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Used Volvo C30 review

A full used buyer’s guide on the Volvo C30 covering the C30 Mk1 (2006-2013)

Volvo has never really been a brand for building small cars. The smallest it’s ever offered was the Ford Focus-based C30, launched in 2006 – and this was always a relatively rare sight on UK roads because it never really captured buyers’ imaginations.

That’s a pity, because the C30 is good to drive, if not as much fun as the Ford, while most versions come well equipped. The three-door-only body looks stylish, too.

As you’d expect, safety is a strong suit and build quality is fine. But if there’s one thing that lets this Volvo down, it’s cabin and boot space. Both are in short supply, so if these things are important to you, steer clear. Otherwise, the car is worth a look. 

Models covered

The Volvo C30 arrived in late 2006 and was on sale for seven years until 2013. It‘s this one and only model that we’re focusing on here.

  • Volvo C30 (2006-2013) - Three-door is often forgotten about, which makes it a great-value option

Volvo C30

Prices from £3,000 

History

The C30 debuted in October 2006, with 1.6, 1.8, 2.0, 2.4 or turbocharged 2.5-litre petrol engines, along with 1.6, 2.0 or 2.4-litre diesels. A dual-clutch transmission was offered on the 2.0D from February 2008, along with an R-Design bodykit. In January 2009, an eco-friendly 1.6D DRIVe model was introduced, emitting a mere 119g/km.

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A revised C30 appeared in January 2010, with a fresh nose and tail and the option of new colours inside and out, plus a sportier chassis. A 1.6D DRIVe with stop/start, which emitted 99g/km, arrived at the same time.

From June 2010 the 1.6D became the D2, while the 2.0D was split into D3 (148bhp) and D4 (175bhp) derivatives. The final C30 was delivered in the UK in summer 2013.

Volvo C30 reviews

Volvo C30 in-depth reviewVolvo C30 1.6D DRIVe reviewVolvo C30 2.0D reviewVolvo C30 2.0D SE reviewVolvo C30 2.0D SE Sport reviewVolvo C30 2.4D reviewVolvo C30 2.5 T5 SE Sport reviewVolvo C30 Polestar Performance reviewVolvo C30 Electric reviewVolvo C30 long-term test review

Which one should I buy?

This Volvo was offered with no fewer than eight engines, the biggest of which are more than you need in such a small car. So we’d avoid the T5 and D5; the 1.6-litre petrol also lacks sparkle. That leaves the 1.8 and 2.0 petrols, along with the 1.6 and 2.0-litre diesels, all of which are worth buying.

There’s no such thing as a truly spartan C30, either; even the entry-level S features 16-inch alloys, climate control, ESP plus electric windows. SE brings cruise control, 17-inch rims, a multifunction steering wheel plus upgraded trim. SE Lux adds heated seats, leather, power-folding mirrors and headlamp washers. SE Sport builds on this with more racy trim and 18-inch wheels.

Alternatives to the Volvo C30

The Audi A3 is the C30’s closest rival, as it wears a prestige badge and comes with an array of great engines, plus a choice of front or four-wheel drive. Prices are higher, though – as they are for the BMW 1 Series, which is seen as the enthusiast’s compact hatch as it’s rear-wheel drive. Yet most owners won’t notice which wheels are being driven.

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Fancy something more leftfield? Alfa Romeo’s 147 or its Giulietta replacement might suit. It’s stylish and has great engines, and reliability is better than you might think even if quality isn’t up to Volvo levels. The VW Golf is a brilliant all-rounder that’s hard to ignore, but if you want value and fun above all else, look no further than the Focus.

What to look for:

Seating

The C30 definitely focuses on style over practicality, as it can carry no more than four people in its cabin. There’s no provision for a fifth seat in the rear at all. 

Door trim

Trim panels can squeak or creak once the car has got a few miles under its belt. Annoyingly, these issues can be deceptively tricky to track down and fix.

Headlights

If you do a lot of night-time driving, it’s worth seeking out a car with xenon lights, as the standard headlamps aren’t rated very highly by some owners.

Windscreen

Stone chips and cracking seem to be common, and if this happens ultimately the whole screen has to be replaced; check to see if it’s been renewed already.

Interior

It’s well laid-out and solidly built, but the C30’s cabin is cramped for four; there’s rear seating only for two. Think of it as a 2+2 – or even as a two-seater with a decent boot if the seats are folded down. In this form, the C30 holds only 947 litres; keep the seats in place and this shrinks to a miserly 251 litres.

Running costs

Services are needed every 12 months or 12,500 miles, apart from on D5 and T5 models, which stretch this to 12 months and 18,000 miles. Maintenance prices range from £220 for petrol-driven cars (£255 for diesels) to £1,200 for a model with a diesel particulate filter at its sixth service, or £1,605 if a new cambelt is needed, too.

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This sixth check-up is also the biggest for petrol C30s, although prices peak at £760. All engines apart from the 1.8 petrol require a new cambelt every six to 10 years or 72,000-150,000 miles, at around £700. New brake fluid is needed every two years (£75), while the coolant and air-con gas cost £70 and £100 to replace respectively. 

Recalls

The fact that the C30 has been recalled 18 times might give cause for concern, but Volvo is notorious for issuing recalls when only a handful of cars are affected.

Even so, in many cases, a lot of C30s have been caught up in campaigns, including those for power-steering leaks, reduced braking assistance (three recalls), overheating engines, jammed gearboxes, engine bay fires, plus clutch pedal and driveshaft failures. The first recall was issued in November 2007; the most recent came in April 2013. 

Driver Power owner satisfaction

In view of the C30’s age, it’s no surprise it missed out on our 2016 Driver Power survey. It did come a lowly 162nd in 2015; while finishing 118th in 2014 and 114th in 2013. Its highest scores in 2015 were 80th for comfort, 81st for quality and 95th for ease of driving. But 200th for practicality, 155th for reliability and 156th for performance are poor.

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