Volvo C30 2009 review

Third report: Our very own crash test dummy really rates three-door for safety.

Volvo's have always had a reputation for safety. And I’d certainly recommend one if, like me, you have a tendency to be a bit of a crash test dummy. You see, our long-term C30 even provides protection when you’re not actually inside the car!

No, I’ve not had a bang on the head. Quite the opposite, in fact – and it’s all thanks to the Swedish hatchback’s weirdly shaped parcel shelf.

If you’d asked me a few weeks ago for my thoughts on this subject, you wouldn’t have heard a single word of praise. Why? It’s impractical, hard to fit and, basically, it gets in the way. Yet, ironically, it prevented me suffering from a pain in the neck as I prepared for a snowboarding trip to the Alps.

I was loading the car with my boarding gear and, as usual, I had to fold the rear seats down – if you want to carry anything larger than a child’s rucksack in the boot of the C30, this is a regular pastime, as space is at such a premium.

Of course, I couldn’t put the parcel shelf in the car – because its strange shape takes up valuable luggage room, I chose to leave it at home. But as I was walking down the steep steps to my front door, I slipped over.

Fortunately for me, the parcel shelf acted like a crash mat. Somehow, while I was in the air, it managed to get underneath me and break my fall. The three-dimensional design of the C30’s shelf performed like a proper crumple zone! Better still, Volvo’s legendary build quality meant it didn’t disintegrate under the 12-stone impact.

It’s still perfectly usable, if battered and bruised – unlike me, which was the main thing. It hasn’t all been plain sailing in the C30, though. My continental trip uncovered one omission from the Volvo’s list of safety kit: a high-visibility vest. In mainland Europe, you have to carry one by law in case of a roadside breakdown. Surely a safety-conscious firm like Volvo should include it as standard?

Thankfully, P&O sells them on its ferries for £10 – so there’s no excuse for not having one. And because I purchased mine on the way out, I didn’t have to run the risk of a fine by getting caught without one.

In all other respects the stylish Swede performed well on the trip. The five-cylinder diesel is at its best at higher speeds, where the low-down torque pulls you along with ease in sixth gear. The long journey also helped our average economy. While 39.5mpg may not sound great, I don’t think it’s bad for such a powerful car.

The Volvo’s cabin is a relaxing place in which to spend time. High safety standards give peace of mind, but what makes the difference over distances is the solid build quality and comfortable seats.

And the C30 was equipped with one safety feature that did come in handy. I made use of the neat first aid kit to bandage up my head – after I’d pulled my hair out trying to squeeze my gear back in for the trip home!

Second opinion

The C30 looks the part, but it’s deeply flawed. On the road, it doesn’t serve up any of the thrills that its racy design promises. The 2.4-litre diesel engine is showing its age as well. While I have few complaints about its raw pace, the D5 is noisy and thirsty when you drive it hard. With only four seats and a tiny boot, the car is impractical, too.

James Disdale Road tester

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