Funky and fun - Volvo has come a long way
- 2010 Volvo C30 T5 R-Design; 2.5-litre, five cylinder, turbocharged petrol; Six speed manual; Three-door hatch: $42,950*
Premium Sound - $975 (AM/FM radio, 12 Dynaudio speakers with iPod connectivity); Sports Chassis - $800; Blind Spot Identification System (BLIS) - $1,275
Words: Paul Maric and Karl Peskett
Photos: Karl Peskett
Volvo's C30 went through a bit of a facelift recently. And not before time. The styling was starting to date a little, with that all-too-familiar front end shared with the Volvo S40/Volvo V50 twins, and seeming to hang around for years. It was safe but a little bland. Now, the Volvo C30 has an air of aggression about it.
The headlights are more angled, the intakes have chiselled bodywork surrounding them, the flares are body coloured, and the low-profile wheels feature wide gaps, narrow spokes and show through the brilliantly effective brakes.
The rear still features the oddly-shaped but great looking glass hatch, but the bumper has been redesigned to include a split with a diffuser-style shape added below with the R-Design specification.
The overall design is excellent, if polarising. Certainly, you'll never confuse it for anything else on the road, even at a distance. And therein lies one of the keys to getting to know the C30 - it's like no other Volvo ever made. Sure, it shares its platform and some interior styling with other models in the range, but its attitude, its focus is unique.
For example, there are no compromises here. It's a four seater; nothing more, nothing less. By limiting the C30 to a four seat vehicle, rear passengers are not left cramped trying to fight for space with a considerable amount of leg and head room. Front seat leg and head room is exceptional, especially with the seats pushed all the way back.
The cabin is certainly a funky place to be with the optional R-Design package. The seats are finished in a leather and faux-suede material and hug reassuringly for mid-corner fun. Volvo’s trademark floating centre console also features dominantly within the cabin, offering storage space behind the console, also differentiating from other models via a concentric-circle pattern that's etched into the metal.
Audiophiles will be left slack-jawed by the impressive (but optional) DynAudio sound system which features 12 speakers and two subwoofers. It also includes iPod connectivity and auxiliary audio input.
Fit and finish throughout the cabin, in addition to build quality, is exceptional. Quality materials are used throughout the cabin to give the C30 T5 a homely and ambient feel. There are nice touches to remind you you've ticked the R-Design box, with contrast stitching, embossed headrests, aluminium inserts on the gear-lever and steering wheel and sports pedals.
The hatch leads to a fairly decent sized boot, which can enlarge by folding the back seats down. The only problem with it, is the opening is fairly narrow; the shape and size of the glass hatch limits what you'll be able to store in there - prams are a no-no - but a standard shopping trip will be fine.
Any negatives? Well, standard on almost all modern vehicles in 2010 is automatic headlights. The C30 – and every other Volvo in the range – still uses a manual headlight switch. While the bi-xenon headlights are modern and fitted with adaptive technology, Volvo is yet to introduce automatic headlights, even as an option.
Speaking of options, after having a look at the included features, the extensive list of options is staggering; just looking through it will make your eyes water. Simple things that are not included as standard fitment include a six-disc CD changer ($850), rain sensing windscreen wipers, metallic paint ($1,550), electric front passenger seat ($2,075), satellite navigation ($4,175), bottle holders and Bluetooth connectivity.
Also, while the driving position is great, the size of the steering wheel leaves the driver feeling like they’re at the helm of a bus. It’s way too big for a sporty car like the C30 T5. However feedback and weighting is excellent for a front-wheel-drive hatch.
If you get stuck into the warbly, five-cylinder, 2.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine, you can expect a feisty reaction. The sonorous unit delivers torque in droves and offers an excellent induction and exhaust note to boot. There's 169kW and 320Nm on tap, with max torque coming in at a low 1500rpm. That's probably why you'll notice the rabid amount of torque steer if you try and fire full throttle out of a corner. It’s initially unsettling, but perfectly controllable and expected for a car with that much torque on tap down low.
Our test car came with the six speed manual, which features a quite narrow H-pattern. It's a light shift, with a clutch that takes up a little too high, but it feels rubbery and notchy all at the same time. You quickly get used to it, though, and soon you'll be heel and toeing under brakes.
The numbers? The C30 T5 will fire from 0-100km/h in just 6.7 seconds - fairly quick, for a Volvo. It's off the line that it takes a little while - wheelspin from the two fronts prevents a quicker launch time - but once going, the car's acceleration is sufficiently quick. It does 240km/h, but only uses 8.7 litres/100km.
It also handles. Like, actually handles. Thanks to the R-Design's sports chassis option (featuring stiffer springs and firmer damping) you can turn in carrying a decent amount of speed; the grip is prodigious. When pressing on to its limits, it leans on the outside front tyre, hence understeer will occur if you're being silly, or it's soaking wet, but eveb in spirited driving it's quite neutral, and will certainly surprise passengers thinking "it's just another Volvo". The fact is, it won't outhandle its cousin, the Ford Focus XR5, or even a Volkswagen Golf GTI - typical Volvo strengthening weighs it down somewhat - but it's not far off from either car.
You've got to work out if that's what appeals to you. While the C30 T5 is never going to be as quick as its rivals, it's focus is on being sporty and safe; it is a Volvo after all, and that's what separates it from other hot-hatches. Sure, the styling is love-it-or-loathe-it and it's spacious for its size, but it will never fit five people. The engine is brilliant, but it's not as quick as others in the same price bracket. So while you could settle for a cheaper (and most would say better) Golf GTI, no-one could deride you for going down an alternative path.
While there are masses of VWs on the road, the C30 T5 is a bit of a rarity. It's not necessarily a bad thing - at least it's different.
CarAdvice Overall Rating:
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*Pricing is a guide as recommended to us by the manufacturer and does not include dealer delivery, on-road or statutory charges.