Likeable, but new sport chassis compromises comfort and prices are still too high

What is it?

This is the new Volvo C30, which has been given a new face, a range of new options and a new sports-chassis setup, which will cost you £400 unless you opt for the top-spec R Design model which gets it as standard.

Our test car came fitted with the 2.0-litre, 134bhp turbodiesel engine, which remains unchanged from the pre-facelift C30.

What’s it like?

In practice the engine feels old compared to many of the equivalent motors now widely available. Though there’s ample torque and acceleration in the mid range, power delivery is very peaky and the gruff engine noise is a noticeable intrusion into the cabin – particularly if you choose to test the sport chassis’ abilities and stray into the higher rev range.

And if you do decide to do that it becomes clear that the faster steering rack, 10mm lower ride height and stiffer springs and dampers have made the C30 a more responsive drive. Turn-in is sharp, and the experience is aided by good body control and high grip levels.

But this still doesn’t feel anything close to a hot hatch, and unfortunately the extra driver reward comes at the cost of comfort. At lower speeds the C30 suffers from a firm ride that transmits all the undulations and breaks in the road surface into the cabin. The car settles at higher speeds, particularly on smoother motorway surfaces, but for many it will make sense to save £400 and keep the more pliant ride of the standard car.

Otherwise, all the C30’s usual traits are still there. The cabin feels classy and has well laid-out switchgear, and there is the coupe-styling and rarity factor that very few rivals can lay claim to.

Should I buy one?

Of all the traits that the Volvo C30 has held onto through its facelift, the high price is the least welcome. With the sport chassis option added to this 2.0 D SE car, the price rises to £19,010 and there are many hatches that are more rewarding to drive and more practical to live with for similar or less money.

Likeable as the Volvo C30 is, and though the cheaper 1.6-litre diesel is much more competitive, the facelift has done nothing to make the models at this end of the range any more justifiable than they ever have been.


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jer 22 March 2010

Re: Volvo C30 2.0D SE

I don't followt how using the same platform Ford produce such gems and Volvo such lemons. I know there is a lot in tuning the chassis but can it be so much. I suppose the nearest compraison is Seat and VW, whatever it is cheap to spend an extra 2 months honing chassis settings and if you do not have the skills in Sweden buy then in.

theonlydt 19 March 2010

Re: Volvo C30 2.0D SE

The only car in the range I see any point to really is the 1.6D DrivE thing. The T5 maybe... What is it with Volvo trying to do this whole sporty thing? Aren't there enough "sporty premium" manufacturers? Volvo have some of the best seats in the business - the C30 deserves softer, but well damped suspension, a 1.6 petrol turbo and maybe a decent enough 160-180bhp diesel. That way you have a good looking car with excellent economy, or a good looking car with "warm hatch" performance and handling.

kcrally 19 March 2010

Re: Volvo C30 2.0D SE

( vote conservative ) . o the joys of the company car driver.