At various points in recent memory, Apple has been the biggest, or at least the most valuable, company in the world. You can point to its leadership, its record of innovation, and its mastery of modern communications technology to find the reasons for that.
But others have those things too: great leaders, innovators, and communicators exist in any number of other spheres, and yet Apple they are not. Because, you might venture, nowhere else are any or all of those elements combined with an ability to make industrial design sexy.
The late Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, once said of an iMac that it “looked so good you want to lick it,” and while I can’t claim to have tasted any of the Apple products that dot my home, it’s true that millions of us have been seduced by smooth casings, sleek glass surfaces and the tactility of haptics various. As the adage has it — if it looks right, it is right. And if it looks right, you are more likely to desire it, seek it out, and pay a premium for it.
Which brings us to the new Volvo EX30. The first-ever small Volvo SUV, but the biggest of ideas within, and an all-electric platform beneath. So far, so good. But then who better to make a small, boxy car than a company that has been making big, boxy cars for nearly a century? You could probably draw it without seeing it, couldn’t you?
“Clean, uncluttered, and unquestionably modern”
Except not. Just look at it here, newly unwrapped. It may be small, but perfectly formed. At once modern and yet, when placed alongside any number of faceless, aero-moulded EVs being rushed to market, both distinctively Volvo and reassuringly SUV in form. And for reasons I can’t quite put my finger on — bar it being intrinsically right, taut surfaces, design detailing, and all — unusually desirable.
I know, right? Getting excited about supercars and super-luxe is fair game, but hot under the collar about a baby SUV? I am as confused as you are.
Or maybe not. Because there’s more inside. There are four different interior designs, or ‘rooms’ as Volvo calls them, awash with recycled and renewable materials, shredded plastics from window frames, or upcycled denim fibres among them. And the architecture is different in here — there’s a home-inspired, dashboard-mounted soundbar, so no need for bulky speakers in the doors, and the car being electric means a sizeable central storage compartment where a transmission tunnel used to be.
It’s a nice place in which to ride or steer — clean, uncluttered, and unquestionably modern, up to and including the removal of every conceivable button, switch, rotary controller, or slider in favour of a central screen that could be one of Apple’s finest.
Now, some would say that a multi-menu screen is not intuitive or easily accessed when you want to make a minor adjustment — to heating controls, for example. And it’s true that my co-pilot and I were bemused when the music volume, uncomfortably loud, refused to abate because he was unwittingly adjusting the door mirrors via a previous menu. But the reality is that somebody owning this car would learn the interface as they lived with it.
“This baby Volvo steers sweetly, drives smoothly and quietly, turns in crisply, and rides calmly”
Besides, there are more important things to think about, and admire, on the open road. I spent most of the time driving a mid-level single-motor extended range EX30 in top-flight Ultra trim, and that meant 272bhp in a small SUV that can dash from standstill to 60mph in a nick over five seconds. Which is a bit of a lark, but before you think of hypercar-baiting, the car is limited to 112mph.
Handily, the range of 298 miles on a single charge is above market average. And, as Volvo’s research suggests, typical owners will drive 31 miles a day and have access to home charging, so there’s no reason for range anxiety.
Or much to get anxious about at all. This baby Volvo steers sweetly, drives smoothly and quietly, turns in crisply, and rides calmly — peppy away from the lights; happy just cruising when the mood takes you. And starting at £33,795 (£42,045 as tested), it’s very keenly priced against some petrol and diesel old-schoolers that now feel very old indeed.
And there’s the rub. If you want a small, thoroughly modern car that — arguably, for the first time — makes electric accessible, sensible, and desirable, then the Volvo EX30 is for you. Not least because you’ll lock it, look back at it, and love what you see. It is, dare I say it, as if Apple made motor cars.
0-60mph in 5.2 secs