Volvo v Golf

Economy hatches - head to head

In June, when my colleague Chris Ebbs said goodbye to his Ford Focus Econetic, we thought it a good idea to put it up against the Volvo C30 DRIVe to find out which is best.

The 5-2 result in favour of the Volvo was surprising, particularly as the Focus is a pretty decent car. We expected the twin test to be closer.

When the five-door Volkswagen Golf BlueMotion arrived in the Parker's car park, it was inevitable that a similar twin test would be in the offing. This time around the C30 would have its work cut out: the Golf, in normal, non-eco spec is a class leader. It's smart, well packaged and it is the default hatch for urban dwellers who want a nice looking car to park on the street.

So, another battle royal for the Volvo. Here's our VW Golf BlueMotion v Volvo C30 DRIVe twin test.

Fuel economy and emissions

The combined fuel economy reading on the Volvo's trip computer currently reads 52.9mpg, but according to our stats it's achieving exactly 53mpg - an excellent result since we have been driving completely normally and not trying economy runs. The Volvo is still way below the 61.4mpg official fuel economy, but we didn't expect to achieve that anyway. We didn't have the BlueMotion long enough to get an accurate reading so we have no way of telling whether it matches the official figure, however, past tests suggests that normal driving will yield around 5mpg less than the official claimed figures, which gives the VW the win. However, the BlueMotion's CO2 emissions fall short of the Volvo so, it's game of two halves here.

Volvo - Official combined fuel economy 61.4mpg; CO2 emissions 99g/km

VW - Official combined fuel economy 68.9mpg; CO2 emissions 107g/km

Result - draw

Company car choice?

Both are in the 13% Company Car Tax band because they are within the 75-120g/km CO2 emissions threshold. They won't embarrass you when you turn up to meetings because they are both stylish, well-regarded makes. As motorway cruisers they'll eat up the miles no problem and they both have a huge range. It's difficult to split them.

If you crunch the numbers, the Volvo gets a P11d value of £20,590 and so will cost 20% tax payers £44.61 per month. 40% payers are in for £89.22.

The three-door BlueMotion Golf has a slightly lower P11d value of £18,130 so although emissions are slightly higher, your monthly company car tax payment will be slightly less. The VW costs £39.28 a month for people paying 20% and £78.56 for those paying 40%.

With the Golf getting more mpg but costing slightly more a month in tax than the Volvo, the two cars are still level-pegging.

Result: Score draw 


Volvo - As we said in the last twin test, the Volvo is found wanting as far as practicality is concerned. The primary problem lies at the rear - the coupe-like design means limited boot space and that means, for me, a quite-awful-but-regular golfer, a lot of huffing and puffing to get my clubs in every weekend. If you have a couple of kids you'll struggle to get all the paraphernalia in. It's a three-door only and pushing the front seat forward to get in the back can be a faff too.

Golf - The VW is hugely practical and in this area it achieves a runaway victory. Let's consider bootspace alone: the VW has 350 litres with the seats up and 1,305 litres with the rear seats down. The C30 has 251 and 539 litres. No more questions your honour.

There is a three-door Golf BlueMotion, but even then it's much easier to get in and out of the rear seats. There's more headroom and legroom in the Golf and better forward and rear visibility .

Result: VW win


Volvo - The C30 SE Lux version we are running costs £20,590. It has extra aluminium effect trim on the skirts and around the headlights. We get aluminium effect on the console and gearknob, plus we've got two-tone cloth seats, 17-inch alloys, Bluetooth handsfree and heated seats. The standard DRIVe costs £17,690 and with that you get alloys, climate control and stability control and start/stop as standard.

VW - The BlueMotion we were driving costs £18,715 but the three-door is £18,130. The kit list is pretty basic though: air-con, electric windows and mirrors, CD/radio with aux-in is standard but you'll pay an extra £220 for an alarm and a further £395 for alloys. Volvo levels the score. 

Result: Volvo win 


Volvo - Price for an 09/09 model from a franchised dealer is £14,250 (based on an original price of £16,745) 

VW - Price for an 09/09 model from a franchised dealer is £14,820 (based on an original purchase price of £17,165)

Result: Score draw


Volvo  - The 107bhp C30 DRIVe accelerates from 0-62mph in 10.9s and top speed is 118mph

VW - The 105bhp Econetic accelerates from 0-62mph in 11.3s and top speed is 118mph

Result: Volvo win

Ride and handling

The Volvo C30 does its business quietly and efficiently but you get little pleasure from driving it. It's competent around corners and the ride is acceptable - on the firm side - but acceptable nonetheless. The Golf, is in a different league. There's loads of grip, it's a joy on turn-in and you never tire of throwing it into corners. The ride is perfect, and even though this is an economy car, you don't feel that the handling has been compromised at all

Result: VW win


This is a close one, but the Volvo's seating gives it the win in this particular battle. I have never left the Volvo, regardless of the length of journey, feeling battered. The Golf's seats are ok, but after an hour and a half of driving, the lower half of my back starts to ache. I do have minor back problems and I do struggle with some car makers' seating - in particularly Audi - who build seats that don't suit my posture. The Volvo just seems to suit me fine. Inside the cabin, there's little noise coming from both cars - this new BlueMotion is a massive improvement - so as far as refinement is concerned they are pretty equal.

Result: Volvo win 


I do like the Volvo's looks, and I think the extra aluminium bling peps it up a bit. The Golf is quite dull to look at, but it is a default choice for many. It has history and doubtless eco-conscious urbanites called Jeremy and Sasha will lap it up. That VW badge still carries some weight, it seems.

Result: VW win

Head-to-head result: 3-3



Seat Leon 1.6 TDI Ecomotive S 5d

Skoda Octavia 

Ford Focus Econetic 1.6 TDCi 3d


Current mileage: 13,950

Average mpg: 53mpg