A refined beauty you won't regret
Nothing... nada... zilch... niets... rien.
You think of buying this car for three reasons:
1) Fantastic styling/looks.
2) Volvo reliability/safety/comfort.
3) Almost unparalleled balance of performance & economy.
You hesitate because of:
1) The price tag.
2) Limited trunk space.
As for the first three reasons, this car lives up to the billing. It is a beautiful automobile, full stop.
Absolutely no problems encountered in the first two years of driving. It looks great on the outside, and once you step inside, you feel well tucked away in your driving machine.
The seats are incredibly sturdy, supportive and comfortable - luxurious in comparison with the VW Golf 6 I had the opportunity to drive. There are only 2 back seats, but they are equally comfortable with sufficient leg-room for the average 6-footer.
It is a small car, but its feel on the road is of a much larger automobile. Tight handling and grips the road. Does not take rough roads very well, but generally feels very taut and responsive.
I do have some mixed feelings about the 1.6 diesel. Alone in the car, it does well, though it can be sluggish in the short, lower gears. Don't challenge anyone off the line. But I love it on the highway. 120-150 smooth and effortless. But once loaded with 4 adults, the 1.6 engine seems over-matched. Overtaking from 60-80 is painstaking. Still, it is quick enough for the average driver.
The claims to 4l/100km only hold true if you drive on flat highway at 90km/hr, but mixed (and occasionally quick) driving has still produced 5.5l/100km -- or around 55-60mpg. And for this kind of pace and acceleration, that is downright brilliant. As for the start/stop system - I just turn it off by pressing a button. Unless you are waiting for a train, I would not want to wear out my starter for minimal gain.
The interior is sober and classic. Everything is logical and easy to use. A great detail is the little led light that shines down from the lighting system when you shut down the car... almost imperceptible, but well thought-out, as everything else seems to be... except...
...the placement of the seat belts concerning stepping out of the back seat. Despite placing very comfortable back seating in the car, the designers seemed to have neglected everything else concerning the rear-seat passengers. One almost has to be a contortionist to extricate oneself from the rear. And don't open the windows!! The car is apparently so streamlined, that this throws it into a state of shock, and sends loud and pulsating wind into your eardrums.
This is also a very expensive hatchback. While the overall package of styling/performance/comfort is desirable, the price is still rather extreme for a small car without really high-level performance or luxury. Had I paid sticker-price, it would have been €24,000... but I didn't pay that.
Cargo space is another issue, but it depends on how you use the car. The back seats fold down flat so I can easily deposit a weekly shopping trip or a (front tire removed) racing bike in the trunk, but if you are with more than two people, forget about it. I have personally never found it too small, but am usually alone.
In short, this is a great, beautiful automobile. If you do not have to worry about an expanding family, and are not concerned about being the quickest off the line (though it is quick enough), I fully recommend it.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 9th May, 2011