Volvo C30 DRIVe: Hello

Premium economy

Stylish, classy and well built - sadly we're not talking about me, rather my list of wants when buying a new car. Or should I say used to be my wants before I started my new job here at Parker's?

Suddenly, I found myself with an 80-mile commute up the mostly-clear A1 to the office from Watford and this coincided with fuel prices rising beyond the 120p-per-litre mark. Priorities instantly changed and I resigned myself to a life with a slow, noisy, economy special.

The reality is not that harsh though. Cars such as the BMW 1-Series and the Audi A3, for example, are now offered with highly efficient small diesels. The economy celebs - the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight - were also considered as a weapon of choice but ruled out because hybrids normally return better fuel consumption in town rather than the motorway.

Before I went the default Germanic route I discovered a car that ticked all my boxes. The Volvo C30 1.6 DRIVe not only averages an incredible 74.3mpg, but emits just 99g/km of CO2. This makes the stylish little hatch road-tax-free. Audi, to give it credit, does offer an equivalent 99g/km A3, but only in the least comfortable basic 'S' trim. Opt for bigger wheels and the emissions, and fuel consumption rise.  

What model to choose? Beware when ordering your C30. Prices for the most efficient model start at a very reasonable sounding £16,875, but unfortunately I wanted to have my cake and eat it. I ticked the box for the SE Lux adding a frightening £3,495 to the list price. In came bigger 17-inch wheels, climate control, bendy headlamps, cruise control and electric folding mirrors (essential for London life.)

It arrived a week ago and we've already spent the first 1,000 miles together and I can only say I'm truly smitten with the small Volvo. I love the combination of the comfortable seating and a decent ride that soaks up the miles. There's also a decent sound system.

There are a few gripes. The 105bhp 1.6-litre diesel is vocal on start-up and so far we're only seeing 48-50mpg, but the engine hasn't loosened up yet so we'll reserve judgement.

The final annoyance is driving me crazy. I can't work out how to turn off the traffic updates on the radio. It's not a fault of the car, it just means I have to swallow my pride and dig out the manual.

Current mileage: 2876

Average mpg: 50.7