June 12, 2024

Mikayla Macfarlane

Serving technology better

2024 Volvo EX30 First Drive: An EV Value That’s Worth the Wait

7 min read
2024 Volvo EX30 First Drive: An EV Value That's Worth the Wait

From the moment it debuted earlier this year, Volvo’s new EX30 has been my most anticipated electric vehicle of 2024. The compact SUV promised ample range, Scandinavian style and exciting performance for a price and value that turned heads quicker than its claimed 3.4-second 0- to 60-second sprint. Having driven the new EX30 for myself, I can say that Volvo’s smallest SUV, while not perfect, is quite good and should be well worth the wait.

The new EV value king?

Cars have risen in price over the last few years. While researching our guide to the least expensive electric cars and SUVs, I learned that the average new vehicle transaction price in the US has climbed to around $48,000 which is 24% more than the September 2020 average. And electric cars are even more expensive, averaging around $50,683 — a number that is sure to climb as the current least expensive and best selling EVs, Chevrolet’s Bolt EV and EUV, cease production later this year. So when Swedish automaker Volvo saunters in with a $36,245 starting price (including the $1,295 destination charge), build quality and range that look this good, I take notice. And so should you. 

One motor, more range

Every Volvo EX30 that arrives on US roads will be powered by a 69 kWh battery pack (64 kWh net usable), but prospective owners will have their pick of two electric motor configurations. The “single motor extended range” setup makes use of — you guessed it, a single 200-kilowatt motor driving the rear-wheels to the tune of 268 horsepower and 253 pound-feet of torque. It’ll electric slide its way from 0 to 60 mph in 5.1 seconds, or it can cruise for up to 275 miles of range, depending on how aggressive you are with the accelerator.

Volvo EX30 Thor's Hammer headlights

The EX30’s exterior feature familiar Volvo design elements, such as the segmented Thor’s Hammer light signature.

Antuan Goodwin/CNET

On Spanish highways around Barcelona, I found that I was more than happy with the level of performance offered by the Single Motor. The steering is a bit light and overboosted for my taste, but the EX30 still feels agile and accurate around bends and mountainous switchbacks. Like most EVs, it is plenty peppy at moderate around-town speeds and, on the highway, it was a silent and fairly confident cruiser. I averaged 3.15miles per kWh during my short time behind the wheel, but I don’t believe the distance traveled was quite enough for an accurate efficiency estimate. I hope to do more extensive range and efficiency testing on my familiar long testing loop once the EX30 arrives stateside next year.

Twin motor performance adds power

The upgrade to the “twin motor performance” spec adds a second motor to the front axle, adding all-wheel drive surefootedness and bringing the total power output to 315 kW (or 422 horsepower). With 400 pound-feet of torque at the ready (and its battery pack at at least an 80% state of charge), the Twin Motor EX30 will sprint to 60 mph in just 3.4 seconds — earning it the accolade of “quickest production Volvo yet.” 

Driven with a light foot, the twin motor spec doesn’t feel significantly different from its single-motor sibling thanks to the powertrain automatically decoupling the front axle under light loads and cruising to maximize range and efficiency, landing my tested average at 3.70 mi/kWh or within a margin of error of the previous example. However, the additional weight of the dual-motor system and the optional 20-inch wheels on our example come with a range penalty, dropping to 265 estimated miles per charge. 

Speaking of charging, the EX30’s 153-kW DC fast charging capacity allows the battery pack to be brought from 10% to 80% in around 27 minutes at a fast enough station. At home, owners can expect to go from flat to full in around 8 hours via its 11 kW Level 2 AC charger. Additionally, Volvo claims its little SUV can pull up to a 2,000-pound trailer, though that will obviously come at the expense of some range. 

The EX30’s dimensions slot in between the Chevy Bolt EV and EUV, two of our favorite affordable compact EVs.

Antuan Goodwin/CNET

Just a lil’ guy!

The EX30 is a little guy. Technically a subcompact SUV, its dimensions are, I think, more akin to that of a tallish hatchback. From bumper-to-bumper, it stretches 166.7 inches with a 104.3-inch wheelbase between. For context, those figures place the EX30 scale right in the middle of the Chevy Bolt EV and EUV though, at 61.2 inches tall and 72.3 inches wide (excluding mirrors), the Volvo’s stance is lower and wider than either.

The subcompact Swede comes close to matching the Chevrolets’ cargo space, but no cigar. With 14.1 cubic feet behind the second row and 31.9 cubic feet with the seats folded flat, the Volvo is significantly less roomy than the Bolt’s 57 cubes — though, much of the Bolt’s advantage comes from vertical space, which doesn’t really make a huge difference in day-to-day hauling. The Volvo offers the advantage of 0.2 cubic feet of underhood storage — just enough space for a roadside emergency kit or your portable charging cable.

