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Car reviews - Volvo - C30 - 3-dr hatch range

Our Opinion

We like
More sensible pricing, excellent dual-clutch automatic, good fuel consumption
Room for improvement
Vibration at idle could put off some, seat fabric looks outdated, update is not far away

3 Dec 2009

IT MIGHT not have the super strong urge of the D5 engine it replaces, but the 2.0-litre diesel now under the bonnet of the C30 is a still quite a capable powerplant.

Its 0-100km/h time of 9.7 seconds shows that it is no sportscar, but in real life, everyday, driving, the new diesel does the job.

Press in the ignition key and it is instantly obvious that the engine under the bonnet is indeed a diesel.

Some of the more affordable diesels are noisier than this, but it still is not quiet.

At idle, the diesel not only clatters, but also vibrates through the steering wheel to remind you, once again, that you are driving a diesel.

Some people won’t mind this, especially given the fuel economy savings, but it might make it harder to convert petrol buyers into diesel buyers.

If you are able to tolerate the engine at idle, it is likely the diesel will win you over.

An abundance of torque makes this car feel far quicker than the 9.7 second sprint time suggests, pulling strongly from 1500rpm to about 3500rpm.

It is not as smooth-revving as the D5, but thanks to its torque it doesn’t need to work all that hard.

Our test was limited to a run around the city and suburbs of Melbourne, which is an accurate reflection of what this car will be used for.

The diesel has more than enough pull for hills and in-traffic acceleration.

What’s more, it is easy on the fuel too, using an average of 6.9 litres per 100km despite lots of sitting in traffic.

The transmission works especially well with the torquey engine. Running at 60km/h it allows the engine to sit comfortably and quietly on 1500rpm.

The strength of the engine means the gearbox doesn’t have to do much hunting around as it can often stay in a gear for longer when the revs drop.

A common problem with most dual-clutch automatics is their indecisiveness in low speed, stop-start traffic. But this transmission displayed no signs of that.

We drove three different Volvo models equipped with the same engine/transmission combination and none of them had any issues at low speeds, feeling like a regular torque converter-type transmission but with quick and smooth shifts.

The C30 is headed towards a facelift in about three months, but the current car is not overly dated.

Its rear end styling still looks as ‘interesting’ as ever, and the fact that there are so few C30s around means it still gets plenty of attention.

The interior is simple, even dull around the dash and dials. The floating centre stack still looks the goods, with an aluminium fascia, but the sound system control display with its chunky graphics is ready for an upgrade.

The seats are comfortable, although the shiny fabric, with coloured stitching looks a bit out of fashion.

The front is spacious, but the rear seats are not the most comfortable place for large adults.

That boot gives up some space due to the styling, and while a reasonable amount of gear can be stowed there, it is not as practical as a regular hatchback.

We were unable to properly test the C30’s dynamics on our drive, but the steering appears well weighted and the suspension is sufficiently firm for generally good body control without impacting on the reasonable ride comfort.

With a sharp new price, the new C30 diesel is a much more reasonable proposition than the previous performance-oriented D5 diesel, which brought a high cost premium.

It isn’t the quietest or the smoothest diesel around, but is still relatively civil and has an enough torque to make the C30 2.0D a convincing proposition for those who want to buy European and stand out from the pack.

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