The Sunday Times Driving Placeholder
A two-seat coupé with a bit of extra versatility, which looks and feels desirable.
Pros
Eye-catching and distinctive styling
Comfortable front seats
Well-equipped and safe
Cons
Tiny, awkward boot, cramped rear seats
Reliability concerns
Not the most exciting drive

Volvo C30 review (2007-2012)

Looks and feels desirable but lacks room in the back

More Info

volvo c30 front

What is the Volvo C30?

This small Volvo, discontinued in 2012, is still one of the smarter, more upmarket three-door hatchbacks around. A legacy of Volvo’s years as part of the Ford Premier Automotive Group, it shares its underpinnings with the Ford Focus, which was a good basis from which to develop this well-finished and distinctively Swedish contender in the premium-hatch sector.

Facelifted models from the 2010 model-year have a bolder front grille design and came with a wider and more adventurous choice of interior colours and finishes, plus more economical, lower-emissions engines: the 1.6D DRIVe with stop-start came down to 99g/km, exempting it from road tax, while returning nearly 75mpg, and the later D2 models are lower-emissions yet.

The drive

The initial engine range included somewhat mundane 1.6 and 1.8-litre petrols and the turbocharged T5 models (a 220bhp 2.4-litre at first; then a 227bhp 2.5), but the economical 1.6 and 2-litre diesels proved popular, including the top-spec 180bhp D5. The Ford Powershift twin-clutch six-speed auto gearbox was offered from 2008, again a desirable option.

volvo c30 rear

The ride is firm but generally good in the mainstream models, though it can be unforgiving in the R-Design versions, which have lowered suspension, larger wheels and thinner tyres. R-Design specification also includes — besides lots of sporty trimmings — a quicker-ratio steering rack, which livens up the otherwise light and uninvolving steering and rather dull driving dynamics.

The interior

Volvo (now under Chinese ownership) later launched a five-door (V40) as well as the V50 estate, so the C30 can fly the flag for style over substance. It’s a four-seater only, and while the front seats are comfortable, the rear two are cramped and difficult to get to, and the 251-litre boot is very small. There is some under-floor storage space, and the rear seats fold flat to give nearly 900 litres — not that you’ll be able to fit much through the small and high-set glass tailgate, which was been designed for a retro resemblance to the old P1800 ES and 480 ES coupés rather than for any degree of practicality. Well, if you want a load-lugger, Volvo has made plenty of estate cars.

volvo c30 cabin

Six airbags, stability control and anti-whiplash head restraints plus a five-star score in the Euro NCAP crash tests maintain Volvo’s long-standing reputation for safety, and equipment levels are generous. The C30 was intended to rival the BMW 1-series and Audi A3, after all, so it was suitably specced to take on the Germans.

The C30 does remain expensive for what it is – it feels worth it, though, and most of its owners appear to be have been delighted with it, which is what matters.


Search for and buy a used Volvo C30


What to look out for when buying a used Volvo C30

The C30 is solidly built, but it hasn’t been entirely trouble-free. Problems frequently reported include an antilock braking fault, clunky manual gearshifts (dealt with in a recall), an issue with oil levels in the D5 (again, addressed in a recall) and turbo problems with the 1.6-litre diesel engine, as well as some misfiring, electrical glitches and dashboard rattles. The diesels’ particulate filters don’t take well to a lot of low-speed around-town work, either: owners warn that they are prone to clogging up.

The C30 has had a lengthy list of recalls for a variety of problems, so make sure any car you’re considering has had all the necessary work done. These have included rectification of braking faults; replacement of rear wheel studs to prevent the wheels becoming loose; leaking power steering fluid; floor mats that get caught under the accelerator pedal; short-circuiting engine fans leading to a risk of engine fires (twice); and so on. Full details can be found at VOSA .

The one to buy

Volvo C30 1.6 DRIVe 1.6 D SE

Specifications

Engine:
1560cc, 4 cylinders
Power:
107bhp @ 4000rpm
Torque:
177 lb ft @ 1700rpm
Transmission:
5-speed manual
Acceleration:
0-62mph in 10.9sec
Top Speed:
118mph
Fuel
74.3mpg (combined)
CO2:
99g/km
Road Tax Band:
A
Dimensions:
L 4266mm, W 1782mm, H 1447mm

Volvo C30 rivals

Audi A3  (click here for used car prices on driving.co.uk)
BMW 1-Series (click here for used car prices on driving.co.uk)
Mercedes-Benz CLC-Class (click here for used car prices on driving.co.uk)