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First Drive

Road Test: Volvo C30 2.0D SE 3dr

£17,890 when new
Published: 16 Mar 2010


  • BHP


  • 0-62


  • CO2


  • Max Speed


  • Insurance


When you think Volvo, Volvo does not want you to think of big square family estates. Yes, this is rather like Hugh Grant complaining that people only remember him for playing a posh bloke, but we shall let it slide for now. When you think Volvo, Volvo wants you to think of youthful vivacious things like PlayBoxes and Heelies and Jedward. When you think Volvo, Volvo wants you think of this facelifted C30, with its new pointier face and bigger headlights and optional white wheels.

Youthful, vivacious things that we are, we shall happily concede it looks rather excellent. We've long admired the littlest Volvo, with its bulbous glassy backside and cute coupe lines, and this visual refresh sharpens things up nicely, bringing the C30 into line with the shortly-to-arrive new S60. Fear not, the cute little glass hatch remains, but now it sits atop a new rear valance. Overspec it - contrasting rocker panels and chrome foglight surrounds, anyone? - and it might look a bit Toys'R'Us, but keep things muted and it's a handsome thing.

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But the big news - the big news that Volvo hopes will attract the youthful, vivacious Jedward-types - is the new sports chassis, available on every C30 apart from the hyper-green ‘DRIVe' diesel. It lowers the car by 10mm on its springs, while the dampers and roll bars have also been firmed up.

The result? Very much the same story as the XC60 R-Design. The sportified C30 is indeed sharper than its predecessor, but only slightly. Compared to, say, the Honda Civic - or even the Astra - it's far more relaxed, far more... Volvoish. It feels - and we mean this in the nicest possible way - much more BigSquareFamilyEstate than VivaciousHeelieJedward.

Make no mistake, it's a compliment. We drove the 2.0-litre diesel, which - though a bit gruff in comparison to BMW's latest generation of four-pots - has a real big-car feel: long-legged and lazy and loungy. Even if you opted for the 225bhp ‘T5' petrol engine and the sports chassis - the same unit found in the Focus ST - those hankering after a true hot hatch will still find the C30 far too soft.

But Volvo has never pursued the Germans towards the Mutually Assured Destruction of ever-bigger wheels and ever-more-punishing ride. With Saabs soon expected to sport open-gate gearshifts and quilted orange leather, Volvo may remain our sole representative of chilled-out Swedishness. Which means its express desire to turn all youthful and sporty is concerning. This new C30 is great, Volvo, but don't forget your roots. Especially the big, square family estates.

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