Being an eco-warrior normally involves growing dreads, not showering for a couple of weeks and growing your own compost out of human manure. That, or being extremely good at Doomsday Powerpoint presentations. The fact of the matter is, it's 2012 and we're still no closer to finding a true sustainable power source to light up our homes and fuel our cars, and the verdict is even worse if you listen to the rascals on Top Gear. Electric batteries take ages to charge, hydrogen fuel pumps still carry inherent safety risks and air-powered vehicles still remain something you would probably see in some Sci-Fi Thriller and not in real life.
So what options do you have as an environmentally-aware motorist? You could get yourself a Toyota Prius and condemn yourself to an eternity of exclusion and mockery from the hard-cores, or you could pony up 6 figures for a base-spec Tesla Roadster. If you're not made of money, then the safe, middle ground would be to stick with the normal combustion engine we've grown to love, but to choose from an array of special eco editions that manufacturers have been keen to build and promote given our global dilemma.
At Auto Express' recent 2011 Awards, the Volkswagen Bluemotion was awarded Green Car of the Year. Technology such as stop-start and brake regeneration combined with measures like low-rolling-resistance tyres and optimised aerodynamics to bring fuel-sipping economy and low emissions to the mass market, have helped its appeal particularly here in the UK.
It comes as no surprise then that Volvo, one of Car Throttle's most endeared manufacturers, have sought to throw their hat in the ring with the push of their eco-variant appearing on our C30 tester, the DRIVe (pronounced "drive-eee").
So what are the different models in the C30 line-up I hear you ask? It's pretty simple but every model kicks off with the ES model - the basic run-of-the-mill standard specification which for the C30 includes Electronic Climate Control, 16" alloy wheels, Stability and Traction Control and a few electronic gizmos. Next up is the SE which adds a little more luxury to the equation with smart upholstery and yet more gizmos, before we arrive at the SE Lux, or the most luxurious Volvo edition. If you want a racier look then you can head down to the R-Design styling department which sports 17" Cratus rims and R-Design goodies such as blue gauge inlays and a sports steering wheel. And finally we arrive at our tester model, the DRIVe which coupled with the SE Lux package, means that the engine comes with Start/Stop technology to crank out only 99g/km of carbon dioxide.
I'm no chemist, but even I know that's good.
The territory for our C30 review once again led us to the windy country lanes down in Sussex. In a high powered sports car these pieces of tarmac are perfect for stepping on the gas and letting the rubbers feel the heat as you try and cling on to each and every corner. With an eco-friendly car you would expect the journey to be as raucous as a tea party with David Cameron, but that wouldn't really be fair. Let me explain.
As an image, the 2012 Volvo C30 looks stunning. For me, there are no other words to describe it. Our road-tester was appropriately sprayed in Passion Red, and believe me, this Swede's passion really stands out in the flesh. 17" Zaurak Alloy Wheels on Continental SportContact tyres complete the look. Across the front, a honeycomb black grille greets the eye with the Volvo medallion and the mesh carries on lower down to the fog-light regions which gives the impression of a sporty lout.
Walk along the length of the vehicle, past the trademark high shoulder haunches and you'll arrive at the buttock-ends of the C30. Crudeness aside, they really do look like bum cheeks! Volvo's sliver tail lights frame the glass back window, very reminiscent of Volvos of old. One interesting thing to note is the lack of visible exhaust pipes. In this day and age, if there are no dual exhaust pipes, then they're just not worth showing at all. C30 badging is accompanied by a large DRIVe brand so you can scream and shout your eco-friendly credentials to all your peers. Go you!
Jump in the cabin and you are greeted with a wash of blonde leather. This stuff feels good to the touch and again invokes the feeling of luxury. After all, this is a pricey vehicle (which we'll get to later), so you want to feel special. The 2012 C30 accomplishes this well with the floating centre console again at the heart of the interior setup.
Options on our vehicle included the Sat Nav at an eye-watering £1,535, High Performance Audio at £410 (always a good purchase in my books, no-one likes hissy radio), Keyless Drive at £360 and Heated Front Seats at £275.
