Volvo C30

Do styling and chassis tweaks bring hatch into contention?

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

The C30 was a revolutionary car for Volvo when it debuted four years ago. And although a lack of space has held it back – it falls somewhere between a coupé and a sensible hatch – the smart design has meant that it’s not short of appeal. This facelifted version looks even better than the original, and adds extra trim options and colour choices. While it’s still not as good to drive as that styling suggests, with a line-up which includes a brilliantly efficient DRIVe model the sophisticated new C30 deserves some success.

Fresh-faced and with added road presence, the Volvo C30 has had a mid-life makeover. Going up against the Audi A3 and Volkswagen Golf, the compact three-door hasn’t been a big sales success since its launch in 2006... so the Swedish manufacturer is pinning its faith on this revamp to tempt more buyers.

The first thing that strikes you is just how different the car looks to its predecessor. The major changes have taken place up front, with a new, honeycomb-patterned grille and sweeping, sharper-angled headlamps inspired by those seen on the recent S60 Concept. The air intake has been enlarged as well, and a fresh bonnet and front wings make the C30 look sportier and more imposing on the road.

Video: watch CarBuyer's video review of the Volvo C30

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While the rear of the car remains relatively unchanged, two new body colours have been added to the line-up: this Orange Flame Metallic, plus Lime Grass Green. White 17-inch alloy wheels are also now available for the first time.

Inside, there are several new trim options, but although the interior is well put together it’s still short on luggage space. On the road, the C30 remains an impressive all-round performer. Our car featured the company’s new sports chassis, which offers a stiff ride but agile handling. Sadly, the steering still lacks the feedback of the Ford Focus.

Volvo expects our 2.0-litre diesel model to be the big seller, but despite providing plenty of torque and a 0-60mph time of less than nine seconds, the C30 feels a bit sluggish. It could be more refined at high revs, too. However, the compact hatchback is happier once sitting at motorway speeds.

The range will continue to include an eco-friendly DRIVe version, with a 1.6-litre diesel hooked up to a stop-start system. This promises 74mpg, CO2 emissions of only 99g/km and a £16,785 price tag, and should appeal to both private and business motorists.

On the whole, the C30 represents an interesting and stylish alternative to the likes of the Golf. It’s certainly worth a look if you’re in the market for a fashionable hatch.

Rival: Golf 2.0 TDI 140 SE At just short of £20,000, this diesel offers everything you’d expect from a VW. Refinement and comfort are top-notch, and the punchy engine balances good performance with superb economy and emissions.

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