How delicious is the C30? Although only slightly face-lifted since joining us 4 years ago, it remains fresh, sexy and young. I love the word “fresh”. itconjures up a certain something in the imagination which needs no further explanation. There have been a few enhancements along the way and the Polestar adds about 15KW to the 169KW bringing it to 184KW. It is by far the best value option box that can be ticked.
The C30 is achingly beautiful with its glass rear hatch and sexy-as-hatch looks. The redesigned front gives the C30 the new Volvo corporate look and has a certain macho fluidity about it. There is not a hint of reserved frumpiness left anywhere in the range. The top-of-the-line R-Design adds the body kit with skirts, badging, and other assorted accoutrements making the little hatch look faster and angrier. The front end is aggressive without being overdone and speaks to you even when it’s sitting quietly at the curb. The body kit makes the wheel arches look even fatter and butcher than before. Most of you know I hate using the term “hot hatch” as that usually means a half-baked pudding of a thing that’s been upgraded beyond its class. With the engine, brakes and stereo given the once over, they think you won’t notice how ordinary it looks. Not so for the C30 which was drop-dead gorgeous from the first time pen hit paper. Volvo hasn’t pushed the boat out too far with the wheels but I feel they could have been a bit more edgy. The 5 spoke alloys have a slightly retro look about them which I think looks really smart though an opportunity was missed to go uber cool. I’d have found a matt back Star-Trek-Borg-Implant reaching from each hub trying to assimilate a fat, low strip of rubber to set off the sexy bodywork. I can picture it now!
Speaking of retro, has anyone noticed how much like the ’72 Volvo P1800 the C30 is?
You remember, the car Roger Moore drove in The Saint. It was clever of Volvo to seek inspiration from one of their most gorgeous and iconic creations to create a new 21st century icon. You mark my words, we’ll be saying the same thing in 40 years about the C30 as we are now saying about the P1800 and may they both live long and prosper.
Polestar can be determined by the tiny blue badge on the rump. If you’re lucky enough to drive one you’ll also notice the wrinkles disappearing from your face at every traffic light. Otherwise it’s pure R Design all the way. The smart anodised blue dial surrounds from the S60 though didn’t make it into the smaller car and we think this should find its way in without further ado. The cabin’s glass area is relatively large for the size of car and the result is a light and airy space with good all round visibility. It screams 21st Century Modern. The design language in the rear end makes a feature of the enormous tail lights and glass hatch. The hatch provides excellent rear vision as long as the hard cover isn’t in place, have a look and see what you think..
Above and below:- Left WITH COVER right WITHOUT COVER
For me, the real point to note is as far as “hot hatches” go, the C30 is the only one to have been purpose designed as a sporty coupe and not a budget family run-around. Its stunning looks hide the fact that seeing a C30 whiz past on the freeway is a rare sight, which is a shame. I still think of her as a gay icon even if a rare one.
The R Design adds skirts and firm suspension among other things. The R Design in any of Volvo’s models is my choice. The build quality is obvious with consistent panel fit and a look and feel of longevity. That’s something difficult to quantify of course but you feel the plastic, rubber and metal components and the words that leap to mind are “high end” and “premium”. It seems cheap isn’t a word in the Swedish vocabulary, and if it was we probably wouldn’t be able to pronounce it! And she is the better for it.
Like most modern cars, the C30 has puddle lights in the mirrors and delays on the head and tail lights so you don’t fumble into the shrubbery in the dark, unless you intend to of course. Moreover you won’t soil your shoes because you’ve failed to notice you’ve pulled up at the only muddy spot in the entire yard. The headlights also swivel when you turn the wheel and of course LED daytime lights are standard in the top model. Although the R design is loaded with a bunch of goodies, adding too many ticks on the “options” page will quickly add another 10k to your price.
