Volvo C30 1.6D DRIVe Start/Stop
Fuel economy combined: 72.4 mpg
The Volvo C30 is one of the company’s models that now has dramatically
reduced CO2 levels of 104 g/km, so what
is a combination of safety and low CO2 like to drive?
With Start/Stop, the C30 emits just 104 g/km CO2 and delivers 72.4 mpg. There’s even better news if you want a larger car, because both the S40 saloon and V50 estate achieve exactly the same low emission levels. Just a few years ago such CO2 levels, and accompanying levels of economy, would have been thought unachievable for cars of this size.
And who would have thought that Volvo, the manufacturer synonymous with safety, would suddenly make such huge strides in lowering CO2 emissions.
The C30 SportsCoupe, along with the S40 saloon, V50 Sportswagon, XC60 crossover, V70 and XC70 premium estates and S80 executive saloon, are all now part of the ‘low emission’ DRIVe range.
But it’s the C30, S40 and V50 that can be specified with super-low emissions thanks to an intelligent Start/Stop system – as well as underbody panels for improved aerodynamics, a covered grille and rear spoiler, and the C30 also has a rear diffuser.
These models now also come with a regenerative charge facility. This charges the battery as soon as the driver releases the accelerator or brakes while a gear is engaged. By harnessing the car’s kinetic energy, the alternator doesn’t have to use diesel fuel as a power source to recharge the car’s battery. It’s claimed that this feature can result in fuel savings of between two to three per cent.
By comparison, the DRIVe versions of the C30, S40 and V50 without Start/Stop and the other features above emit 119 g/km, which equates to 62.8 mpg.
All DRIVe models benefit from a lowered chassis – ride height has been dropped by 10mm. This lower ground clearance reduces fuel consumption at the same time as lowering the centre of gravity, which also improves the car’s handling.
Front airflow deflectors have also been moulded into the body ahead of the front wheels to help channel airflow, and a lower, front lip spoiler has been added.
You may notice that the C30 – and the S40 and V50 DRIVe models – feature rather flat and shiny-looking wheels, which are designed to reduce drag. Not surprisingly, these come with Michelin low rolling resistance tyres.
Engine and gearbox management software has also been optimised for economy. Electrohydraulic steering has been introduced and low friction transmission oil has been used in the gearbox.
An addition that is definitely driver-reliant is the Gear Shift Indicator that informs the driver of the optimum time to change gears and so achieve better fuel consumption.
The combination of all the above means 104g/km CO2. So, in response to the Volvo ad campaign, what does this feel like?
Volvo claims that its cars don’t have any downsides from being super-efficient, and the C30 does feel smooth and refined. We’ve tested the S40 before and although competent, it’s not the most responsive of saloons; while the C30 is hardly a hot-hatch, with the same 1.6-litre diesel engine and 5 speed manual gearbox it does drive remarkably well when you bear in mind its very low emissions.
The C30 shares its platform with the Ford Focus, which enjoys universal acclaim for how well it drives. But whereas the Ford has been tuned on the side of sharp steering and dynamic handling, the Volvo feels more safe, solid and refined – so living up to the sort of values you would expect from a Volvo.
The C30 is a relatively small car; sharing the same engine with its larger saloon and estate family members means that the performance feels slightly better in the C30 – bearing in mind that most Volvo owners are unlikely to be racing from the traffic lights. Even the economy-biased gear ratios don’t really impact of the driveability of the car.
The aim of the Start/Stop system is to switch the engine off while at a standstill. Volvo claims that its system is better than that of other manufacturers because its cars have an additional small battery which runs systems such as audio when the car is switched off, and steps in to power the air conditioning if necessary. The standard larger battery has also been upgraded to handle up to 175,000 Start/Stop cycles.
However in common with the systems of other manufacturers, the Start/Stop system needs certain conditions to be in place to operate, and there are many occasions when it chooses not to cut the engine.
This technology is claimed to reduce fuel consumption and so CO2 emissions by four-to-five per cent in mixed driving conditions, and up to eight per cent in urban traffic, but we remain to be convinced that this is a realistic expectation for most owners.
And although the Start/Stop function is a key reason for the low emissions, you can actually switch the system off using the DRIVe button in the centre console.
On the inside, the dashboard is stylish and simple, with its ‘floating’ central fascia. However it has small fiddly buttons at the bottom behind the gear lever such as for the air conditioning, which are difficult to reach.
Equipment levels are good, and Volvo is proud of the quality of the audio system in particular. There’s even a digital readout on the rear view mirror telling you which compass direction you’re heading in.
The C30 shares the problem of the S40 in that there is not quite enough gap between the clutch and the central transmission tunnel to rest your left foot while driving. A small, trivial thing maybe, but annoying to live with on a daily basis nevertheless.
One of the biggest issues with the C30 is the space in the rear; it only has two back seats, and the boot is small, but in particular the access to it is very restricted. This is related to the shape and the styling of the car, which is more coupé than practical hatchback, with the rear styling reminiscent of the 1970’s P1800. The overall styling is one of the more fresh and youthful Volvo designs, but it may not be to everyone’s tastes – especially the slightly older driver that is typical of Volvo’s owners.
The C30 does feel much higher quality than most other cars in this class, and it’s also likely that the reliability will be good.
We may have left the issue of safety to the end, after all the talk about the car’s low emissions, but remember that safety is a key component of the Volvo brand. So perhaps not surprisingly, the C30 has a whole host of safety features, and as a result it gets a five-star score in the Euro NCAP crash tests.
If you really want to know all the safety features, here you go: Curtain airbags for both front and rear passengers, safety belt tensioners, Whiplash Protection System (WHIPS) and Side Impact Protection System (SIPS) plus SIPS airbags and an IC (Inflatable Curtain). In addition, every Volvo C30 has DSTC (Dynamic Stability and Traction Control), and ABS brakes with EBD (Electronic Brake Distribution) and EBA (Electronic Brake Assistance). Phew.
And this really sums up this car. All cars need a particular place in the market. There have been increasing numbers of green cars, but if you wanted a small green car that also stood for high standards of safety, you may have been disappointed. Now Volvo is filling that niche with the C30.
The C30 1.6D DRIVe is smooth, refined, quiet, comfortable, safe, high quality, easy to drive and of course low emission. Volvo is pretty much correct when it says that the efficiency of this car doesn’t come with any compromises. The main issue with the C30 is the very small boot space, combined with the relatively high price of £17,745.
Fuel economy extra urban: 83.1 mpg
Fuel economy urban: 57.7 mpg
CO2 emissions: 104 g/km
Green rating: VED band B – £35
Weight: 1385 Kg
Company car tax liability (2009/10): 13%
Price: £17,745 (From £15,495 to £21,095)
Insurance group: 8
Power: 107 bhp
Max speed: 118 mph
0-62mph: 11.3 seconds