Volvo C30 Drive review:

Volvo C30 Drive

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Typical Price: £17,995.00
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3.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Excellent handling; good fuel economy; low CO2 emissions.

The Bad Oddball styling; questionable NOx and SOx emissions.

The Bottom Line Great handling and excellent fuel economy make the Volvo C30 Drive hatchback a winner, but the jury's out on how eco-friendly its diesel engine really is.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

7.5 Overall

The Volvo C30 is a spiteful car. That's not because it's a dirty, oil-burning diesel, but because it's the car driven by wimpy so-called vampire Edward Cullen in the first Twilight movie. It does have some redeeming features, though. The Drive model promises a hugely respectable 74.3mpg and CO2 emissions of just 99g/km, which means it's exempt from road tax and the London congestion charge. It's available now for £17,995.

Box clever

The C30 Drive doesn't adhere to the typical boxy-but-not-unattractive Volvo aesthetic. Volvo's insistence that it's a coupé is rather ambitious, but it's a relatively compact, three-door hatchback with a stylish, keen-looking front end that contrasts with its deep-set, slightly quirky rear hatch. It's by no means the most attractive small family car we've seen, but we'll cut the C30 Drive some slack -- on the whole it's a decent-looking motor that stands out from the crowd.

Think green

The C30 comes with a choice of several engines, the most eco-friendly of which is the 1.6-litre, 113bhp Drive model. The Drive engine is tuned to deliver good fuel economy and low emissions at the expense of performance. It's helped to do so by a start-stop system that switches the engine off to save fuel when the car is at a standstill, and switches it back on again when the clutch is lifted.

The C30 Drive also benefits from a series of eco-focused tweaks to its bodywork. The Drive model's suspension is 10mm lower than that of ordinary C30s, and it has a smoother underside, which helps it to cut through the air with greater ease. The car also has a tweaked front grille, aerodynamically optimised wheels that reduce drag, low-rolling-resistance tyres, and wind deflectors that channel air more efficiently around the front of the car.

Together, the tweaks give the C30 Drive fuel economy of 74.3mpg and CO2 emissions of 99g/km. That's as good as it gets for a car of this size.

It's worth remembering, however, that the C30 isn't as green as its low CO2 figures imply. Its carbon-dioxide emissions may be low, but its use of a diesel engine means it emits a range of nasty NOx and SOx fumes into the atmosphere. Such fumes are linked to respiratory illnesses and environmental damage.

Driving Ms Crazy

The C30 Drive may be a favourite of undead bore Edward Cullen, but it's far from tedious to drive. Rather, it feels spirited and dynamic, pulling away eagerly in a straight line. It handles well around corners, too. The car is closely related to the Ford Focus and it shows. It's agile, composed when changing direction, and grips hard, despite its use of low-rolling-resistance tyres.

We have a couple of gripes, though. Firstly, cornering enthusiastically can cause your knee to bash into the unnecessarily sharp faux-metal edges on the centre console -- and that hurts. Also, driving the C30 is rather like playing a computer game -- the driver is given very little feedback through the steering wheel, so it can occasionally be difficult to gauge when and where the tyres might break traction on slippery surfaces. Thankfully, because the car grips so well, losing traction is something you won't often worry about.

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