First introduced to the UK market in late 2006, the Volvo C30 has been around for some years now. It underwent a mid-life refresh in 2010 with a re-designed front end encompassing new headlights, grille, and front body panels
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In this age of belt tightening and penny watching, car marketing gurus will have us believe we are helping save the planet by investing in ‘green’ technology. Perhaps we are, but our grandchildren will be better placed to know the answer to that. More measurable to Average Joe though, are the financial savings achievable by opting for the dark-green route when investing in a new car. This is a card the Volvo C30 1.6d DRIVe SE stop/start can play with some confidence.
The C30 was the first Volvo to adopt the company’s green DRIVe eco-label. While it is getting on in years, its unique design still appeals, particularly the rear end. Compact, very economical and an all-round excellent drive, the C30 remains one of the best cars in the current Volvo range. For what is essentially a three-door hatch, it’s interior is very good quality, spacious, well-equipped and – when coupled to Volvo’s outstanding 1.6 diesel – the driving experience is exceptional.
Because I like a bit of controversy…I really don’t see the point of those who bemoan interior plastics in that crass, exaggerated manner. Do let’s be realistic. Once a potential buyer has assessed a dashboard top or door panel for the first time – assuming they even DO, they are unlikely to ever do so again. Buyers either accept or reject the plastics for what they are – a common and largely accepted method of cost-reduction by most manufacturers. At least I know where value has been added and savings made than experience latent short cuts in more critical areas like safety and security. Dacia’s runaway success should prove a case in point.
So yes, the C30 has some average plastics in the cabin, but it’s still a great place to spend some value-for-money road time. As a starter-car for today’s young families, it makes good sense and interesting deals can be found if searched for properly.
I spent a few days and nights with the C30, which included an M3 run to Teddington Studios to see Rob Brydon in action. I have to say I was very impressed with it and the 1.6 litre diesel was a gem. Fitted with stop/start technology to reduce fuel usage when sitting in stationery traffic or at the lights, the car reflected a respectable 51.2mpg over the 290 miles driven. When the gear-lever is in neutral with foot off the clutch the engine temporarily switches itself off. Any pressure on the clutch pedal fires up the diesel, ready for the off. I found the system very reliable, not faltering once.
Further encouragement to attain maximum economy is a gear change indicator that suggests you change up or down at the best possible time, to ensure the engine need not work so hard to maintain the desired progress.
Being only 5ft 8in short, I found the driving position to be very good with plenty of lateral and height adjustment from the part-leather seats and steering wheel helping me find my ergonomic ‘aahh, there you go’ zone. The floating centre console is uniquely different and stows clutter and tat that we don’t use or need every day. Plenty of storage places in the doors and centre console keep the other daily essentials out of the way. However, the cubbyhole provision is poor by any standard.
Given the three-door arrangement of the C30, rear space is surprisingly good with more than adequate knee and headroom. The rear seats are slightly centred and offer good forward visibility. Often given short-shrift in the comfort stakes by many manufacturers, Volvo have made these just as comfortable as the front pair and would be fine for longer journeys.
Boot space is adequate at 251 litres and split folding rear seats significantly add to the carrying capability. For awkward loads, there is a handy ski-flap between the rear seats and removable parcel shelf. The dash-mounted flip-up satellite navigation system is a gem to use and no problems were encountered, as was the Blue-tooth phone and audio capability.
Based on the Ford Focus platform, I found the C30 very nimble with a rigid feel to the body with responsive and stable characteristics. The chassis, with its front sprung struts and multi-link rear assembly delivered controlled and reassuring road manners and an alert steering response that – while a little numb at the dead-ahead – offered adequate feedback. Noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) is kept well in check with excellent insulation from road and wind noise.
Volvo’s DRIVe technology enables the C30 to emit just 94g/km of CO2, a reduction of 10g/km from its less-green predecessor. This equates to an exemption from London’s congestion charge. If you don’t live in or around London, you’ll still be saving money as the C30 DRIVe is VED road tax free and the 115PS 1.6 oil-burner averages a claimed 67.3mph, while delivering a decent 270lb of usable torque throughout the range.
To achieve the magic sub-99g/km threshold, Volvo reduced the ride-height of the standard C30 by a centimetre and redesigned the front wheels to reduce drag. A redesigned radiator grille, reworked rear bumper, under-body panels and wind deflectors around the front wheels further enhance the super-efficient C30 DRIVe.
If you’re looking for something different, economic and of a style that wouldn’t look too out of place at one of today’s motor shows, the Volvo C30 DRIVe is very worthy of your consideration. The range starts from £18,995 (pre-discounts). But be sure to pick that cracking 1.6 diesel.
Inside is a relaxing place to spend some time.
Feels very well put together, clutter-free environment.
Excellent 1.6 diesel is a must-have.
Steering a little vague at centre.
Rivals now have better green credentials.
Model as tested : Dealer: MRRP : £22,245.
Best online price : £19,809.
Summary – October 2012
Performance: Great diesel delivers a wide band of usable torque 4.0
Ride & Handling: Planted ride, perhaps a little jiggly at the rear when only one-up 4.0
Refinement: Engine not overly intrusive, NVH well-controlled 3.5
Quality & Reliability: Cabin materials are now well-improved and reliability is exceptional 4.0
Safety & Security: Excellent and trustworthy. It’s a Volvo 4.5
Behind The Wheel: All controls laid out nicely, everything in its place 4.0
Space & Practicality: Good space up-front, some may complain at rear space. Not me 3.5
Equipment: Generous kit, sat-nav, usual auto wipers, lights, etc 4.5
Comfort: Comfortable throughout and good for extensive mile-munching 4.0
Green cred: Good, 94g/km CO2 and claimed 67mpg. But others do it better now 4.5