The interior is as classy and well put together as the exterior. As with all the new generation, the centre console looks like a floating 1cm thick piece of aluminium with controls attached to the front side. It has a large space behind so you can stow things in a hidey hole secreted therein. It’s a nifty quirk and is there purely because it looks fabulous for which the Swedes must be applauded. The R Design has a fascia with concentric lines inscribed radiating from the top right hand knob which you’ll either love or fail to notice. Under the roll-away cover near the hand brake are a couple of cup holders. The rearmost one is set higher than the one immediately in front. Because you’ll rest your elbow on the padded lid of the bin and move your hand forward to change gears in the manual you’ll find a cup in that position is just a bit to annoying. The cockpit-like effect puts everything where it should be and is almost intuitive to use.
The dash features the usual suspects with dials for speed and revs and another for driver info. The menu here can be scrolled through by use of a wheel on the left hand stalk. The beauty is you can go both ways whereas some brands allow scrolling in a single direction only. If you miss the desired selection you will spend the next 5 minutes trying to find it again. I’m not fussed on the Aluminium insert in the top section of the steering wheel. It feels odd and I prefer to have just a single surface to contend with. The rest of the cabin is sprinkled similarly with metal highlights. It doesn’t feel quite as nice inside as the new S60 but I put this down to the C30 being part of a previous generation of design thought, despite the similar look.
The leather seats are very firm with only the driver’s seat being electric. The C30 has oodles of grunt so the lateral support in all R Design models gives you something to snuggle in to while you’re throwing yourself into rewarding bends. Sliding sideways would be a huge embarrassment. To power the other seat will add over 2 grand and adding GPS into the infotainment system adds a further 4 grand. One accessory which will see little light of day is the 6 stack CD player. Do people still use them? It adds $850 and uses the Ipod/USB port (so no plugging your iPhone into the system) in the audio system which sounds like an expensive backward step to me. The climate control does have dual zones though which can come in handy if you fancy deep freeze but your companion is wearing woollies. It took a few minutes to find the control switch which is cleverly concealed in the centre of the temperature knob.
The control centre contains all the vehicle settings for climate, infotainment and vehicle customisation. After a short while you get used to the switch gear. In menu mode each command must be confirmed or exited and direction of the cursor is controlled by the centre joystick. A lot of thought have gone in to ergonomics to make sure the operation is clear and concise and as easy to navigate as possible. Most functions are only a few clicks away once you know where they are. I rarely read the user guide unless I’m particularly stuck which I think is a comment in and of itself. If an average driver can use the system without having nervous breakdowns then the design is a success. To add an extra layer of success, it is neat and attractive.
Apart from not caring for the metal on the top rim of the steering wheel, my only other issue was the lack of a left foot rest. Even in a manual it feels odd not to be able to nestle your foot at a comfy angle when it’s not stabbing the clutch.
You will need to be fairly determined to fit a couple of chums in the back seat as space is in short supply. C30 is better thought of as a comfy 2 + 2 rather than a 4 seater. Besides, carting a bunch of people around with you is a pain. They can drive themselves.
This we we had both the C30 and Mitsubishi’s Evolution 10 (EVO X) to play with.
I’ll be using the word “fabulous” a lot. The handling, the ride, the look, the feel, all fabulous and the interior makes the drive a comfy and cosy experience. The biggest surprise to most is going to be the performance because Volvo is known to be driven by jowly old gents in baggy pants with their bowls hats on the rear parcel shelf right? Wrong, Volvo shrugged off its frumpy frock years ago. The gorgeous S60 T6 Polestar has 243 KW which is only 17kw less than Holden’s fire breathing 6.0L V8 The S60 is also 1640 kg’s which is almost 200kg’s lighter than the Commodore, so in short, the S60 has a better power to weight ratio than a car with a 6 litre V8. Volvo makes some very quick handsome cars now and the baby Volvo is no exception. The 184KW Polestar is a turbo 5 cylinder petrol engine with 370NM of torque which will push the C30 to 100 in just 6.8 seconds. It must be said that it feels much faster but the figures don’t lie. Once upon a time sub 7 seconds was considered super-car territory but now many family hacks can manage.
