New Volvo EX30 vs Smart #1: interiors

The all-new Volvo EX30 was developed using the same know-how that made the Smart #1 a class leader. But can the newcomer leapfrog its relative?...

Volvo EX30 dashboard

Behind the wheel

Driving position, visibility, build quality

Inside, the Volvo EX30 embraces modernity by showcasing visually enticing recycled materials, including carpet made from recycled bottles, floor mats that used to be fishing nets, seats trimmed in a wool-blend fabric, and an optional no-cost ‘flax decor’ finish to the dashboard.

The Smart #1, meanwhile, takes a more traditional approach; it features real leather on the seats (there are no vegan alternatives here) and lots of high-grade plastic that you might find on a product from Apple. It’s hard to split the two cars in terms of quality, so it really comes down to which approach you prefer.

Rather than having a digital instrument panel behind the steering wheel (as the #1 does), the EX30 follows the Tesla Model 3’s lead by placing key information such as speed and predicted range on the central infotainment screen. The speedo is at least on the side of the display nearest the driver, but you still need to look away from the road for longer than you would if this information was directly in front of you.

Smart #1 dashboard

It would help if the EX30 had a head-up display that projected key information onto the windscreen, but while this feature is standard on Premium-spec #1s, Volvo doesn’t even offer it as an option.

Like the Model 3, both of our contenders eschew physical dashboard controls; instead, you have to dive into the touchscreen or use voice control to do everything from adjusting the temperature to repositioning the door mirrors. It’s a pity, because being able to do these things by turning a knob or pressing a button would be more user-friendly.

In fact, the touchscreens are distracting enough that using them can trigger the driver alert systems in both cars. Each has a camera behind the steering wheel that watches your face, and if the system thinks you’re not paying attention to the road (because you’re looking at the screen), it will bong at you. While you can turn these systems off, they always default to ‘on’ the next time you unlock and start the car.

Volvo EX30 front armrest

The #1’s main advantage is that it has physical switches on the steering wheel (rather than the EX30’s sometimes unresponsive touch-sensitive panels).

In Premium trim, the #1 gives you electrically adjustable seats (with adjustable lumbar support) as standard, so you can find a suitable driving position easily.

By contrast, in this Plus-spec EX30, you have to make do with a manually adjusted driver’s seat with no adjustable lumbar support. This paucity of lower back support can become irksome after extended stints behind the wheel. You’ll need to step up to Ultra spec if you want electric seat adjustment (including for lumbar support) in the EX30.

Infotainment systems

Volvo EX30

Volvo EX30 touchscreen infotainment system

EX30’s 12.3in infotainment system was co-developed with Google, so you get the brand’s maps and assistant (one of the best voice control systems we’ve tried) as standard. The screen responds snappily and the graphics are crisp and clear, but there’s lots of layers to delve through when finding certain functions. There’s no smartphone mirroring at present, but Apple CarPlay and Android Auto will be added via over-the-air updates in the future.

Smart #1

Smart #1 touchscreen infotainment system

The 12.8in infotainment touchscreen is very responsive to touch inputs. However, as with the EX30, there are no physical buttons and the system is distracting to use on the move. As standard, Premium models get a Beats sound system featuring 13 speakers and two subwoofers. It’s more bass-heavy than the Harman Kardon premium sound system in the EX30 and won’t be to everyone’s tastes, but we found it more immersive to listen to.

<< Previous | Next: How practical are they? >>

Page 2 of 5

Also consider