Volvo EX30 review: big things, small packages

Damien O’Carroll
  • Sign in required

    Please sign in to your account to add a vehicle to favourite

  • Share this article


See All See All
Base price
ANCAP Rating
Body type
sport utility vehicle
Boot Capacity
Fuel Type
Maximum power kW
Range (km)
  • Fantastic and distinctive looks
  • Impressive quality
  • Fun to drive
  • Slightly naggy driver assists
  • Tight rear seats and small boot
  • No buttons on keyfob

The Volvo EX30 may be the smallest Volvo currently on sale, the smallest SUV the company has ever built AND the smallest EV it has so far built, but it actually packs a couple of rather big firsts for the company.

Not only does it have the smallest lifetime carbon footprint of any Volvo, it is also (in twin motor guise) the fastest accelerating Volvo ever made as well.

Yep, that twin motor variant will sprint to 100km/h in a feral 3.6 seconds, but the rest of the range isn’t exactly slow either, with the entry level single motor RWD model knocking the 0 to 100 sprint off in under 6 seconds as well, while the long range RWD variant we drive here will do it in 5.3 seconds.

However, while the performance is impressive, it actually takes second place to that other first: the carbon footprint thing.

Yeah, yeah, I know - all that carbon footprint stuff is murky and boring, but the thing is, the EX30’s carbon footprint actually shapes the way it was designed and built to probably a larger degree than any other car on sale today.

The car you see here is an EX30 Ultra Single Motor Extended Range model, meaning that it gets a 69kWh nickel manganese cobalt (NMC) battery with a WLTP range of up to 476km, and a single 203kW/343Nm electric motor on the rear axle.

Volvo says the production footprint of the EX30 is slightly more than that of the petrol XC40, but its total lifetime footprint of 30 tonnes over 200,000km is actually under half the XC40’s.

While the body uses 25% recycled aluminium, 17% recycled steel and 17% recycled plastic, the interior also uses large amounts of recycled materials as well, but the cleverest part also contributes to the fact that the EX30 is also the cheapest Volvo EV by a decent margin too.

None of this matters if the end result isn’t pleasing to drive. And fortunately, the Volvo EX30 is very pleasing indeed.

This is most evident in the interior, which is minimalist even by Volvo standards - virtually all buttons and knobs have been banished in favour of a large vertical central touchscreen, while the traditional practice of scattering speakers all around the cabin in every available door and surface has been replaced with a single soundbar that stretches the full width of the dash.

Not only do things like this save significant amounts of weight, they also handily reduce production costs, contributing to both that low carbon footprint and price.

However, while all that is very noble and all, none of it matters if the end result isn’t pleasing to drive. And fortunately, the Volvo EX30 is very pleasing indeed.

It's actually pleasing in a number of ways, firstly (and most obviously) aesthetically - the EX30 is an undeniably handsome small SUV, with taut, restrained surfaces and a fantastic rendition of the traditional Volvo nose that sees no grille, as per modern EV styling, but instead the ‘face’ is defined by a Volvo badge and a subtle diagonal stripe between chunky, pixelated versions of the ‘Thor’s Hammer’ headlights.

Inside is that fantastically minimalist interior that, as well as being defined by weight and cost savings, is also a wonderfully comfortable (the seats are superb!) and, yes, even luxurious place.

The clever use of a soundbar as opposed to speakers distributed around the cabin is a bit more of a mixed bag...

There’s no attempt at faux-luxury via fake “vegan” leather here, rather all the interior materials are recycled (to some degree) from things like PET bottles, PVC, denim offcuts, or use renewable resources like flax fibre and cork.

And it all comes together beautifully well, with unique surfaces and textures that feel of a high quality, as well as nicely ‘different’ from the usual luxury fare of leather, metal or polished wood.

The clever use of a soundbar as opposed to speakers distributed around the cabin is a bit more of a mixed bag - while the sound quality is good and it does an admirable job of surrounding you in sound, it can’t quite manage the full immersion that a set of speakers all around you can.

Still, this is a minor quibble. More irritating was the Google operating system’s weird inconsistencies and bugs.

Often on start up the system seemed to not boot up properly, with options and menus you know you used previously not showing up. Or at least you thought you knew. Or maybe you imagined it…

The ride is nicely absorbent and composed regardless of how you are driving it, making it a delightful open road cruiser that is also happy tackling a few bends.

Turns out, no, I didn’t imagine it and often menus like audio settings would suddenly have far fewer options. It was massively frustrating and led me to doubt my own memory (and, yes, sanity) on more than one occasion before I figured it out.

It turned out that the vehicle we drove was due an update that would fix this and a number of other small bugs, which makes sense, as we have never encountered this sort of flakiness from the same OS in other Volvo and Polestar cars.

