Volvo C30

Our new Volvo C30 is so eye-catching, it stands out beside even the most striking landmarks.

  • DESIGN: I think the C30 is one of the best-looking cars in the world. It’s easily the most distinctive in its class.INTERIOR: Beautiful styling continues on the inside, as the cockpit has an attractive minimalist two-tone finish.ENGINE: Five-cylinder diesel is a gutsy performer, and six-speed manual gearbox makes the most of it. Steer clear of the auto as it hampers the impressive pace.
  • PRACTICALITY: Are we really going to be able to live with that boot? It’s too shallow to be of any real use, and the high load lip makes lifting luggage in extremely tricky.

The Tate Gallery can keep its collection! Here at Auto Express, we’ve got our own work of art: a new Volvo C30.

Maybe I’m exaggerating a little, but compared to most of today’s anonymous-looking cars, it’s one hell of a grand design. I’m not the only one who thinks so, either. The countless people I’ve spotted admiring the car clearly do, too. Some do double takes. Others rubberneck as they pass. And then there are those who simply stop and stare.

Thank goodness peering eyes can’t damage a car’s paintwork, otherwise the C30 would be stripped back to its bare metal by now. I’ve only had it a few weeks, yet in this short time the attention it’s attracted has been immense.

The first day I drove it, I heard one young lad say to his dad: “Wow! Look at that car!” I turned round expecting to see a Bugatti Veyron. I couldn’t believe he was talking about the C30. Maybe the Volvo just looked good compared to its surroundings – I was at the local refuse dump at the time!

But you have to agree that the Swede stands out even when you plonk it next to one of Britain’s most striking buildings, St Paul’s Information Centre in London, as we did for this photoshoot.

Now, before you rush out and buy a C30, a word of warning: if you’re the shy retiring type, don’t. At least, avoid one in R-Design trim, with contrasting Cosmic White and Java paint. People won’t only look, they will want to talk, too. I’ve already had several conversations with total strangers all thanks to the Volvo. One woman liked it so much she wanted to know whether she should chop in her Audi A3 for one!

I felt a duty to talk her through the other options. Her Audi is a good car, but lacks the C30’s style. A BMW 1-Series, on the other hand, is more dramatic than the A3 and has a fine rear-wheel-drive chassis, too. As for the Mercedes A-Class? Well, that really can’t compete in the design masterclass that is the premium hatch sector.

So the C30 seemed the best choice. But I’d forgotten something, as the woman – who clearly knew a thing or two about cars – asked: “What about the new Volkswagen Scirocco? Should I wait for one of those instead?” Ah yes, the Scirocco. There’s a dilemma.

The Volvo’s key selling point is its stunning design. Yet the VW is nearly as beautiful – and it would have been more so had company top brass had the guts to keep the nose from the IROC concept seen at the 2006 Paris Motor Show. However, as it’s essentially a Golf GTI underneath, the Scirocco will undoubtedly be a far better car to drive.

Although the C30 shares its basic platform with the great-handling Ford Focus, Volvo has somehow managed to suck all the fun out of that brilliant chassis. The car corners well enough, but the steering provides no feedback.

And while the C30 has that solid feel you expect from a Volvo, I can’t help wondering if the car is just too heavy. With this in mind, should my new friend – or anyone else for that matter – consider buying one?

From my short time behind the wheel, my answer is a resounding yes – just as long as handling isn’t your priority. And if you don’t need an especially big boot. After all, you don’t want to have to suffer for your art!

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