Volvo C30 2.0 SE

Head-turning Swede offers premium quality in a hatch

SUrprised to find a Volvo in our group of sleek three-doors? Well you shouldn’t be. When it comes to style, the C30 has a lot to offer. Despite being a fixture on UK roads for more than two years, the Swede still has the ability to turn heads both in and out of town.

At the front, it clearly apes the look of the firm’s S40 saloon, complete with the trademark upright grille. But elsewhere it takes cues from Volvos of the past. The rear is clearly influenced by the 480ES of the Eighties and classic P1800ES of the Sixties. A particular highlight of the C30 is the glass tailgate that cuts deep into the rear bumper.

The good looks aren’t limited to the exterior, either. An attractive design and logical layout mark out the dashboard, while the neat ‘floating’ centre console is an eye-catching addition to the cabin.

As with the VW, the C30 is a strict four-seater. However, that doesn’t mean the Volvo is short on space, as rear-seat occupants have more legroom than passengers in the Scirocco or Mégane.

On paper, the Volvo serves up the most space for luggage – 364 litres with the 50:50-split rear seat in place, 1,010 litres with the bench folded flat. In practice, the advantage isn’t so clearcut. A narrow tailgate opening means loading large items is tricky, while the rear shelf earns a black mark for the amount of effort that’s needed to remove and reinstall it. Matters don’t improve for the Volvo at the test track, as its normally aspirated 143bhp 2.0-litre engine is the least powerful of our contenders. As a result, the C30 takes 14.6 seconds to accelerate from 50-70mph in top, trailing the Renault by nearly nine seconds!

On the road, the disadvantage is even more obvious. The powerplant feels sluggish below 4,000rpm, meaning it needs to be worked hard to keep up with the VW and Renault.

The C30’s driving dynamics are as uninspiring as its straight-line performance. A soft suspension set-up means plenty of body roll when cornering, while the steering lacks feedback and the chassis can’t match the grip of the other two. Instead, the Volvo feels more at home when cruising. Although it lacks a sixth gear, the Swede is an excellent long-distance choice, thanks to a comfortable ride and a well insulated cabin that keeps noise to a minimum.

But the Volvo’s real trump card is its price. This well equipped SE model costs £769 less than the next cheapest car in our line-up, yet it still comes with a long list of standard kit.

Stylish, spacious and good value, the laid-back C30 should be on any fashion conscious hatchback buyer’s shortlist. As with the Scirocco, we reckon the spec and trim tested here is just about the perfect C30 combination. But will its engine let it down?


Chart position: 3WHY: Swedish style and low price make the C30 tempting for coupé buyers on a budget.

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