I don't need to tell you Throttlers this, but Volvo's safety record is off the chart, so much so that they have developed a reputation for building tank-grade vehicles thanks to their sturdiness and long-lasting build quality. However they also appear to be near the top of the charts for introducing new safety innovations. The Pedestrian Detection System was something I tested out on the S60 R-Design, and a cool gadget on this C30 is the Blind Spot Info System. This is located on the inside of the wing mirrors and flashes oranges everytime a vehicle occupies your blind spot. This actually makes motorway driving a doddle as you realise you don't have to crane your neck round each time you change lanes. Or does this mean that Volvo have just turned me into a couch potato driver? At £460 this is an investment that could save nasty knocks.
As a 3 door coupe, it comes as no surprise that rear legroom is limited. This is a real 2+2 which means 2 adults in the front and 2 children in the back and no more, or else suffer the wrath of leg cramps and irritation. Having said that, the rear seats are supportive and comfortable and again adorned in cow's hide. So nothing to really complain about and very similar to the interior layout of a Scirocco.
As mentioned previously, the 2012 C30 has a Keyless Go feature, so all you need to do is have key-in-pocket, close the door and rotate a rather weird knob past stages I and II. I didn't spend enough time in the car to actually work out what the I and II mean, but needless to say I kept the C30 DRIVe in the II position. Turn the knob to stage III, depress the clutch and the engine sputters to life.
The DRIVe if you haven't guessed by now, can only achieve it's astronomical efficiency ratings thanks to the fact that it is a diesel. A transverse, 8-valve, it only has a displacement of 1560cc mated to a 6 speed manual transmission, which means it suffers on the performance scale. Maximum output is a lowly 115 horsepower coming in at 3600 rpm with torque quoted at a more impressive 270Nm or 199lb-ft.
Don't jump for joy just yet though. Unfortunately, as it is a diesel, all the torquey goodness and power comes to the driver in one, massive lump surge. You don't get much upto 2,000 rpm, but between 2 and 3,000 rpm, it's as if the engine decides to give a damn and suddenly starts doing what it's supposed to do. Unfortunately, if you're driving the car with the view to reaching your destination on-time, the fact that you need to keep shifting gear to keep revs in the powerband gets frustrating very quickly.
On the plus side, the 2012 C30 isn't noisy at all at least once it's fully warmed up and is more refined than I thought it would be. 0-60 second acceleration pops in at 10.7 seconds but despite all of my bravado in the previous paragraph, I came to the brisk realisation that this car has a different function, a different purpose than the one I had been trying to impose on it. If you drive sensibly, this car will return a fantastic 74.3 miles per gallon of combined urban and extra urban driving, and this mean feat is achievable thanks to the DRIVe's Stop Start Engine. Push the clutch and pop the gearstick into neutral when say, you're at a set of traffic lights, and the engine uncannily turns itself off. To wake it back up, simply depress the clutch once more and the diesel burbles back to life. All this is particularly tasty news for your wallet.
Where it gets more exciting still, is the emergence of emissions. As the car releases 99 "carbon dioxides" into the atmosphere per kilometre of driving, the British government views the car as a wonderchild, unable to commit any wrong. Thus they have placed it into Tax Band A which means you'll be paying...£0 in road tax every year! So it's a triple-whammy, cheaper at the pump and cheaper on the road and inevitably cheaper on insurance thanks to a small engine. Fist pump!
In terms of comfort, you won't be left wanting. The final straw for many cars which look sporty, is that they often feel sporty, which means you're in for a bone-jangling ride on, let's face it, pretty abysmal British roads. With the 2012 C30, the car gets nice and low to the ground (in fact the whole vehicle is only 1.44 metres tall) but the dampeners do a great job of smoothing out inconsistencies, and the interior cabin is a real treat to sit inside with very few niggles. In fact, the only thing that really peeved me off was the fact that controls for the satnav are located on the steering wheel near the windscreen wipers - small and fiddly buttons, no thanks.
The price is where things look a little more bleak for those looking to scrimp and scrounge. On the road, you will be paying £21,245 for this baby and fully specced-up with all the options I mentioned above plus a few more, the total damage comes to £24,945. Ouch. Compare that to a 3-door VW Golf Bluemotion which starts at £18,845 and even adding in optional extras leaves you with a significant margin difference. But here's the thing...
...there aren't many eco-cars that really get me going. Sure, the Bluemotion Golf has amazing build and excellent green credentials but it looks bland and I'm all for adding spice. This is where the C30 really ticks the boxes. It glows literally red hot in an eco market where only 6 figures can afford you a nice looking set of warrior wheels. And believe it or not, this tasty package comes in Volvo wrapping paper.
One thing is for sure. Saving the planet has never looked this good.