The C30 is front wheel drive, so sticking the boot in results in some impressive torque steer, It’s not uncontrollable by any means but you have to be aware of it or you’ll be in for a shock. I remember a sainted great-aunt of mine had a favourite saying: “Saucy Strumpet” which meant a girl in a great outfit, with a pretty face showing quite a bit of leg and looked like she might be a bit of a goer. When I accelerated away from my first set of lights, that saying popped into my mind, so henceforth the C30 T5 Polestar will be known as my “Saucy Strumpet”. The turbo takes a tick to spool up which is no problem in a manual. You need to make sure you have a few more revs on the dial before you let the clutch out on all cars with turbos or you spend 50 to 100 metres feeling like you’re driving ride-on mower. Worse still you risk an embarrassing restart by letting the clutch out too quickly. Can you imagine trying to impress a cutie waiting to cross at the lights and instead of leaping in to a blaze of glory; you snuff the engine into a stunned silence. It is simply too awful to contemplate.
On the subject of the gearbox and clutch, it is absolutely brilliant to use. The clutch has a progressive feel and lets you know exactly where the take-up begins. The shifting is easy and precise with the gearbox feeling smooth rather than notchy. As I mentioned before it’s the acceleration which is simply fantastic with that fabulous turbo often letting out a beautiful little high-pitched whine. The engine has a wonderful sound which, if you hold your head just right, sounds like a tiny V8. It’s a high pitched angry growl which reaches a thrilling crescendo just in time to stick a foot on the clutch and do the whole thing over again.
The steering too is light and precise. It has electric assistance, as do most new cars, which feels sharp and direct. There is still a touch of isolation but as I drive more vehicles with the electric set-up, I get more and more used to it and the slight isolation that comes with it. Some car makers have artificially weighted the steering so that you think you can feel the road beneath you but in reality the wheels will go where ever you turn them whenever you turn them. The trick is having the confidence to believe it will happen.
The R Design has firmer suspension and thus a sportier feel to the handling. Despite the tight chassis and sporty damping you can still manage a bit of understeer if you push her too hard. We tested the Volvo at our favoured proving ground, the magnificent Grand Pacific Drive where she could flex a bit of muscle. The straights are a great chance to open her up but the fun police say that road has a speed limit. Despite this you have a wonderful opportunity to throw her into a few very tight bends and accelerate out the other side in a nice low, loud, rewarding gear. Because the C30 is greater than the sum of its parts it is the sort of car I looked for excuses to “pop out for a minute” in. Some cars are a chore from the moment you lay eyes on them. They look miserable and mean as if they are waiting to ruin your day. The Volvo is way up the other end of that scale. I would venture to say it falls into the “big boys toys” category where a lot of brands would love to be but few actually have a chance of ever reaching.
Our test car was fitted with the rear hard cover for the luggage compartment. It is, without a doubt, the most awful thing I have encountered as it blocks a substantial part of the view rearward. That gloriously sexy hatch should be enjoyed without interruption. It’s madness to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by putting a solid object in front of transparent glass. I’m surprised at the safety-obsessed Swedes because making things more visible is their usual motif operandum. There is Bliss to tell you if someone is driving beside you, city safe warning system to tell you if someone or something is in front of you. There are systems to stop the car if you fail to notice something, so why would you put something solid in front of a window?
As I mentioned before the fitting of just a few options soon adds up. The Satnav is over 4K and although I always say you’re better off with a hand held device, the dash units look so much neater. The Polestar costs about $1,500 and I can’t even begin to tell you how worthwhile it is unless you have cement in your veins. There is a touch of petrol-head in all of us that loves a bit of power throbbing up front so in case you forget, the engine note is magnificent especially under hard acieration.
None of that matters once you on the move because the C30 is a car that makes you smile. There are some cars costing 4 times as much that don’t manage to make you smile. You put your foot down and the power invokes a visceral response deep down in your inner sanctum. You shiver while you smile and suddenly the world doesn’t matter outside of the exquisitely crafted windows. There is plenty of room for you and your hunny, your “2 bags”, a picnic blanket and esky filled to the brim with chilled champers.
She looks wonderful and goes brilliantly. She is comfortable and reasonably priced for a premium bran, moreover, I liked her when she was first released and the lust has grown ever since. If you’re the type who likes power, there is oodles of it dressed up as a stylish personal sports coupe. She screams “I have arrived” rather than “look at me” and when you mash your foot to the floor leaving the peasants to swallow your dust, but you don’t care, you’re in your C30.