Volvo C30 sports coupé arrives in Hertfordshire

Motoring writer Adrian Foster takes to the road in Volvo's radical new Golf GTi beater, the C30 sports coupé

WHEN it comes to image transformations, Volvo's rise is spectacular to say the least. However, the one thing the brand's rejuvenated line-up has lacked since being acquired by the Ford Motor Company is a trendy hatchback to draw in young buyers - until now, that is.The C30 marks a new era for Volvo and is intended to appeal to the same young, affluent customers that have traditionally bought Volkswagen Golf GTis and Audi's A3. However, Volvo is smart enough to know that wishful thinking is not enough.The car itself needed to be so striking that all our prejudices about Volvo owners would be blown away - and with the C30 they appear to have succeeded. Indeed, the C30 is radical and exciting and even makes the competition look conservative by comparison.

Bold stylingThe spiritual successor to the 480 ES of the 90s, and the iconic P1800ES before that, the C30 is designed as a three-door coup�. Charged not only with attracting new buyers to Volvo, but also meeting the needs of traditional customers, it has bold rear styling balanced by a somewhat conservative but purposeful front end. Based on the more than capable Ford Focus chassis, the C30 is not intended as a sports car but it is a well-designed hatchback that drives well and comes with plenty of equipment as standard.The Volvo C30 comes with a choice of five petrol engines ranging from a 1.6-litre 99bhp unit to a 2.5-litre 217bhp turbocharged engine. There are three diesel engines offered as well. The engine in the car we tested represents the mid-point of the diesel trio, being a 134bhp, 2.0-litre unit, badged the 2.0D. This is quite simply an excellent engine with a broad power band with lots of muscle from low revs - 236lb ft at just 2,000rpm. When extended, the 2.0D feels genuinely rapid, capable of a respectable sub nine-second 0-60mph and some excellent in-gear times (7.0sec for 30-50mph in 4th, 6.9sec for 50-70 in 5th).The six-speed gearbox is slick, smooth, and with just the right spacing between gears. The brake pedal 'feel' is reassuring and requires more pressure than on some cars, but the brakes themselves are very progressive. On a demanding road with changing cambers and bumps the C30 resists understeer convincingly and displays a level of agility you wouldn't credit it with. We enjoyed hustling it around the back roads of Hertfordshire at a decent pace but we found the C30 to be at its best at a cruise. Around town the ride is relatively supple but with an underlying solidity. It's the same on the motorway, where wind noise is limited and the long-legged gearing (100mph is 2700rpm in top) means the engine is virtually inaudible. Touring economy is also a creditable 49 plus mpg.

Our verdictThe Volvo C30 is less expensive to purchase than many of its competitors yet Volvo has also included a generous amount of equipment as standard. An attractive buy, the C30 feels as tough and well made as a Volkswagen and the car's interior feels durable.

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