Volvo C30 2006 review

Volvo's eagerly-awaited small hatch arrives in the UK - and it looks like a cracker

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

Cars that stand out are few and far between, but the C30 succeeds in being an eye-catching, compact hatchback.The 136bhp 2.0-litre diesel engine has plenty of punch, good economy and decent refinement. Although the rather limited luggage spaceis disappointing, and the near-£20,000 price is far from cheap, this is still a desirable and classy machine.

The waiting is over – Volvo’s new C30 has arrived in the UK. Aimed at buyers of the VW Golf, Audi A3 and BMW 1-Series, the eagerly anticipated hatchback is one of the Swedish firm’s most important launches ever.

We were very impressed when we tested the model in range-topping D5 diesel and T5 turbocharged petrol form. But the biggest seller is likely to be the 136bhp 2.0-litre diesel. So how does it shape up?

With its unique looks, the C30 is hoping to attract young drivers to the brand – as well as appealing to existing Volvo fans. Drawing on the handsome SCC – Safety Car Concept – from the 2001 Detroit Motor Show, the C30 is a good-looking machine, particularly at the back with its horseshoe-shaped tail-lights and distinctive glass tailgate.

Inside, the dashboard and floating centre console are borrowed from the S40. Because of the tapering cockpit, and the car’s broad shoulder line, Volvo has had to rethink passenger space in the rear. Instead of a bench, there are two individual chairs – the firm argues that most buyers won’t have children. And while there’s a surprising amount of room, the three-door bodystyle means that access to the back is tight.

Practicality is also disappointing. At only 233 litres, boot space is poor. You’ll be able to get a week’s worth of shopping inside, but that’s about it. However, the rear seats fold flat and the glass tailgate is easy to open.

Thin pillars let plenty of light into the cabin and the superb all-round visibility is immediately noticeable. Adjustable and supportive seats make finding a comfortable driving position easy.

Turn the key and the Ford-sourced 136bhp 2.0-litre turbodiesel – the same as that used in the Focus – settles to a quiet idle. Refinement is good, with engine noise well suppressed under acceleration and at motorway speeds.

Performance is another strong point. The C30 hits 60mph in less than nine seconds and offers fuel economy of 49.6mpg. The handling feels firmer than the Focus, with which the Volvo shares its chassis, but even on bumpy UK roads the ride is still comfortable and the pay-off is excellent agility. The steering is well weighted and accurate, if lacking the sharpness of the Ford.

The only fly in the ointment is the price – our SE model costs a little over £19,000, which is a lot for a small car with four seats and a tiny boot. But with unique looks and strong residual values likely, the C30 is sure to find buyers prepared to pay to be different.

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