SO has all the hype, the marketing bluster and the bold claims worked? Is the C30 the first truly sporting Volvo, and is it the car to take the age of the average Volvo buyer plummeting?
Ultimately, the answer has to be no to the first part of the question, but yes to the second.
Certainly, the C30 has the looks to make it stand out on the road and, more importantly, in the company car park. For young user-choosers – target buyers are aged between 25 and 35 years old – it offers a refreshing alternative to an Audi A3 or BMW 1-series.
But, and there’s always a but, this car is really sensitive to colour and wheel choice.
Our test car, a D5 diesel in SE trim, looked undershod on its 17-inch alloy wheels and the bodywork seemed to fall away at the rear.
Having seen an SE Sport model, which comes with 18-inch alloys, rear spoiler and a bodykit with the option of the white and bronze colour scheme, as seen on the various show cars, the look makes sense. On our navy blue metallic test car, with black rubbing strips on the wheelarches, it doesn’t have that instant visual appeal. But at least it looks different I suppose.
In terms of being truly sporting, it’s a case of close but no cigar. With a chassis derived from the Ford Focus the ride and handling are impressive, with a flat stance and good level of bump suppression.
On motorway journeys the ride is supple enough to make this a realistic high-mileage car, while on twistier roads it feels planted to the Tarmac.
The steering is also much improved over other Volvo models. There’s none of that dreadful dead feel around the straight-ahead that you get on the S80 and the assistance is nowhere near as light.
While it’s not as entertaining to drive as a 1-series, it’s at least as good as an Audi A3.
Inside, the look is more successful with the floating centre console from the S40 dominating the dashboard area. Finished in a silver metallic trim it helps lift the rather sombre feel of the rest of the cabin.
Black is the theme inside, but at least the materials used are of good quality – the door plastics are solid while the main dashboard panel is a soft-touch affair which looks and feels very good.
Volvo expects most buyers to be either young professional couples without any children or older empty-nesters. That’s a good thing, because in the back there isn’t a lot of room. The C30 has two sculpted rear seats, making this a strict four-seater.
At least the boot is a decent size – it’s the most capacious of the four cars featured in this test with 364 litres of volume, although with the rear seats folded down it becomes the least spacious.
The C30 is a bold effort to muscle in on a sector dominated by the Germans, but how it stacks up financially will decide how successful it is in fleet.
P11D value: £22,097
CO2 emissions (g/km): 182
BIK % of P11D in 2007: 26%
Graduated VED rate: £160
Insurance group: 14
Combined mpg: 40.9
CAP RV (3yr/60k): £8,675/39%
Monthly lease (3yr/60k): £445
We don’t like:
THREE RIVALS TO CONSIDER
THE D5 diesel C30 is currently only available as an automatic, pushing the pricetag over the £22,000-mark. It matches the others spec-wise, although ISOFIX mounts are a £30 option on the Volvo and C220 CDI. The Mercedes-Benz does come with metallic paint as standard, though.
C220 CDI: £22,767
EMISSIONS AND TAX RATES
WITH by far the lowest emissions the A3 is the cheapest in benefit-in-kind tax, costing a 40% taxpayer £156 a month. The next cheapest, the BMW, is £30 a month more expensive. The C30 and C220 CDI are even pricier at £191 and £197 a month respectively.
C220 CDI: 183g/km/26%
A NARROW win for the BMW – the 120d’s 16-inch alloy wheels mean cheaper replacement rubber than the 17-inch items on the rest. The BMW scores on low service rates, while the Mercedes-Benz has easily the most expensive garage bills of the four.
120d: 3.44 (pence per mile) £2,064 (60,000 mile total)
A3: 3.62 £2,172
C30: 4.39 £2,634
C220 CDI: 4.59 £2,754
WITH claimed combined economy of 54.4mpg, the BMW is way ahead of the rest, resulting in a likely diesel bill over 60,000 miles of £4,600. The Audi returns 47.9mpg for a cost of £5,200. The Volvo and Mercedes-Benz both return 40.9mpg – tipping the bill over £6,100.
120d: 7.68 (pence per mile) £4,608 (60,000 mile total)
A3: 8.73 £5,238
C220 CDI: 10.22 £6,132
C30: 10.22 £6,132
CAP estimates the C30 will retain 39% of its cost new after three years/60,000 miles. With the lowest front-end price it wins here. The Audi has a better RV of 40% but is slightly more expensive to buy at the front end. The BMW will retain 39% and the C220 CDI Sport Coupe 38%.
C30: 22.28 (pence per mile) £13,368 (60,000 mile total)
A3: 22.48 £13,488
120d: 22.78 £13,668
C220 CDI: 23.57 £14,142
THE 120d is nearly one pence-per-mile cheaper to run than the Audi, mainly due to its far more fuel-efficient engine. The Volvo is nearly 3ppm down on the BMW – high fuel and SMR costs outweigh its depreciation performance. The C220 CDI is well adrift here.
120d: 33.90 (pence per mile) £20,340 (60,000 mile total)
A3: 34.83 £20,898
C30: 36.89 £22,134
C220 CDI: 38.38 £23,028
THE Mercedes-Benz is the first to go – it is too expensive both in running costs and in driver taxation. The same is true of the Volvo, which will cost a fleet £1,800 more to run than the BMW over a typical fleet lifecycle. However, it is very close to the 120d in driver taxation liability.
So it ends up with the usual suspects. The BMW has a running costs advantage over the Audi, but the A3 driver will be £32 a month better off in company car tax than in the 120d. Your drivers may find this financial advantage hard to resist.