Volvo C30 DRIVe Driven

In June this year Volvo broke new ground as production of the C30 Electric commenced.  Available on a three-year lease, the Swedish firm intends initial deliveries only to be to companies and governmental bodies.  This is, partly at least, due to its price tag of €1500 per month over the three years, making the small family car more expensive to lease than a Tesla Roadster.

The C30 Electric is part of an ambitious strategy to roll out a number of electric and hybrid cars over the next few years – notably 2012’s highly anticipated V60 Plug-In Hybrid, which will share many of the C30’s design features.  Although the electric-specific internals will be installed at Volvo’s home-city, Göteborg, the rest of the C30 Electric will be built on the regular assembly line in the Ghent factory.  Aesthetically, it will be more-or-less identical to the present C30 DRIVe, which incidentally, we tested recently.

There’s no doubt that the C30 is a distinctive looking car, and as such it divides opinion.  However, since it’s launch in 2006 most have viewed the C30 favorably and this is evidenced by the fact that Volvo decided to make relatively minimal design changes for the 2010 facelift, simply bringing the car up to date.  At its facelift launch in 2009 the C30’s Product Manager, Daniel Backman, felt that “everything had fallen neatly into place and the car’s entire personality has been boosted to an entirely new level” – and I agree, although with perhaps less boost than intended.

The real talking point for the exterior is the revised front end – it is poised rather than aggressive yet still evoke a sense of strength.  Volvo achieved this with minimal fuss using sloping headlights, a larger air intake and angled lines on the front bumper.  Volvo’s trademark shoulder line, which has been featured on their more recent designs, is still present on the C30 and the rear of the car has been seen to as well.  Most noticeably the large plastic rear bumper has subsided a little and been replaced by a body-coloured unit while there are deeper, more prominent lines and detailing including a silver-metal ‘diffuser’.  Our car came with white wheels; a new option for the facelift that you’ll either love or hate…we loved the sporting attitude.  When you consider the C30’s intended market – a younger, more urban-oriented buyer – it becomes clear that Volvo couldn’t afford to make any mistakes with this car’s up-styling, thus played it safe. 

Comparisons will understandably be drawn with VW’s highly acclaimed Golf 1.6 TDI Bluemotion, and the C30’s green credentials certainly stand up to those of the Golf.  Interestingly, both cars boast identical combined mpg and carbon dioxide ratings at 74.3 mpg and 99 g/km respectively, meaning neither pay road tax.  From there though, the decision is whether you’re willing to trade the VW’s equipment levels and practicality for the Volvo’s unique looks and relative exclusivity.  Either way, Volvo’s clean diesel offers an excellent introduction for the zero-emissions C30 Electric.

The Swedish Energy Agency funded C30 Electric is powered by 24kwh lithium-ion batteries that give the car an electronically limited top speed of around 130kph and a range of 120-150 km on a single battery charge.  Unlike many other all-electric vehicles touted as a ‘breakthrough’ by their various manufacturers, the C30 already meets Volvo’s elevated standards concerning “safety, comfort, versatility and practicality”.  In fact, with second generation C30 Electric production beginning early in 2012, Volvo really are putting their money where their marketing is.  According to Volvo, the C30 Electric is a milestone for the entire automotive industry…they may well be right!