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2009 Volvo C30, S40, and V50 DRIVe Diesels

While Americans fret about miles per gallon, Europeans take a serious look at how much carbon dioxide (CO2) their vehicles emit. Volvo's done just that with its new DRIVe range, consisting of specially-tuned versions of its C30, S40, and V50 models. All three produce less than 120 grams of CO2 per kilometer.

Powering each of the three cars is Volvo's 1.6-liter turbo-diesel I-4, coupled through a five-speed manual transmission. The powertrain, including the new diesel particulate filter, isn't anything that unusual; it's also offered on other diesel models in Volvo's range.

What are unique to the DRIVe models are a litany of aerodynamic aids, many of which were previewed on the C30 ReCharge concept, shown at the 2007 Frankfurt motor show. All three DRIVe models are lowered by 10 mm, use a covered radiator grille, wind deflectors in front of the front wheels, and unique alloy wheels, shod with low rolling resistance Michelin tires. The S40 and V50 also gain a front spoiler from the T5 model, while the C30 wears new underbody panels, a rear spoiler, and an all-new rear bumper fascia.

Volvo's also tweaked some mechanical systems in pursuit of fuel economy. The five-speed manual transmission remains mostly stock, but uses taller gear ratios in third, fourth, and fifth gears. Volvo's also filled the transmission with low-viscosity oil, helping to reduce friction and improve driveline efficiency.

The result? All three models slot in under that 120 grams CO2/km mandate, and actually undercut their competition. Not surprisingly, the small C30 fared the best, producing only 115 grams - less than both the Audi A3 1.9 TDIe and the BMW 118d. It also managed to earn a four-star rating in the FIA's EcoTest - the same rating given to the Toyota Prius hybrid. Oh, and they all manage to return close to 76 mpg in combined-cycle European testing. Not too shabby.

Following their debut at the 2008 Paris motor show, production of the C30, S40, and V50 DRIVe models will begin in November. All three should arrive at dealers across Europe by no later than January 2009. At only €450 more than a normal 1.6D model, Volvo expects to sell 20,000 DRIVe models each year.