Volvo C30 DRIVe: Seeing the light!

Turn the light off!

I've seen the light... and I don't like it.

There's not much to complain about regarding the Volvo C30 DRIVe: it's good to drive, it's ok on fuel (even though my diesel consumption is nowhere near the official combined figure), it looks nice and it's comfortable to sit in.

But... it does have this annoying foible that, quite frankly, makes no sense whatsoever.

Volvo is usually excellent with its switchgear - the heating controls are wonderfully clear, the stereo is easy to navigate and all the other controls are intuitive and logically positioned.

However, somebody had a bad day when they set about designing the functionality for the lighting switch.

Now, I'm ridiculously old-fashioned. I like a handbrake, not those rubbish electronic push-button jobs, and don't get me started on the foot-operated parking brake because that's nonsense too (hope you are reading Lexus and Merc). If you are talking headlamps, for me, the simpler the better. They are either on or, indeed, off and I think the switch inside the cabin should reflect that.

But I have to fight my instinct for reductionism and accept that this is a modern world. Most cars we drive have four settings on the rotary dial for lighting: sidelights, headlamps, the auto on/off setting and a setting for switching the whole lot off.

On the Volvo there's an 'off' setting, a sidelights setting, a headlamp setting and... another headlamp setting.

This set-up leaves a copius amount of room for error. First up, if you leave the dial switched to the sidelights setting when you get out of the car and leave, the sidelights stay on, which is utterly pointless. Countless times I've left the car, turned back and had to return to get back in the car and turn the sidelights off because I can't switch them off with the button on the keyfob.

That keyfob button also promotes failure. With it you can turn off the headlamps when you have left the car, which sounds super, but it isn't that super when it's a bright summer's day and you accidentally press the on button. You leave the car, unaware of your mistake (because it's bright) and then six hours later you return to the car to see the lights on, hoping that you haven't drained the battery.

It sounds like only an idiot would do this sort of thing and, believe me, I do qualify for that tag with little or no effort but I have done this on regular occasions in the summer months, which suggests to me that this little design 'extra' is wholly unnecesary and, for sure, it's certainly not 'idiotproof'.

Then there's the headlamp setting. Fine, but you can't switch to permanent full beam on in this setting but you can do a flash warning. If you pull the left-hand steering wheel stalk towards you, it does flash, but it won't click on to remain in full beam - it just clicks right back.

To get permanent full beam you have to rotate the dial on the dashboard clockwise to get to the setting that allows you to do this. In this setting you can pull the same left-hand steering column stalk towards you and then the full beam clicks on, and stays there until you click it off.

But I ask you, why not have one setting where you can both flash and leave the full beam on? I understand the reasoning: Volvo doesn't want you to accidentally leave the dipped beam on and dazzle oncoming drivers when all you wanted to do was give one quick warning. But when do you decide that it's only necesary to flash people? You might as well put it in the setting when you can get permanent full beam.

This whole thing doesn't help my life at all and although I like the Volvo,  if I ever meet the person who designed the lighting functionality on this car, I'll knock their lights out...


Current mileage: 9309

Average mpg: 53.9mpg