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Baby Swede is among least expensive electric offerings

DRIVEN | Volvo EX30 arrives in Mzansi

Brenwin Naidu Motoring editor, reporter and presenter
Minimalist styling remains a Volvo hallmark.
Minimalist styling remains a Volvo hallmark.
Image: Supplied

Like most mainstream premium carmakers, Volvo has hedged its fate almost entirely on full battery electric vehicle (BEV) powertrains. 

The EX30 follows the introduction of the XC40 and C40 Recharge derivatives, expanding the local Volvo BEV range.

It was unveiled to national media at a static launch event last week. Sowetan Motoring can lay claim to having driven the vehicle, however, as the manufacturer availed it to us briefly for a 50km test drive in January.

The reason for the sneak peek was because the model had been listed among finalists in contention for 2024 World Car Awards honours. I have the privilege of serving on the jury and sampling the car sooner allowed me to vote accordingly before deadline.

Seeing the compact EX30 in the metal, the stylistic execution is very clearly authentic to the cemented Volvo character. That means clean lines, an elegant silhouette and sophisticated details. Overall, a package that is bound to age beautifully, as junior Volvo models have done. Just look at a C30 from two decades ago, for instance and note how attractive it looks even by modern standards.

Older Volvo customers who appreciated the luxurious, richly appointed and inviting cabins of yesteryear may find themselves taken by surprise. Yes, the EX30 is minimalist in typical brand fashion but there is a cold sense to proceedings. The front seats, for example, are not as cushy and wide-berthed as has always been expected in a Volvo.

The surfaces, while seemingly durable, are of a hard nature. But there are some truly exquisite pieces offering slight redemption, like the cold metal slivers that serve as interior door releases.

Of course, there is a great deal going on from a digitisation perspective. Not a single old-fashioned analogue element is to be found in the EX30. In fact, the entire cabin layout and operating concept is unlike any experienced in a Volvo.

Even the electric window switches have been moved away from the doors, now located between the driver and passenger. That is simple enough to get accustomed to, but there are certain aspects that proved truly frustrating.

To adjust the side mirrors, the driver has to find the relevant tab within a selection of menus on the central touchscreen. Once found, the steering-mounted buttons are used to adjust the direction of the mirror. Unnecessarily complicated.

Then again, it may be likely that the future-forward demographic that Volvo eyes for EX30 ownership could find such quirks easy to overcome.

Pricing starts at R775,900 for the Core Single Motor version. Now while it is not the cheapest BEV in the country, it is among more affordable entrants. Undercutting the EX30 range in price is the cheerful-looking and well-equipped GWM Ora 03, costing upwards of R686,950.

Functional and uncluttered cabin with high digital focus.
Functional and uncluttered cabin with high digital focus.
Image: Supplied

The Mini Cooper SE Hatch three-door comes in at R783,500. The EX30 Plus Single Motor Extended Range model costs R865,900. The Plus Twin Motor Performance derivative goes for R935,900. The Ultra Single Motor Extended Range costs R965,900 and the range-topping Ultra Twin Motor Performance costs R995,900. All models come with a five-year/100,000km warranty and maintenance plan. The battery packs of the vehicles benefit from an eight-year warranty.

Having a full five-strong line-up without any numerical terms to clearly denote differences, may confuse buyers.

But there is a logical step to things, once you compare the specification sheets. The least pricey Core obviously has the least output, delivering 200kW/343Nm and is rear-wheel drive, with a claimed full-battery range of 344km. It uses a 51kWh lithium-ion phosphate battery pack, with a claimed electricity consumption of 16.7kWh/100km.

Try to get over the idea that this is the entry-level model, though, because it has a quoted acceleration time that would shame some hot hatchbacks. Try 0-100km/h in 5.7 seconds.

But it gets even better, if silent sprinting is your thing. Because the Ultra Twin Motor Performance, with its four-wheel drive system and sizable output, is purported to dash to 100km/h from rest in 3.6 seconds. That is in bona fide supercar territory. The range-topper delivers 315kW/543Nm, with a claimed range of 450km.

Crisp, edgy rear lines are distinctive.
Crisp, edgy rear lines are distinctive.
Image: Supplied

Its abilities to dash like Sonic the Hedgehog were firmly impressed on us; dispatching hard acceleration in typically responsive fashion. Beyond the terrific acceleration one would be hard-pressed to pin-point a single area in which the EX30 truly shines from a driving perspective.

Ergonomically, it does not feel like a typical Volvo. As the speedometer is displayed on the central-fixed screen, one has to divert eyes away from the road to keep tabs.

Volvo models across the board used to have a decidedly creamy, supple texture. While the EX30 is reasonably insulated against wind noise, with a ride quality that is fair, its status as the junior of the range is quite clear.

Minor gripes aside, the more attainable EX30 looks set to help Volvo take a bigger step towards BEV critical mass.

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