IT's well known that the Scandinavians like to do things a bit differently - so it's no surprise that the Volvo C30 is one of the most distinctive hatchbacks on the roads.
I say hatchback, but the Swedish manufacturers actually prefer to call the C30, with its two-door, four-seat set up, a sports coupe.
Such claims are definitely open to debate - but become more understandable after spending some time behind the wheel.
Because the C30 proves to be a sprightly performer which is refreshingly engaging to drive - even in this eco-friendly version tuned more for economy than performance.
The DRIVe's 1.6 litre diesel is twinned with a smooth six-speed manual gearbox and equipped with stop/start technology and a raft of other fuel-saving technologies that bring CO2 emissions down to the magical 99g/km mark, meaning exemption from road tax.
And average fuel consumption figures of 74.3 miles per gallon take this oil burner into economy territory normally reserved for hybrids and mean that running costs should be more than respectable for a mid-sized hatch.
But Volvo has cleverly built in all this efficiency without squeezing all the fun out of the C30.
While a 0-60mph sprint time of nearly 11 seconds won't pull up any trees in the boy-racing fraternity it is not pedestrian either - and once you're on the move the acceleration becomes more urgent.
Asking for a little extra oomph coming out of a corner or to overtake on the motorway, for instance, elicits a smooth and positive response from the willing and versatile engine. Indeed, cruising on the open road is surprisingly refined while the C30 is equally at home around town.
And as the C30 is based on the same platform as previous owners Ford's (Volvo is now owned by Chinese company Geely) Focus then sharp, precise handling and good road-holding are a given.
And while a fairly sporty set-up means a slightly firm ride, it is far from uncomfortable. In fact, the sports front seats provide just the right amount of comfort and the light and airy cabin, helped by the all-glass tailgate, is surprisingly roomy.
The ‘floating' centre console now familiar in many Volvo models is not only a stylish and distinctive design touch but also brings the controls within easy reach of the driver.
The decision to go for two defined rear seats rather than engage in forlorn attempts to seat three also means a surprising amount of space and comfort for rear seat passengers - their only problem is getting in.
The front seat backs don't fold down very far, meaning that to get in the back the front seats have to be slid all the way forward, seat belt straps fiddled with and everything then put back. Which can be a bit of a chore.
The boot is also pretty small, but if you go along with Volvo's thinking that this is more of a coupe than a hatch then that may not be one of your major considerations anyway!
Equipment levels are good with all C30s coming with climate control, an MP3-compatible stereo with aux-in jack, electric front windows and alloy wheels as standard.
The SE spec also brings aluminium highlights around the cabin, cruise control, steering wheel remote controls, power folding door mirrors, front fog lights and bigger ‘spider' alloys.
This trim also includes eyecatching two-tone fabric upholstery which can be specified in a number of colour combinations, adding to the funky look and feel of the C30.
Volvo's renowned commitment to passenger safety is just as evident as on larger models with stability and traction control, ABS brakes, six airbags and anti-whiplash head restraints on the front seats standard across the range.
While perhaps not as practical as some of it's rivals the C30 certainly offers a fresh twist on the conventional hatchback.