Volvo C30 2007 review

Volvo has launched an all-new sporty trim level to its distinctive C30, but is it a hot hatch beater?

Overall Auto Express Rating

3.0 out of 5

In recent years, Volvo has produced some really stylish cars – and the C30 is one of them. Now, the firm wants to offer a bit more visual punch, and this R-Design model strikes the right balance between aggression and style, with a subtle but sporty look. However, it’s not cheap – at least in the form of our car – and, as ever, packaging could be better, too. So buyers had better be prepared to put style ahead of substance.

Called R-Design, it’s been created to develop the brand’s sporting credentials with the looks, if not the power, of its high-performance R models. As with Audi’s S line or BMW’s M Sport kit, the package is the cheapest way of boosting the presence of the C30 hatch, S40 saloon or V50 estate.

The R-Design spec can be added to Sport and SE Sport variants, and consists of a bodykit, a roof spoiler, new alloy wheels and unique badging. There’s also leather trim for the cabin and a host of other tweaks to the interior, including alloy pedals.

Viewed for the first time, it looks smart – and that feeling continues inside. The thickly padded sports seats are covered in two-tone cream and black leather, with the steering wheel also wrapped in hide. The centre console is made from aluminium with a carbon fibre-effect finish.

The instruments now have blue backing, and the floor mats get cream leather seams. Plus, there are R-Design badges on the wheel and seats. Fit and finish is superb throughout, and although the two-tone seats are a matter of taste, the R-Design package brings some handsome updates for the C30. More importantly, it’s in keeping with Volvo’s subtle image.

However, it does come at a price. Weighing in at £21,295, our 2.0D SE Sport model is expensive, especially when you consider that, according to the maker’s latest price list, you can’t order this variant without the R-Design package. A few months ago, you could get an SE Sport – which came with a near-identical bodykit and 18-inch alloy wheels, but not the leather trim – for £500 less. The cheapest C30 R-Design is the 1.6-litre petrol Sport, although that still costs £16,600.

Does the driving experience match the racy looks? Not quite. Despite its Ford Focus underpinnings, the C30 simply isn’t much fun. Its steering is accurate yet rather numb, while the ride is fine on smooth roads, but brittle over broken surfaces.

The 134bhp 2.0-litre diesel provides plenty of pace, however, with a rapid 0-60mph time of 8.8 seconds and punchy in-gear performance. It’s a bit gruff under acceleration, although the unit is very refined when cruising and impressively economical, too.

Another Achilles’ Heel for the C30 is its lack of space. With two six-foot tall occupants up front, the pair of rear seats are only really useful for carrying luggage. And that’s just as well, because the boot is only 233 litres – about the same as a Ford Fiesta’s.

Still, this R-Design model certainly stands out, and with the promise of strong residuals offsetting some of the effects of that expensive price tag, there’s still plenty of appeal.

Rival: BMW 120d M Sport The German firm’s sporty trim adds a bodykit, alloys, lowered suspension and racy cabin tweaks. It looks fantastic, but the upgrades are even more costly than Volvo’s R-Design pack, taking the price of a 120d up by £3,575 to £23,395.

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