It's difficult to talk about luxury and budget at the same time without feeling just a little bit disingenuous. Your mind immediately falls to bargain hunting at second-hand shops or surfing the racks at your local Marshalls or TJ Maxx. The results can be inconsistent, ill-fitting, and too often unfortunately styled.
None of those are descriptions one would ever want to apply to a Volvo, and yet, with the company's upcoming little crossover SUV, the 2025 EX30, budget and luxury somehow met in the middle to create the perfect little car. It's a great starter EV for those looking to make a first foray into electrification, a massive upgrade for anyone looking to unload the emotional baggage piling up on their current Tesla, and an astonishingly good value.
I hate that so many EV reviews are focused on price and range because there's so much more to talk about when it comes to the products that are coming to market. But, when it comes to the EX30, that's precisely where I want to start because those numbers are compelling.
When it arrives at U.S. dealers sometime next year, the Volvo EX30 will start at $34,950. That's for a base Core, rear-wheel-drive EV that goes 275 miles on a charge. Step up to the dual-motor, all-wheel-drive model, and you're looking at a starting price of $44,900 for the middle-tier Plus trim, the lowest available here. Both share the same 69 kWh battery pack.
That means you can get a car with the good looks and charming character of a Volvo for a price within spitting distance of the outgoing Chevrolet Bolt EUV. I don't mean to disparage the Bolt. It's a great car, but among the two, I know which I'd prefer. And, by the end of this article, I think you'll feel the same way.
Sizing up the competition
Though the EX30 looks similar in proportion to Volvo's current XC40 crossover, it's substantially smaller. At 166.7 inches, it measures a full seven inches shorter from tip to tail. It's even a smidge shorter than the old C30 Coupe.
Cargo space is slim at just 14.1 cubic feet behind the rear seats, but that space is at least tall and surprisingly versatile. And there are the usual tricks from a Volvo, like a floor that folds up to make more room, plus little tie-downs on the side.
Up front, though, things are rather less clever. There's effectively zero storage to be found in the frunk, just a little cubby barely big enough to hold a charging cable.
So it's not a huge car, and those with long legs will struggle to get comfortable in the rear seats. But there is plenty of headroom back there, and those seats are comfortable and, if you get the panoramic roof, bright and sunny, too.
Pick your power
Should you go with the AWD model of the Volvo EX30, you'll have to give up a little range. But, with an estimated EPA rating of 265, it's only 10 miles in exchange for better all-weather performance and more power. Lots more power.
The RWD EX30 has 268 horsepower and 253 lb-ft of torque. The AWD model, meanwhile, has a somewhat excessive 422 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque. 0-60 times are 5.1 seconds for the RWD model and 3.4 seconds for the AWD, just a few ticks away from a dual-motor Tesla Model 3.
While outright performance is comparable, the dual-motor EX30 doesn't exactly feel like a rocket ship on the road. In fact, the throttle curve and power delivery are far more relaxed than Volvo's current XC40 Recharge, a car that's so quick it sometimes feels overeager. But dip deep into the EX30's throttle, and it most certainly responds with enough torque to shove your posterior deep into the (eco-friendly, recycled) upholstery.
The single-motor RWD version is also quick. It, too, has the same somewhat relaxed throttle response at first. But, get into it, and it likewise scoots forward with reasonable aggression. It's only in the top end, especially facing the increased aerodynamic penalty of highway speeds, that the single-motor flavor feels a little flat. But, for the vast majority of driving, it'll prove plenty quick for plenty of people.
One thing that many will miss, though, is regen. Though the EX30 offers a supposed one-pedal mode, it isn't strong enough for my tastes. I'd love an option to boost regen even further, but sadly, it's a simple on/off toggle.
Calm and collected
While the AWD EX30 scoots like a scalded salamander with liberal applications of throttle, the overall driving character of the thing skews more toward the calm and collected side. On some lovely, twisty roads north of Barcelona, the EX30 proved quite capable, turning in sharply and maintaining a steady line through the turns. Its handling is predictable and confidence-inspiring, if not exactly engaging.
It's far happier when cruising along at a more relaxed pace. The suspension is definitely on the soft side, with just a hint of extra float detected over bigger bumps. The result is a car with impressively good ride quality for something in this class, absolutely on another planet compared to Tesla's Model Y.
Even with the larger, 20-inch wheels on the dual-motor EX30, the ride is calm and quiet. There's a bit of wind and tire noise on the highway, and certainly plenty more tire noise when you're pushing things through the corners, but for a car this size at this price, the overall driving experience is decidedly high-end.
Forward visibility is likewise good, though those thick C-pillars do make looking over your shoulder a bit of a challenge. Make sure those mirrors are well-aligned — a process, by the way, handled via the touchscreen and steering wheel controls. That's just one of many cues taken from Tesla.
Tesla-inspired and streamlined
While the exterior of the EX30 is Volvo through-and-through, from the new-aged Thor's hammer headlights to the stacked tails, you'll have more than a few deja-Tesla moments when poking around the interior.
In fact, gaining access to the inside of the EX30 requires an RFID credit card or a key on your smartphone. The comparisons don't end there. You'll find no gauge cluster behind the steering wheel, with everything from navigation to infotainment handled in the center touchscreen.
Like on Models 3 and Y, that display is portrait-oriented but it's bigger here, measuring 12.3 inches on the diagonal. It's also much more cleanly integrated into the dashboard than Tesla's tacked-on touchscreen, with the side vents flowing up and around it in a clean, organic way. Those vents, by the way, have physical controls you can reach right up and adjust. No fiddling with the touchscreen when you want a little extra breeze in your face.
The overall vibe of the EX30's interior is budget-oriented but design-forward. It's an interesting mix. You can see that economy was fundamental to the design mission, but despite that, nothing feels cheap. Whether you go with the vinyl interior or the higher-end woven wool, the seats are comfortable, and their materials look and feel great.
You likewise have a selection of materials to splay across the dash, one made of recycled windows having a speckled effect that either looks like flecks of paint strewn by a careless brush or a flurry of stars swept across a midnight sky, depending on how evocative you're feeling. Either way, it's a fresh and compelling way to highlight a material that you won't find in any other car.
The media experience
That frugality extends to the media experience, which is likewise unique. The main component of the EX30's sound system is a monolithic soundbar that runs across the base of the windshield. After ages of having sound pumping from the doors by your feet, it's an odd to have it primarily driving directly into your face.
But the result from the higher-tier Harmon Kardon system is quite good, bright and clear. Now, a cynic would look at this as a blatant cost-cutting measure, saving wires and installation headaches by having just the single unit. And that's not an incorrect position.
But, this is Volvo not only saving costs but also respecting trends in modern home theater design, where soundbars are an increasingly dominant force. Poke around, and you'll spot plenty of other intelligent, efficient choices like this throughout the car.
The software experience, on the other hand, is far more expansive than Volvo's current offerings. It's still Android Automotive-based, but more flexible and predictive, automatically displaying shortcuts like the 360 camera when needed. Wireless Apple CarPlay is here, but Android users must make do with the integrated apps. That covers the big players, like Google Maps, Waze, YouTube Music, and Spotify. I was told that Android Auto support is still in the pipeline but without an ETA.
A certain winner
Though the EX30 I drove was a pre-production model with some unfinished bits, it already drove remarkably well. It also looks great, inside and out, and has an undeniable personality that is utterly absent in most other budget-minded crossover SUVs.
Though you can see the places where Volvo saved money on the EX30, those places don't come off as cut corners. Rather, they're often used as design highlights, advertised frugality and somehow, it all works. It's a great car at a great price, and when it hits U.S. shores next year, this little car is going to be huge.