Chasing lower CO2 is motoring’s holy grail. Every car manufacturer is at it, and there’s usually an e somewhere in the names of eco models to reinforce the point that they’re cleaner and greener. Volvo is no exception. The Swedish company better known for its safety credentials has just brought out three models with a package of eco-tweaks, designed to duck them below the 120g/km barrier and qualify them for bargain basement £35 a year road tax. The changes have been applied to new DRIVe versions of the S40 and V50, but most effectively to the C30.
All three models get a lower (by 10mm) ride height and aerodynamic bodywork tweaks to help them slip through the air with less drag. They have also been kitted with Michelin low rolling resistance tyres, smoothed-off Libra alloy wheels, revised gear ratios and a discreetly nagging change-up indicator on the dash. By these measures, CO2 output has been cut from 129g/km for all three before the changes, to 118g/km for the DRIVe S40 and V50, and 115g/km for the C30. Of the three, the C30 DRIVe (pronounced ‘drivee’) has undergone the most changes, because as the smallest car of the three it proved the most challenging for greening treatment. It has a unique rear spoiler to smooth off airflow over the tail, a plastic cover under the rear chassis to improve under-body aerodynamics, and rubber flaps in front of all four wheels. A new front grille cuts airflow into the engine bay by 74 per cent, and the engine’s ECU has been reconfigured to ensure everything runs efficiently without overheating.
As well as cutting CO2 and improving fuel economy, the changes also give a small performance benefit. The C30 DRIVe is more than half a second quicker to 60mph than the 1.6D model it replaces.
How do these changes translate on the road? On a drive across west London, there seemed to be scant difference between the DRIVe model and the 1.6D on which it is based. The slight drop in suspension means that you have to be extrawary negotiating speed humps. Combined with the special – if slightly ugly – wheels, those low rolling resistance tyres improve the car’s efficiency by more than two per cent. But they seem to have a slightly less grippy feel on the road. Another disadvantage of the changes is that they turn the C30 into a car you can’t tow with. The under-body diffuser makes it impossible to fit a towbar.
RIVALS: BMW 118d 3-DOOR, FORD FOCUS ECONETIC 1.6 TDCi 3-DOOR
- Engine: 1560cc, 4 cylinder, turbodiesel
- Gearbox: 5-speed manual
- Max Power: 108bhp at 4,000rpm
- Max Torque: 177lb ft at 1,750rpm
- Max Towing Weight: n/a
- Combined Consumption: 64.2mpg
- CO2 Emissions (taxband): 115g/km (B)
- 0-62mph: 10.7secs
- Max speed: 118mph
- Insurance Group: 8