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Drive Life : April 30th 2010
1HERSA1 F014 14 Drive Life April 30, 2010 drive.com.au Swede natured THE COMPETITORS * Prices are recommended retail and exclude dealer and on-road costs. FORD FIESTA ECOnetic Price $24,990 Engine 1.6-litre 4-cyl turbo diesel, 66kW/200Nm, 5-speed manual, FWD Fuel use/CO2 emissions 3.7L/100km and 98g/km Safety 5 airbags, stability control Fo r Bragging rights as Australia's most fuel-efficient car; excellent handling and steering; cheapest eco-car; standard Bluetooth. Against No curtain airbags; big premium over other models of the Fiesta; smaller than the C30. Our score Not rated yet. Volvo C30 1.6 DRIVe Volvo hits its C30 with an efficiency stick for an assault on the eco-car market. TOYOTA PRIUS Price $39,990 Engine 1.8-litre, 4-cyl petrol- electric, 100kW/142Nm, CVT auto, FWD Fuel use/CO2 emissions 3.9L/100km, 89g/km Safety 7 airbags, stability control Fo r Lowest CO2 output of any car; bigger than C30, plenty of rear leg room; more seamless stop-start; good safety, frugal. Against Ride a little choppy; handling not enthusiastic. Our score I BMW 118d HATCH Price $42,170 Engine 2.0-litre 4-cyl, 105kW/ 300Nm, 6-speed manual, RWD Fuel use/CO2 emissions 4.5L/100km, 119g/km Safety 6 airbags, stability control Fo r Excellent road manners; flexible engine performance, well matched to six-speed manual; stop-start feature for better fuel efficiency in traffic; auto option. Against Pricey, expensive options; lack of rear leg room; ride can be harsh at low speeds. Our score Our score JII Price $36,150 Country of origin Sweden Engine 1.6-litre 4-cylinder turbo diesel Power 80kW at 4000rpm Torque 240Nm at 1750rpm Consumption and CO2 emissions 3.8L/100km and 99g/km Transmission 5-speed manual, FWD Weight 1318kg Safety Six airbags, stability control Pros Fuel efficient, with a 1000km- plus range on a single tank; refined diesel engine; great cabin layout and ergonomics; secure handling and accurate steering; no price premium for eco-credentials; top- notch safety package. Cons Couldn't match fuel label claim; lumpy ride; engine lacks responsiveness off the mark; only four seats; small boot. Our score JI THE TEST RICHARD BLACKBURN Every manufacturer likes to have a halo car in its range; a head-turner that allows other, less appealing, models to bask in its reflected glory on the showroom floor. In the past, the role of buyer magnet has invariably rested on the shoulders of a hotted up, sporty version with fat tyres, rear spoilers and more oomph under the bonnet. But in these days of dwindling oil reserves and carbon trading schemes, the mantle is gradually passing from meanest model in the range to the greenest. The first-generation Prius started the trend more than a decade ago. Few expected the ugly duckling hybrid to become a darling swan of the Hollywood in-crowd, but its success -- and stricter emissions laws overseas -- has seen rivals rush to release a fuel-sipping model that delivers valuable environmental bragging rights. Volvo is the latest to release a Prius-beater into the local market. The new C30 DRIVe uses a small four-cylinder diesel engine and a range of fuel efficiency techno tricks to deliver a fractionally better fuel consumption label than the Prius, at a lower price. WHAT DO YOU GET? At first glance, there's no obvious premium paid for Volvo's environmental hero. It's the cheapest model in the C30 range, costing $300 less than the base petrol model. But it also has the least powerful engine in the range, doesn't have a rear spoiler and can't tow. You do, however, get six airbags and stability control as standard equipment, an above-average sound system with steering-wheel mounted controls and an auxiliary input jack, front and rear foglights, retractable door mirrors, leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear knob, climate control and a pollen filter. As with entry-level models from rivals Audi and Mercedes-Benz, there's no leather and the seats adjust manually. Bluetooth and iPod connectivity are notable omissions, along with parking sensors. Volvo also stings you $1550 for metallic paint. But the real value of the DRIVe lies in the added fuel-saving technology. The engine shuts