Volvo's new coupé addition

Volvo reckons its all-new C30 supplies image and style in abundance thanks to its rakish lines and futuristic interior. It has just four seats, but Volvo has not entirely sacrificed substance at the altar of style. Hatchback practicality, a potent diesel engine and the promise of a great drive make the C30 a tempting proposition.

Describing its new model as a coupé already hints at a fun drive. And it delivers on that promise, to a degree. The four-cylinder turbo diesel engine is not the quickest off the mark, but it feels eager at town speeds and delivers power progressively. Firm, short-travel suspension keeps body movement in check and steering is well weighted though it has a rather numb feel. Suspension is hard, but not harsh, and the ride improves with speed.

Around town, it emits the usual tell-tale diesel rattle, and sounds gruff when revved hard, but at motorway pace it settles to a gentle murmur. The standard six-speed manual gearbox has a satisfying short-throw shift.

The view from the driver’s seat is almost identical to the S40, V50 and C70, thanks to shared parts. Controls are well placed but the strip of switches is fiddly to use.

The boot space is rather short and shallower than rivals. But while it may be the smallest Volvo, it has not skimped on interior fittings. Dense, soft-touch plastics cover the upper dashboard, the slim centre console has an attractive metal finish and all the controls operate with a well engineered precision.

The Volvo C30 scores highly for safety — sophisticated electronics maximise stopping power and a stability control system helps out in a skid. It also has front seats that move to keep whiplash injuries to a minimum.

Tested against a Golf, Audi and Astra, the C30 came third place. It could not match the Golf for driver appeal or the Audi for image. And it was the least practical.

GP Review: A classy rival
Quirky is perhaps the best way to describe this car. But look beyond that and you will see the origins of the design based on the old 480 series and contemporary Volvos. Inside, the car is almost spartan but it has everything its occupants might need, laid out well.

I drove the SE Sport version, which includes steering-wheel-mounted stereo controls, a trip computer and cruise control, plus sporty extras.

To drive, the 2.0D 136bhp is adequately powered, quiet and a pleasure to drive. You do need to watch the speedometer because the legal limits are easily surpassed.

In keeping with the safety reputation of Volvos, it not only feels solid but also comes with five-star rating. Volvo is the chosen manufacturer to help develop the next level of safety testing for the European motor industry.

Fuel economy and running costs are quite reasonable except in the faster versions. However, it is aimed at empty-nesters so no five-door versions are in the offing.

This would be a fun car to do visits in, unostentatiously quirky. But with competition from the likes of VW or Audi, I might be drawn away from the Volvo. On its own merits, however, it is a worthy and classy rival to the usual suspects from Germany.

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