Volvo EX30 compared

2024 Volvo EX30 2023 Chevrolet Bolt EV 2023 Chevrolet Bolt EUV 2023 Hyundai Kona Electric
Length 166.7 in 163.2 in 169.5 in 165.6 in
Wheelbase 104.3 in 102.4 in 105.3 in 102.4 in
Width 72.3 in 69.5 in 69.7 in 70.9 in
Height 61.2 in 63.4 in 63.6 in 61.2 in
Cargo 14.1 cu. ft/31.9 cu. ft 16.6 cu.ft/57.0 cu.ft 16.3 cu.ft/56.9 cu.ft 19.2 cu.ft/45.8 cu.ft
Curb Weight 3,858 lbs / 4,140 lbs 3,589 lbs 3,680 lbs 3,715 lbs
Range 275 miles (est.) 259 miles 247 miles 258 miles

Centralized interior design

Outside, the EX30 is simply and handsomely sculpted, sharing elements of its familiar Scandinavian design — from the Thor’s Hammer light signature to its vertical taillights — with the likes of the larger and XC90 and EX90. However, the cabin steps in a very new direction for Volvo. Here, you’ll find extensive use of post-consumer materials like the dashboard composed of recycled window frames, sustainably harvested textiles such a Merino wool and an overall reduction of components and electronics via a technique that Volvo calls “centralization.”

The “centralized” concept focuses all of the storage, electronics and controls on a line drawn down the middle of the cabin; it’s essentially a cost saving technique that saves materials, weight and, most importantly, money, but Volvo’s designers have used this limitation to create a cockpit that still feels premium. Moving the window controls to the center console and moving all of the front speakers to a dashboard soundbar reduces the amount of internal wiring needed, but also frees up space on the doors for big pockets. (The Harman/Kardon-branded premium audio upgrade does, however, have rear door speakers and a subwoofer.)

Moving all of the controls to the center console (and combining front and rear switches) is a bold move that’s sure to frustrate some.

Antuan Goodwin/CNET

Once it’s pointed out, all of the little decisions Volvo made to reduce cost in the EX30’s cabin become obvious, but I should stress that the electric SUV doesn’t feel cheap. The dash and door panels feel solid and substantial despite their post-consumer origins and I didn’t notice a single rattle or buzz coming from anywhere in the cabin over many miles of driving.

Single screen tech

The most obvious example of the centralization concept is the large central display. The EX30 lacks a traditional instrument cluster; all driving data and most of the vehicle controls live on this 12.3-inch, vertically oriented touchscreen. The infotainment is powered by Google Built-In software, which uses Google Maps as the primary navigation software, Google’s Play Store and Services for streaming app downloads and Google Assistant for voice control.

Volvo has split the center display into four zones or vertical slices. The top edge always displays the speed, drive mode and other information that previously lived in the instrument cluster. The lower edge always displays climate control information. Most of the center area is dedicated to Google Maps navigation which, being built into the EV, is able to take battery level and charging estimates into account when planning or predicting routes. Finally, there’s a contextual area just below the map that changes depending on the driver’s habits or other factors.

The minimalist cabin features a single central 12.3-inch screen with Google Built-In.

Antuan Goodwin/CNET

Overall, I found the single-screen system to be well organized and easy to use, with a fairly gentle learning curve. Volvo’s software engineers have done a good job of requiring the bare minimum taps to access frequently accessed functions, while hiding rarely used options into smartly organized menus. But drivers who really love their physical buttons and switches may find themselves annoyed by the screen-centric design.

The EX30 will also ship with the latest generation of Volvo’s driver aid technologies, split between the Core, Plus and Ultra trim levels. My example featured a driver attention-monitoring system that kept nagging me to keep my eyes on the road if I spent too much time looking at the screen, which was a problem because the screen is where the speedometer lives now. Volvo’s representatives assure me that the US spec will be less naggy.

Price and 2024 availability 

The 2024 Volvo EX30 arrives stateside next year starting at $36,245 for the Single Motor which will be available in Core, Plus ($40,195) and Ultra ($41,895) trim levels with ascending levels of cabin and safety technology. Meanwhile, the Twin Motor Performance will only be available in Plus ($46,195) or Ultra ($47,895) trims. With the optional 20-inch Aero wheels ($800) and Climate Package with heated seats/steering wheel ($500), we’re looking at a $49,195 fully loaded as-tested price.

The Volvo EX30 isn’t perfect, but it will be a compelling and attractive value when it arrives next year.

Antuan Goodwin/CNET

Unfortunately, the Chinese-built EX30 won’t qualify for any federal EV tax credits, a fact that won’t change when production in Belgium comes online in 2025. However, the SUV may still qualify for EV lease incentives or for state and local credits.

My anticipation levels were high leading into this first drive, but the 2024 Volvo EX30 makes a very strong first impression and lives up to my expectations. We’ll need more independent testing to be sure, but I’m confident it’ll slot nicely onto our lists of best EVs and most affordable electric cars when it arrives next year.

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