It's official. Volvo is dull no more. We weren't convinced either, until we took its sexy new C30 around the Cape Peninsula for a spin...
Volvo cars, with their stoic Swedish roots for flair, are generally rather unexciting. Safe but insipid. Until now, that is.
Just gauging by the reaction of passersby on the model's Cape Town launch this week, the new hatchback is almost certain to dramatically influence the mean age of Volvo buyers. Its arrival is also bound to have an almighty impact on the hotly contested premium hatchback segment.
Three C30 derivatives are being made available in South Africa - a 2.0 litre manual and the range-topping 2.5 litre T5 with a choice of six-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmissions.
Volvo has made a clear paradigm shift with the introduction of this four-seater two-door. Though its frontal design is typical of the brand in its adoption of the family face, it's the daringly designed rear end (with a huge glass tailgate) that does a marvellous job of shattering preconceptions. However, Volvo insists there has been no compromise on quality or safety.
All launch models driven displayed the high quality materials and finishes one has come to expect from the marque. And Volvo's innovative floating centre stack is perfectly at home in the smallest and most vivacious member of the family.
Upfront, the cabin feels spacious with more than enough space for the two occupants to become completely comfortable. Rear passengers, with their individual seats, are able to get as comfortable, with a central arm rest separating the two seats. These seats are positioned towards the centre of the car, too, which should avoid some nasty run-ins with the angled rear side windows.
With its compact dimensions, the rear luggage space is adequate for most tasks though the rear seats can be tumbled forward should more cargo space be required. A fairly high load sill could prove problematic with the loading of heavier items, but in a car with this much character, who cares about the load? If you need more space, get a V50.
Pitching at a younger set, the C30 has enough buttons, knobs and customising options to keep most occupied for a while. Climate control, cruise control, a power driver's seat, leather-covered steering wheel with remote audio controls, leather-covered gear knob lever, power windows and side mirrors, integrated fog lamps and rain sensors are all standard across the range.
Options include heated front seats and power front passenger seats. The useful BLIS, which warns the driver when another car is in its blind spot, is an extra too.
Safety equipment includes dual front and side airbags, seat belts with pre-tensioners, ABS with EBD and EBA, and Stability and Traction Control (Dynamic STC on T5 models).
T5s have a few extra bits (including 17-inch wheels as standard), and all models can be specified with a very striking sports kit that allows for a host of individual options.
On the road
C30's tight dimensions ensure maneuverability, and its McPherson strut and multilink rear axle combination contributes to a supple ride in a variety of road conditions.
Powered by a naturally aspirated four-cylinder unit, the 2.0 was a pleasant companion on some of the twistier roads around the Cape Peninsula. Though this engine needs to be revved to extract the goods (it delivers 107 kW at 6 000 r/min and its peak torque of 185 Nm at 4 500 r/min), mated as it is with a five-speed manual gearbox, it appears to be a capable car for use around the city.
Volvo claims a 0-100 km/h time of 9.4 seconds and a top speed of 210 km/h. Quoted fuel consumption on a combined cycle is 7,3 l/100 km.
The turbocharged T5 is meant to be the more responsive - Volvo claims a 0 to 100 km/h sprint time of 6.7 seconds - though it is as understated as its bigger siblings.
Its outputs of 162 kW at 5 000 and 320 Nm on tap from 1 500 to 4 800 r/min respectively, are unleashed without any great fanfare. This left me feeling rather cheated by the lack of any grin-inducing thrills. Of course, this is not meant to suggest the T5 is a slouch. It's quick, it just doesn't feel it.
And unless you're about to give up your life of late nights and parties, steer clear of the Geartronic. Apart from it completely numbing the senses, you also miss out on the satisfying task of stirring the short-throw six-speed.
With the five-cylinder unit (also used to great effect in Volvo cousin Ford's Focus ST), the manufacturer claims a top speed of 240 km/h and average fuel consumption of 8.7l/100 km.
Service plans are every 20 000 km and all models are covered by a five-year/100 000 km maintenance plan.
2.0 - R215 000
2.5 T5 manual - R265 000
2.5 T5 Geartronic - R275 000