Volvo C30

Volvo's C30 is spacious, well built and desirable

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

It’s unusual for a car firm to come up with an executive model that is genuinely distinctive, but the C30 will make waves wherever it goes. It’s spacious, well built and desirable – we only wish the designers had been more imaginative, particularly on the lines and layout of the cabin. Opt for the flagship diesel and you will get a blend of punchy performance and 40.9mpg economy.

When it comes to image transformations, Volvo’s rise is spectacular to say the least! However, the one thing the brand’s rejuvenated line-up has lacked since the early Nine­ties is a trendy hatchback to draw in young buyers... until now!

If you’re about to place a deposit on an Audi A3, BMW 3-Series Compact or Mercedes C-Class Sports Coupé, you might want to hold on. It’s been a long wait since the Volvo SCC – Safety Con­cept Car – was unveiled at the 2001 Detroit Motor Show, but the production version has finally arrived.

The spiritual successor to the Nine­ties’ 480 ES, the C30 is designed as a three-door coupé. Charged not only with attracting new buyers to Volvo, but also meeting the needs of traditional custom­ers, it has bold rear styling balanced by a conservative front end.

From the side, the C30’s shape is dominated by an exaggerated shoulder line and windows which taper towards the tailgate. At the back, unique features include huge tail-lights which climb up the C-pillar and a glass area that forms the entire hatchback.

Inside, it’s obvious practicality wasn’t the main priority – there is room for only four people. The consequence of those broad shoulders on the outside is a narrow rear cabin. Rather than squeeze in a bench, Volvo has fitted two chairs, but this actually works very well, allowing adults to sit comfortably. It’s just a pity access isn’t easier – you first have to fold the front seat, and then use a separate switch to slide it forward.

Unfortunately, in achieving decent rear space, ultimate load capacity has been sacrificed. With the chairs in place, the boot is 233 litres – that’s around 50 litres less than in a Renault Clio.

The unusual seating layout, combined with the low glass tailgate, gives following drivers a clear view of the C30’s dashboard – although it’s unlikely to catch their eye. The designers deci­ded to keep the ‘floating’ centre console from the S40 and V50, but we reckon they could have been more imaginative. The stack is located a bit close to the driver, while the air-con controls are positioned too low.

Under the C30’s stubby body – the car is 22cm shorter than an S40 – you will find the same basic underpinnings as the latest Ford Focus. To make the chassis deliver the best possible handling, the engineers at Volvo have fitted stiffer stabiliser bars plus new rear shock absorbers and springs.

On the road, the wide track combines with the sophisticated suspension to give a rewarding and mature feeling of stability in corners. Comfort is never compromised by the relatively stiff set-up, even on rough surfaces, but the handling falls short of being truly entertaining. A Sport variant is also available, with a 20mm-lower ride height and keener responses.

Our high-spec model’s D5 diesel unit was mated to a five-speed automatic gearbox. Changes are fast enough in Drive mode, but a bit slower to react in the sequential manual setting. Yet the powerplant responds well to throttle inputs whatever your speed, with gutsy acceler­ation above 1,800rpm, when the turbo­charger adds thrust.

Prices for the C30 start at £14,750, with range-topping variants costing a hefty £22,995. So, has the stylish hatch-back been worth the wait? Volvo fans are unlikely to be disappointed.

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