Until quite recently in order to appear on Volvo’s sales radar you would have needed to be either a police force or someone with a lot of furniture or children to move around or perhaps both. There have only been a couple of occasions in Volvo’s long motoring history where they have produced a design that bucked the reputation for solid and dependable if not terribly exciting cars. The P1800 was a design classic but considering they stopped making it in 1973 and was in essence a sports car something new from the Swedish stable has been a long time coming.
Other previous attempts to make a small, two-door hatchback have resulted in the much maligned 340 series with its Renault engine or the somewhat troublesome 480 which smelt of smouldering electrics as soon as you turned the ignition key. As a result of these somewhat disastrous forays into the smaller car market, Volvo rather rapidly went back to producing larger rear wheel drive cars which it has historically been rather good at.
Volvo who were founded in 1927 surprised the automotive world in 1999 and decided to sell the family silver to good ‘ol Ford and as a result the two blue badges (oval and kinda square) became one. This was quite a canny move by the Swedes as Ford has more or less let Volvo get on with things and in turn Volvo has sent a healthy profit back to Detroit (a reported $700 million in 2004). Despite falling sales in the USA, it has at times been the only profitable car-maker in the House of Henry.
Turning our attention now to the C30, Volvo has benefited from Ford’s ride and handling prowess mainly thanks to the highly praised Focus chassis and its line-up of petrol and Peugeot/Ford diesel engines, Volvo now has the tools to do the small-car business.
The C30 has set itself apart from competition such as the Audi A3 and BMW’s 1-series with softer lines and lends itself to less angular coupes of old. The C30 is being strongly marketed at a “young and dynamic” market to people with “intense urban lifestyles” whoever they are, although Volvo is still expecting to sell some cars to the rest of us regular folks. Production will be at Volvo’s Ghent plant in Belgium with some 65,000 C30’s expected to roll off the lines each year.
As you would expect with all Volvo’s the C30 has an excellent build quality to easily match its German rivals. The panel gaps are spot on and the lustrous paintwork then leads you into a well designed high quality cabin. The soft coatings of the interior give rise to a cleverly designed “floating” centre console which provides hidden storage space behind. An optional satellite navigation system emerges from the dash if you should lose your way.
There is not a huge amount of luggage space as you might expect in a two-door coupe but then hey if it’s a family car you are after you’re barking up the wrong tree here.
The C30 comes with a good choice of engine sizes from 1.6 litre petrol through to a 2.5 litre turbocharged T5 model. A number of oil-burners are available too including 1.6/2.0 and the top spec 2.4 D5 Unit. Performance levels are good especially the T5 which will keep you holding on to your seat at a top speed of 149mph which is pretty good considering the car weighs in at 1.4 tons (Volvo’s never have been light weight). The ride quality is good as is the handling thanks to running gear donated from the Ford Focus. In keeping with all Volvo’s, safety is still a big factor and the C30 is packed with features, the cleverest of which is Volvo’s blind-spot information system with discreet lamps in the windscreen pillars which warn you when you’re about to run into something or someone!
The C30 should appeal to many, even people who don’t have “intense urban lifestyles” Sadly I don’t think that includes me any more.