Amazing economy but C30 is still needy
Unfortunately, this latest DRIVe version of the Volvo, even with Start/Stop technology, was not enough to convince Campbell Spray
Published 14/02/2010 | 05:00
I still haven't really got the Volvo C30. It isn't as good or as eye-catching as some of its brilliant predecessors among Volvo's flashier and more sporty cars, yet it does nothing really wrong except in having a boot that is small and difficult to access through its rear hatch.
The latest C30 I was driving was the DRIVe version with Stop/Start technology and lowered sports chassis which manages absolutely amazing economy, a CO2 figure of an eye-catching 99g/km and the lowest band road tax.
The car was also in a very eye-catching "orange flame metallic" -- a sort of saffron -- with "oyster burst" trim. Yummy, almost good enough to eat.
Unfortunately the car didn't really live up to its looks. The model I had was very well equipped and, at €30,540, came in at nearly €7,000 above the starting price for the range which, in turn, will sell for under €20,000 with the scrappage scheme's €1,500 and "Volvo Enviro-Enhancement" of more than €3,000.
This is all good stuff. But, just as with the DRIVe version of the massive S80, there is a certain sluggishness about your progress which does entail a lot of gear work.
It does take away from any sporty pretensions for the car and leaves with you a very green -- or in this case orange -- car which is ideal for a couple or single person who doesn't want to be putting less agile people in the rear or carry a lot of luggage.
There are a lot of other cars out there that can do the job better, have a sportier feel -- think Seat for one -- and are much more adaptable.
Of course, they don't have the Volvo cachet about them, nor probably the real superior build feel and rather swish interior minimalist design that the C30 has.
However, the work in making the C30 so clean and economical (think at least 60mpg from its 1.6 diesel engine) is to be commended.
The aerodynamics have been really worked at by using reprofiled bumpers, diffusers and spoilers -- including a rather funky roof mounted one -- and a blanked-off front grille.
As befits a very close cousin of the Ford Focus the handling of the C30 is always excellent, although the special suspension of the DRIVe version delivers every bump straight into your back and is almost too low if you have to go up a pavement or a lip to a garage.
Naturally as a a Volvo, the C30 is superbly safe and should hold its value very well. For the most part I enjoyed driving it, but the gear-changing was a bit fiddly and the whole car wouldn't be very practical. It's a niche of a niche and these days might be one too far.