Volvo C30 D5 R-Design SE Sport

Does Swedish hatch have real showroom appeal? We become a salesman for a few hours to find out...

With new car sales at an all-time low, it’s tough being a dealer at the moment. However, life is surely a little bit easier for those who sell desirable models such as our Volvo C30.

In my last long-term report (Issue 1,013), I explained how the car’s design was attracting so much attention, I was getting a bit paranoid that I’d left the boot open.

One passer-by was so interested in the Volvo, she actually stopped me in the street to demand a look round it. Her name was Lea-Anne Falandysz from London, and it turns out she was in the market for a new small executive car. So I invited her to my local Volvo dealership, HR Owen Regents Park, to see if I could actually flog her a C30.

Any salesman worth his salt knows it’s key to get potential customers behind the wheel. Now, I freely admit the C30’s handling isn’t a strong point. It looks the part, especially in racy R-Design trim, but when it comes to on-road thrills, it fails to deliver. But this isn’t the point of the Volvo. It’s all about travelling in comfort and style. And in this respect, nothing in this class comes close.

Lea-Anne agreed, and actually thought the C30 was more entertaining than her Audi A3 (I wasn’t going to argue myself out of a sale). Part of this was down to the engine. First of all, she couldn’t believe it was a diesel. That’s not surprising. The 2.4-litre D5 has a roary, rather than rattly, exhaust note which can confuse you about what pump to select at the filling station.

Lea-Anne does a lot of town driving, and so asked whether she should get the automatic. After all, they are less tiresome in traffic and go well with torquey diesel engines. At least, that’s usually the case. But I’ve tried the C30 D5 with an auto box and wouldn’t recommend it. Ratio changes are so slow you can almost feel yourself age between gears, while the torque converter seems to drain all the engine’s power. So then, a D5 manual was the best option. Sale almost closed. All Lea-Anne had to do was select some options.

Apart from the R-Design trim, two-tone paint and parking sensors, the other must-have extra is the Garmin sat-nav. This is a portable system and comes with a dealer-fit dash mount. On the downside, its cradle does look a bit cheap. But the whole set-up costs £365 compared to £1,500 for the vastly inferior factory-fit guidance unit.

Finally, I showed Lea-Anne another option I like: the hard parcel shelf. Big mistake. Up until this point she hadn’t paid much attention to the C30’s boot. Now, though, I had revealed the car’s Achilles heel.

There really is no room back there. The other day I bought an LCD flat screen TV but had to return it to the shop for a refund because I couldn’t get the box into the boot to take it home! Needless to say, it was this lack of luggage space that ultimately cost me the sale.

As I said, it must be tough being a car dealer...

Second Opinion

If ever there was an example of beauty being in the eye of the beholder, this is it. Maybe I’m not as trendy as Mat, but to me the C30 looks awful from all angles except the front. I’ve also got issues with its engine. Performance is strong and the average economy is reasonable, but get too carried away and your mpg soon plummets.

Chris Thorp Road test editor

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