But what about the meat of all this: how does it drive?

Rather well, actually. While the steering is quick off centre, it is very light and quite numb. However, it is extremely accurate and, once you get accustomed to its lightness, the EX30 feels nicely agile and responsive.

The ride is nicely absorbent and composed regardless of how you are driving it, making it a delightful open road cruiser that is also happy tackling a few bends. It can, however, get a tiny bit brittle at low speeds over rough surfaces, but it is never particularly intrusive.

All up, the Volvo EX30 is a thoroughly excellent small electric SUV.

Being a Volvo the EX30 is packed with the latest safety and driver assist tech. Some of this is excellent and some is excellent but also slightly annoying.

The driver attention warning system is slightly picky, but generally pretty accurate. The biggest fault with this system actually comes from another, however: the decision to move every control to the large central screen means you do need to look away to do anything, leaving you with a choice - pull to the side of the road to change anything (HVAC included) or be shouted at for not looking at the road.

Of course, the former is clearly the responsible decision as well…

Lane assist can also be a bit too insistent and nibbles away at the steering wheel in an irritating fashion, but generally the EX30’s assists respond to your driving: if you drive it in an alert, yet relaxed manner (you know, like you should always drive), you won’t hear a peep from it.

Go into it stressed and in a hurry, however, then it will nag you constantly. Probably not what you want when you are stressed and in a hurry, but perhaps it is what you need…

All up, the Volvo EX30 is a thoroughly excellent small electric SUV. The lack of buttons and over eager assists may put some off, but the underlying package is so damn good that it is a hard one to go past.

BATTERY: 69kWh with single electric motor POWER: 200kW/343Nm GEARBOX: Single speed, RWD 0-100KM/H: 5.3 seconds RANGE: 476km (WLTP) PRICE: $78,990

How much is the Volvo EX30 Ultra?

The Ultra Single Motor Extended Range model we drove here sits in the middle of Volvo's EX30 range at $78,990. Above it sits the Ultra Twin Motor Performance variant at $84,990 that uses the same battery but ramps up the power to 315kW, while below it is the entry level EX30 Plus Single Motor Extended Range model at $74,990.

What are the key statistics for the Volvo EX30 Ultra?

The EX30 Ultra uses a single electric motor on the rear axle and a 69kWh battery that is good for a WLTP range of up to 476km. It can charge from 10 to 80% in 26 minutes on a 175kW DC fast charger and will hit 100km/h from a standing start in 5.3 seconds.

Is the Volvo EX30 Ultra efficient?

The EX30 uses around 17.8kWh/100km and during our time with it was displaying a real-world range of around 400km. It does seem to be particularly efficient around town, so mostly urban driving should see that 476km range being easily achievable.

Is the Volvo EX30 Ultra good to drive?

Being a small RWD car, you would expect the EX30 to be fun to drive, and it is. The strong performance from the motor is nicely accessible, regardless of whether you are pottering around town or throwing it down a winding road, while the ride quality is superb. The EX30's biggest weakness appears during motorway cruising, when its driver assists can become a tad intrusive.

Is the Volvo EX30 Ultra practical?

As an urban daily driver, yes, the Volvo EX30 is roomy and comfortable, with plenty of clever storage options. However, it may not be quite so suitable for families, with rear seat legroom being somewhat tight and the boot being relatively small, at just 318 litres.

What do we like about the Volvo EX30 Ultra?

The fact that Volvo has built a car down to a budget (of sorts; it's still a $70k-plus premium car), yet still managed to make it convincingly premium is very impressive. Add in the fact it looks great and is truly enjoyable to drive and it makes a very convincing package indeed.

What don’t we like about the Volvo EX30 Ultra?

The safety tech can get a bit naggy, particularly the driver monitoring and lane assist, but these can be switched off. Also, the fact that the keyfob has literally no buttons on it is weirdly irritating - even though the EX30 is totally keyless (you walk up to it, it unlocks, you drop it in drive and drive away) it is still somehow annoying that the keyfob is just a solid chunk of shiny  black plastic with no way to manually lock or unlock the car...

What kind of person would the Volvo EX30 Ultra suit?

The EX30 is best suited to empty nesters and young couples/singles with no kids, as its constricted rear legroom and small boot keep it from being too family-friendly. It's lower-than-average-for-a-Volvo entry price will make it appealing to buyers looking at the likes of a top-spec Hyundai Kona EV or Kia Niro EV, while it handily undercuts similarly-sized offerings from its traditional European competitors.


Keep up to date with DRIVEN Car Guide

Sign up for the latest news, reviews, our favourite cars and more.

By signing up for this newsletter, you agree to NZME's Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.