First impressions can linger for quite some time and this is often very true with cars. So on a wintry evening in a poorly-lit, icy car park, I found my way into the Volvo C30. After taking a couple of minutes to find the basic controls I’m away. The first song on the radio is “I think we’re alone now” by Tiffany. And strangely, we are. The weather is so bad, many commuters have left work early – the roads are almost deserted. I’m heading off to meet a friend for a drink in an unfamiliar part of town. The snow has already started to build up and I’m driving the most powerful diesel C30 on the market, the D4.
Feather in the power though and this is a wonderfully docile car. The cabin is a relaxing place, instruments and controls are where you might expect to find them and they feel good to the touch. The Ford Focus chassis pedigree and Volvo build and safety features provide ample confidence in these grizzly conditions. The C30 is very sure-footed indeed. While companies and corporations might be global affairs, there is something of its home in this Volvo which inspires confidence in the poor weather; the Swedes are notoriously good at coping with snow, after all.
On the return journey, Tiffany appears again on the radio. She’s becoming quite insistent: “There doesn’t seem to be anyone around”. That’ll be the weather. Could she really have written this thinking about the bitterly east wind and the snow now completely covering the deserted tarmac?
Unlike its opposition, Volvo brands the C30 a coupé rather than a hatchback. It has four seats not five and the boot is a little smaller than most. That said, it is perfectly adequate for a few bags of shopping or general child paraphernalia. Instead of being all things to all people, I’m actually pleased to see there have been some compromises to make the C30 to stand out from the crowd. Whether or not the slightly unusual rear end is to your taste, there is certainly no mistaking it. Like the array of modern interpretations of cars from our past such as the MINI or Sirocco, its design picks out a little of its predecessors with the 480 ES from the ‘80s and even 1800 ES from four decades ago sharing similar glass tailgates.
A couple of days later, the opinions of my three-and-a-half year old are forthcoming. “Are we going in the orange car?” Yes, we are. “We like this car.” Yes, we do. And after I found some dry road to flex the accelerator pedal, “that was really good”. Yes it was – the C30 D4 certainly moves, feeling sprightlier than its quoted 8.1 seconds to 60. The five cylinder engine mated to the twin tail pipes offers a lovely throaty warble when pressing on. Handling is taught and predictable.
The gear selection from the six speed gearbox is light, with narrow gate and fairly short throw. A slightly stronger return spring to bring the lever back to its centre position would speed up changes into third or fourth gear from both ends of the gate but otherwise it is a delight.
To be picky, the ride over our potholed road network is a little firm, but this highlights the solid build – nothing rattled. The handbrake is perfectly positioned for a left-hand-drive car, so in the UK it is ideal for use by the front seat passenger. Entry to and egress from the back is slow because of the electric seats option – while the seat tips forward manually, the potential passenger (or escapee) has to wait for the slow motor to move the seat base forwards. A fully manual click and slide option would be preferable. My last criticism is the location of the Isofix mounting lugs for attaching a child seat in the rear: they are too recessed for easy access; I had quite a fight to fit the seat. This would be frustrating if regularly swapping a seat between cars.
The basic C30 D4 SE comes in at £21,630 – which is not cheap and this particular car is bristling with extras, adding a fair whack on top. However, without the long options list, the essential building blocks are sound. If your lifestyle doesn’t clash with the C30’s three doors, diminutive tail and Tiffany on the radio, you should find this a delightful, capable car.
Power: 177 PS, emissions: 134 g/km, torque: 400Nm