Life Motoring

Friday 15 December 2017

swede and sour. . .

It is getting to the point where it is hard to criticise a car if it is low on emissions and saves you on road tax. Take the Volvo C30. Never heard of it? I'm not surprised. Its star has never burned that brightly. It was/is a small Volvo that has made little or no impact in the grand scheme of things. I could never warm to it really. I said so at the time of its introduction, and since.

Take the Volvo XC60. I'd say you might have heard of it. I wouldn't be surprised. Its star burns fairly brightly and will do so for a while yet. You'd have to warm to it. I said so when it came out, and since.

So why am I splicing these two apparent incompatibles under the one test?

Because they both now benefit from the marque's DRIVe effort which aims to cut emissions by every fair means at its disposal.

And while the XC60 I had on test had more than a touch of glamour, glitz and go about it, the one to benefit most was the 'cinderella' C30.

I still am by no means a fan. I still think the rear is truly awful, I still think . . . well I could go on and on.

But this thing does zillions of kilometres to the litre now it has a 1.6-litre diesel under its not-so-offensive bonnet and stop/start technology to save a few droplets of juice most times you come to a halt. It all adds up.

It gets better (or worse depending on your viewpoint). My second-youngest and increasingly car-savvy daughter loved it. I should say she loves everything French and the C30 is exactly what someone like Citroen would make if they felt like it, so that explains that.

Yet she wasn't alone. Cousins and 'nieces' liked it a lot. I remained steadfastly of the opinion that it had its chance and -- like that jennet Berbatov who plays for Manchester United -- it had fluffed its lines.

And yet . . . it would be foolhardy to condemn its chances of a mini-revival. It hardly bothers the fuel tank at all, calling infrequently to replenish reserves -- such as when I rather vengefully put the boot to the floor to overtake a juggernaut intent on keeping me waiting at 80kmh on a 120kmh motorway.

This is undoubtedly a different car as a result of its frugality. That is the irony. And they should not fit it with the sports suspension that was on my test motor; it was far too harsh, sending minor jolts through the body and making for a most uncomfortable sensation over rough roads.

So you might as well try it in normal mode. You may or may not like it but if you want a 'green' car then you won't get much -- hybrid, electric, petrol, diesel or Dail hot-air -- that will cover as much distance on so little.

The XC60 is a different proposition. The one I had on test had two-tone upholstery, a lot of smart stuff on board, some lovely touches and plenty of enthusiasm for giving it the welly.

This is a well constructed, cleverly curved in all the right places, well packaged 'son of' the hugely successful XC90 from a few years back (still going but we don't hear as much about it now).

Again it is enhanced, but by no means as much, by the DRIVe people who clinically reduced everything they could -- weight, air resistance, fuel wastage.

There are few sports utility vehicles with as much appeal as this, and the added attraction of a relatively low road tax, thanks to its increased frugality, is no barrier to a possible purchase. But that was not the overriding consideration for me. It was just a really good drive. It has a brilliant driving position and lots of power when you go asking for it. As I say, we have to get things into perspective here.

The C30 remains a cramped, small, highly safety-conscious Volvo that just happens to go forever on a thimbleful of diesel.

The XC60 remains a fine Volvo that is set up for a bit of performance but still manages an impressive return for an SUV of this size. As far as I'm concerned, if I'm going to drive a Volvo I want it to be fairly big, well-styled and easily capable of carrying four or five.

With a diesel under the bonnet, I won't have to worry too much about the fuel consumption but if DRIVe gives me more then . . . great.

We shouldn't forget that many of us have the equivalent of DRIVe in our right foot. We could save oodles if we drove properly, got out of the lower gears more quickly and stopped revving the engine when we're stopped. That's one area where the C30 really scores. It shuts down while you're waiting for lights to change.

Anyway, with the sort of returns that 1.6-litre diesel in the C30 can achieve -- and don't forget it is in the large saloon S80 as well -- it is obvious that new benchmarks are being set every day on just how much more they can get out of a litre of fuel.

And that is changing how we look at cars we might previously have overlooked. Call it a second chance. Everyone deserves one.

Irish Independent

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