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First Drive

Road Test: Volvo C30 2.0D SE 3dr

£17,890 when new
Published: 03 Feb 2007


  • BHP


  • 0-62


  • CO2


  • Max Speed


  • Insurance


Despite a healthy buzz of excitement around the C30 at the Paris motorshow, its reception since has actually been quite muted. I, for one, love it, but had one of those fantastically awkward arguments with my Editor about the interior. He reckons it’s too basic. I reckon it’s quite a classy kind of minimalism. It became evident that we strongly disagreed with each other, and that neither one of us was backing down. The office went a bit quiet. And we went back to our desks.

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The thing you have to accept about the C30 is that it’s still a Volvo, so even if it looks like Gerry Anderson does the Turner Prize from the rear, it’s always going to be fairly conservative on the inside. So you either embrace this, or you toddle off back to your Golfs and Civics.

For me, the thing that makes the C30 great, and in particular this 2.0-litre diesel option, is not its pandering to the whims of contemporaneity, but a strong execution of what Volvo has always held in higher esteem. It looks and feels convincingly premium, and yet never seems to be overstretching to achieve this. Everything is superbly laid out, in an environment that is light, comfortable and relatively ageless. It’s not quite up to the standards of BMW or Audi, but the Swedes have always had a different check-list than the German firms, and the no-nonsense policy pays dividends. The engine in here is also a cracker. It’s frugal, quiet and responsive enough to negate spending £6,000 more on the quicker but thirstier D5. A claimed combined 49.6mpg economy figure  is the same as the equivalent Golf, and it’s even marginally quicker to 62mph. Not that Volvo buyers will be interested to hear that.

For all the marketing pomp about this car being the firm’s return to sporty products, what I reckon will really sell the C30 is its understatement and individuality. It’s not a terribly involving drive anyway, the steering and gearchange both feeling a little indirect and the chassis immediately less impressive than the Golf’s. But there’s just something thoroughly satisfying about the excellent level of engineering and utter lack of pretension in its design. This is a hatchback for proper grown-ups, not thirty-somethings who can’t quite afford something bigger yet. And as such the C30 feels like a hell of a lot of a car for the money. Sorry, boss.

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