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Volvo C30
Volvo C30
Sports Coupe – Crying Out To Be Noticed
Volvo C30
Volvo C30
Volvo C30
Volvo C30
Volvo C30

Aren’t Volvo’s Supposed To Be Understated, Utilitarian, Safe?
This One Is Sporty, Trendy, In Yer Face, And Pricey
Thoroughbred Competition Likely To Give C30 A Torrid Time 

PALMA, Majorca When Volvo unveiled the new sporty little C30 at the Detroit Car Show last January, I wondered quite what the company was up to. Why challenge the likes of the Audi A3, BMW 1-series and Golf GTi on their own boy-racer high ground? Wouldn’t it be better to play to Volvo strengths of utility and safety?

Well. Volvo has been and gone and done it. With much talk of sportiness, fashion, trendiness and the young, Volvo has rekindled the spirit of its 1800ES, which also had a plunging glass rear door and died in 1973, and the Volvo 480ES’s cult following between 1985 and 1995. The hope is that a whole slew of people – singles or couples with no children - who until now haven’t had a reason to stop by at Volvo, will be tempted in.

Sure, the C30 goes quickly and drives extremely well. But it’s hard for me to see how it can challenge the incumbents on their own ground. I also find it hard to take seriously the idea that this smaller version of the S40, with fewer doors and space, costs about the same. With prices at around £20,000, if you wanted a Sports Coupe would you pay attention to Volvo?

Volvo thinks so and the proof of the pudding will be in the eating. I stand ready to er, eat humble pie if that happens.

The car does look good, and will turn heads with its racy, wheel-at-each corner styling. The side windows narrow towards the rear, and there is a dramatic, sculptured looking rear end with a massive glass area.

Spoilt for choice
There are 8 engines to choose from, including the entry level 1.6 litre petrol and the D5 180 bhp 5-cylinder diesel, and range topping T5, with a 220 bhp 2.5 litre five-cylinder petrol. The latter two were available on the press launch in Majorca. The diesel, with an automatic gearbox, was very impressive with terrific performance and neat handling, not surprising given its close relationship with the Ford Focus. There were no flies on the T5 either.

The XC-90 somehow persuaded female, middle class haters of 4x4s that because it was a Volvo and a bit car-like, it wasn’t really a Chelsea Tractor

There is a dizzying array of choices with the 8 engines coupled with S, SE SE Sport and SE Lux versions. All models have the acronymphomaniac’s Full Monty of impressive sounding safety stuff including DSTC, ABS with EBD, EBA, SIPS and WHIPS. (And I didn’t make up the last one - Whiplash Protection System). Take my word for it, please, that these are all useful, crucial even.

Waste of space
The blind-spot detector seemed a waste of space, simply pointing out what was obvious anyway. Air conditioning is standard. SE adds a computer, cruise control, steering wheel remote audio controls, bigger wheels and front fog-lamps. SE Sport has a leather steering wheel and aluminium inserts, and a rear spoiler among other things. SE Lux includes heated front seats, leather, powered driver’s seat and power folding door mirrors.

Audio systems are also to the fore, including a 650 watt Dynaudio Premium Sound System. I have to admit to complete ignorance as to whether that is desirable or not.

The interior was top class, with a simple, functional layout and classy materials. Count me in the “nay” column for the so-called “floating centre stack”, the central console which has space behind it -  a pointless bit of design in my view which wastes space and will inevitably trap, out of sight, that piece of rotting sandwich.

There’s much room in the back, which is designed to make two people comfortable, rather than cram in 3. The boot is small, but the rear seats fold down to make some useful space.

South of £20,000
Prices start at £14,750 (€21,900), but I reckon that with the addition of some standard goodies and acceptable engines, the price will creep south of £20,000 (€29,650). When you think that the competition is the Audi A3, BMW 1-series and Golf GTi, that is a big ask. But Volvo only plans to sell 65,000 a year – (BMW sells 200,000 Minis), and that makes it even more difficult to understand why there is such an extraordinary array of options.

Volvo hopes that the C30 will do the same for it as the big XC-90 SUV, which, it says, tempted people into the showroom who had never previously thought about buying Volvo. The XC-90 has been remarkably successful, not least because it somehow persuaded female, middle class haters of 4x4s that because it was a Volvo and a bit car-like, it wasn’t really a Chelsea Tractor. Persuading a new audience of well-off young thrusters that a Volvo is sporty might be tougher.

Neil Winton – November 15, 2006
VolvoC30 Sports Coupe SE Lux
2.5 litre, 5-cyinder diesel
180 bhp
5-speed automatic
0-60 mph/100 km/h 7.8 seconds
Top Speed:
140 mph/225 km/h
Fuel Consumption:
claimed combined 40.9 mpg-6.9 l/kms
CO2 Emissions:
182 g/km
Service intervals: 12,500 miles or one year
Warranty: 3 years, 60,000 miles
Audi A3, BMW 1, Alfa 147, Golf GTi
Same for less: Hyundai Coupe
Would I buy one?
*** out of 5
stylish, well made, drives well
uphill struggle to justify sportiness