking too bulky and slabby, and at either end there is some nice lighting design to keep things interesting.
I like the front end especially; lacking a grille to anchor the face, the lighting takes command here, and I think it works. Like the old Volvo 480 I wrote about recently, incorporating the Volvo slash and badge is a challenge on a grille-less face, but I think Volvo’s straightforward solution works.
The headlights are a sort of pixellated adaptation of the Thor’s Hammer design, and are interestingly dimensional as well:
Will they be savagely expensive to replace if you’re in a fender-bender? Probably! Also, I don’t see U.S.-spec side marker lamps on the EX30 that was revealed, so I suspect we’ll see some amber reflectors somewhere around this front corner—perhaps on that little corner that juts out?—by the time it hits the American market in about a year.
Around back, the taillights have been divided into two separate units per side, with [ ]-shaped units below and vertical ones on the C-pillars. The lower lamps enclose a full-width black panel that I briefly but excitedly thought might be glass, but isn’t. And, it’s not always black! It can be body-colored on some variants.
The blacked-out front and rear panels seem to be for a more butch Cross Country version, shown here on big wheels and with a roof rack, going off-road on the ochre low-poly cliffs of Planet Cubicon IV, which really is about as realistic a portrayal of the sort of off-roading these are actually likely to do.
Though the car was only shown in silver and what may be a lightish blue, Volvo has promised a range of other interesting colors:
Five vibrant exterior colors, from stylish Cloud Blue to bright and expressive Moss Yellow – the latter inspired by lichen growing on rocks along the Swedish west coast – give the EX30 character and personality.
Finally, lichen-inspired colors! I know most of you are probably assuming that I’m being sarcastic, but I assure you, I am very earnest about this! I’m earnestly a fan of lichens and mosses and all of the mycological arts, and I think colors based on those sound fantastic. It looks like one of the colors—likely Cloud Blue—is shown in this promo video:
Were you wondering what the Volvo EX30 has in common with an old Jeep J10 pickup truck? Sure you were. Well, here it is: they both have a glove box in the center of the dash, as opposed to over the passenger’s legs. Now, I haven’t seen this myself, since I wasn’t on the press trip, but that’s what I’m told. Does it have a real latch, or do you have to go through the touchscreen like some other Volvos I could mention? I’m not sure yet, but I sure as hell hope it’s a physical latch.There’s a large, very tablet-like central touchscreen that seems to house nearly all of the controls, which I suspect was a big cost-savings measure, and, like a Tesla Model 3, there doesn’t appear to be a conventional behind-the-steering-wheel instrument cluster.
The steering wheel is ever so slightly reminiscent of those “squircle”-type steering wheels, or, as Austin called them on the Allegro, “Quartic.” The materials used on the dash look interesting as well, a recycled plastic flecked with light bits that resemble stars in space. The interior space seems good for a smaller car, though the rake of the roofline could mean tight rear headroom for taller passengers:
The rear cargo area seems a good size, too:
There’s the expected 60/40 split folding seats that should make a nice flat loading surface, and the cargo volume seems on par with other small crossovers, combustion or otherwise. I saw no mention or photos of a frunk, so I’d guess as part of the cost savings no attempt was made to finish and enclose some usable volume under the hood, which is unfortunate but I guess understandable. I guess.
The Electronic Stuff
A full rundown of all of the EX30’s electronic features wasn’t available, but I’d expect all of the usual stuff like bluetooth and adaptive cruise and Carplay/Android Auto. Many of the safety and driver assist systems offered by Volvo are available as well, like Park Pilot Assist and door opening alerts and Volvo’s Level 2 semi-automated driving assistance system, Pilot Assist:
You can see how the instruments like the speedometer are displayed in the upper part of the center display there, too, and always-on controls are placed by the bottom. You know what’s a clever cost-saving measure? Instead of wiring speakers into the doors with all that associated hardware and wiring, there’s one Harmon Kardon soundbar with five speakers that mounts under the windshield. That’s smart, and it also means if you clip off a door or two backing out of a narrow garage, at least you can still listen to music.
Overall, I’m very impressed with what I’m seeing so far. The Volvo EX30 looks to be a master class in clever cost cutting that doesn’t really feel like cost-cutting, leveraging good design to turn de-contenting into deliberate and stylish minimalism. The price is right, the specs are good, the look is great. I think Volvo has the potential to have an actually appealing, affordable, and practical EV here, and I’m excited to try one out in person.
I may even forgive the lack of a frunk.