down when the car is stopped at lights to save fuel, it has wind- deflecting wheel covers, taller gearing and a range of aerodynamic panels to cut fuel use. WHAT'S INSIDE On first impressions the Volvo's cabin looks a little spartan for a luxury car brand, but the uncluttered, minimalist look has its own appeal. The grey seat covers feel a little like wetsuit material, with subtle orange stripes providing a visual lift without looking gaudy. The console ''floats'' away from the dash and there is a small storage tray behind the main centre stack. The digital read-outs are plain to look at but easy to read at a glance, while all the buttons and controls are logical and well laid out. In a nod to its eco- purpose, an arrow appears in the instrument panel to remind you to change gears early to save fuel. The front seats are comfortable on long trips, while the adjustable steering wheel makes it easy to find a good seating position despite the car's compact dimensions. Storage space is adequate, although the rear hatch area is small and leg and head room in the back is tight. Four seats in lieu of five, and two doors instead of four, mean it's more suited to singles and couples. UNDER THE BONNET The C30's 1.6-litre turbo diesel four- cylinder engine delivers a modest 80kW of power, roughly 20 per cent less than most cars its size. But it compensates -- as do all diesels -- with above-average torque, which means that once it's up and running, it ambles along without much fuss, making light work of hills. Around town, however, there is a lag as the car's turbo spools up and response is less than instantaneous when you plant your foot. By Volvo's own admission, the C30 DRIVe takes three seconds more than the petrol model to go from 0-100km/h. The stop-start feature also takes a bit of getting used to. You feel a shudder as the engine shuts down and the first instinct is to think you've stalled and put your foot on the clutch. That restarts the engine immediately and wastes any benefit you may have got from not idling at the lights. The system isn't as seamless as similar technology on the Toyota Prius and Camry, with the telltale rattle on start-up reminding you that you're driving a diesel. Once you get used to it, though, the stop-start is a cute party trick to impress the friends. Volvo says it cuts fuel consumption by up to 5 per cent, assuming you're actually coming to a stop. If you want to turn it off, you can. We couldn't achieve the car's claimed average fuel consumption of 3.8 litres per 100 kilometres. After almost 700 kilometres of mostly freeway driving, we averaged about 4.8L/100km. In freeway-only running at 110km/h, it dipped to 4.3L/100km by the car's trip computer, compared with the claim of 3.3L/100km. But the C30 still makes trips to the bowser a refreshingly infrequent experience. At one stage, we'd done 450 kilometres and the distance-to- empty read-out said 700 kilometres. ON THE ROAD Ford may have sold Volvo to the Chinese brand Geely but the Blue Oval's legacy can be felt in the C30, which shares the underpinnings of Ford's Focus small car. The C30 is a decent, if not thrilling, performer on the open road. It remains composed and confident when changing direction and the steering is accurate and well weighted, though its handling is not as sharp or as involving as the Focus's. At higher speeds, the suspension also copes with bumps and undulations, soaking them up without showing any tendency to float and wallow. But it's also less successful than the Ford at insulating its occupants from the deficiencies of Australian roads. Around town, suspension noise intrudes and the ride is less than comfortable over bumps. VERDICT If you want a car that reflects your concern for the environment but isn't sterile to drive, then the C30 is worth considering. It's not perfect: It misses out on equipment that is standard on other vehicles with more attractive price tags and its ride isn't what you'd expect from a luxury car. But it has plenty of character, is easy to live with and has a clean, uncluttered cabin, with logical controls and a good sound system. Add to that the fact it gets by on the smell of an oily rag and eases your carbon footprint, and it makes good sense.
May 7th 2010