Tested: C30 R-Design Polestar
NOT REALLY ITS NATURAL ENVIRONMENT...: ... but it'll do! Volvo's sportier C30 R-Design Polestar is a very sophisticated hot hatch; it's probably best to leave the hooligan antics to Renault's Megane RS.
The extra-long, coupe-like door slammed shut with a shin-busting thud. I sighed as I sank into leather seats, taking in the familiar surroundings and reliving the time earlier spent with the C30.
But while Wheels24’s previous C30 encounter had purposely been based on the 1.6 (now-discontinued) and 2.0-litre models, it would always the funtime T5 that would capture the attention. And it was the T5 with the sportier R-Design package with which I was now being reacquainted.
It wasn’t just any R-Design unit, though; it was the T5 imbued with a splash of Polestar attention. Polestar is the official racing arm to Volvo Cars (think AMG to Mercedes) – a position that also brings with it the responsibility of developing power upgrades for Volvo’s road cars. As such, this C30 has been touched by an upgrade no more intrusive than a gentle massaging of the engine management unit.
I was happy to get re-acquainted.
On paper, the R-Design Polestar version certainly looks imposing. Power on the turbo 2.5-litre, five-cylinder has been boosted to 184kW (up from 169kW on the standard T5) and torque by 50Nm to 370. The first thing that caught my eye? The test unit’s Geartronic automatic shifter. Oh well… there were certainly more engaging things to consider.
For one, this is still an engine that is able to move the senses with its incredibly engaging five-cylinder growl.
Also, while it might be hard to imagine looking at the C30’s signature bold styling – can you believe it’s been around since 2007? – Volvo seldom attempts to create a stir with its designs. The R-Design treatment is similarly low-key; the visual enhancement extends to large five-spoke alloys, more bulging bumpers and metallic housings for the wing mirrors.
MORE COMFY SPORT THAN RACING SPORT
The R-Design has the use of Volvo's sports chassis, a suspension lowered by 10mm, a lower steering ratio with stiffer bushes, stiffer springs and dampers and a sharper anti-roll bar to cut down on the hatchback's leaning through cornering and give it a greater athletic edge over standard C30s.
Some things, such as the massive Volvo steering wheel, haven’t changed. Inputs, though, are sharper yet still quite predicable. One plus, if that’s the kind of performance you're after is that rather than offering a bone-jolting ride, the Polestar’s ride is comfortable and compliant in daily driving situations.
Which is probably where the five-speed self-shifter comes in handy, but it doesn’t really make this C30 feel like an out-and-out hot hatch. For those purposes, Volvo’s dual-clutch Powershift transmission would have been preferred, a manual ideal. Both are available as options, Volvo SA's
It’s not altogether disappointing, though. Sure, its power figures would seem to put it on a par with the benchmarking Renault Megane RS or even the (all-wheel drive) Volkswagen Golf R as one of the most powerful hatchbacks on the market, but the C30 R-Design feels decidedly less aggro than its contemporaries. It makes all the right five-pot noises and the manner in which it accelerates will keep fans entertained for days, but it feels a lot more grown-up than one would expect.
Go without the show, so to speak, but if you’re easily taken by understated performance hatches, this is one to consider.
Just tack on R10 420, which includes fitting, to the price of your preferred T5.