Volvo C30 1.6D SE

DRIVe

THE stylish Volvo C30 is the latest departure from the Swedish company's decidedly staid former image.

In the SE DRIVe Start/Stop model it offers buyers looking for an upmarket compact three-door hatchback not only a classy operator but also a motor with the vital statistics needed to make oil sheikhs everywhere cry and defenders of rainforests cheer.

This is because in addition to smooth lines and a neat interior, the C30 achieves outstanding fuel economy and low pollution emissions through the combination of an already frugal 1.6-litre DRIVe diesel engine together with start/stop technology.

It's an irresistible double act, but Volvo, determined to leave no stone unturned in its fight for greater fuel efficiency, also adds special wind deflectors moulded into the body ahead of the front wheels and a lowered chassis to improve aerodynamics by reducing ground clearance.

The great thing about being virtuous is that sometimes there's a nice bonus and here it is the car's centre of gravity being moved closer to the road due to the lower ride height. This improves the C30's handling which also benefits from well-weighted steering.

Life is anything but a drag in the C30 with Volvo adopting new, flush-style 16-inch diameter alloy wheels and tyres offering low rolling resistance.

Further fuel economy benefits are wrung from the car via its engine and gearbox management software and electrohydraulic steering. There is also a gear shift indicator that informs the driver of the best time to change gears so optimising fuel usage.

Volvo's final ingredient in the environmentally friendly recipe is low friction transmission oil used in the gearbox. Individually, the modifications may seem small, but combined they produce a dramatic effect on overall efficiency.

There is a catch to all this goodness though and it is a price-tag of almost £20,000 - but the low running costs help to dull the initial pain as does the funky exterior. The C30 combines the strengths of hatchback and coupe so looks sleek and sporty with narrow windows and a sculpted rear end.

The cabin is impressive with quality soft-touch plastics covering the upper dashboard while all the switches and dials on the centre console are neatly set out and easy to see and use.

There's plenty of head and leg room up front and enough space behind for two adults although it could be roomier. The C30 has two separate seats instead of a bench which means a third person cannot be accommodated in the rear. The driver has good visibility from behind a steering wheel which in common with the seat is fully adjustable.

One tradition Volvo is still committed to is safety with every C30 coming with stability control to help keep the car on the road, plus six airbags and active anti-whiplash front head restraints to protect when an accident is unavoidable.

FAST FACTS

Volvo C30 1.6D SE DRIVe

Price: £19,440

Mechanical: 109ps, 1,560cc, 4cyl diesel engine driving front wheels via 5-speed manual gearbox

Max Speed: 118mph

0-62mph: 74.3

Combined MPG: 8

Insurance Group: 99g/km

C02 emissions: 13%

Warranty: 3yrs/ 60,000 miles

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