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Road test: Volvo C30

2007-08-06 08:22

Hailey Philander

Volvo C30 (Photo: Lance Branquinho)

What's it about?

Volvo's C30 is a seemingly dramatic departure from the brand's stoic Swedish heritage.

The hatchback is certainly a fresh addition to the established range of sedans and family wagons, but apart from the rather distinctive rear end, "the fresh faced C30" looks just like, well?, like any other Volvo.

Have one creep up behind you in traffic and you would be forgiven for mistaking it for an S40.

Viewed from dead ahead, the body has a definite bulge at the mid-section. This translates into a series of lines and curvatures that reveal a striking take on the conventional shoulder line when viewed from behind.

As ground-breaking as this car's styling may be (for the Swedes, at least), it still looks like an S40 that has had a design relic from the 70s pasted on its bum.

That's right - inspiration for that rear end was hijacked from the production P1800 ES from the early 70s.

Old school may be cool, but sadly the S40's look is starting to look a bit fuzzy and green around the edges.


Inside the cabin, the whole set-up could have been lifted straight from the S40, or any other Volvo for that matter. The facia is neat and well-ordered and the quality top-notch. Fit and finish within the cabin is good too.

What is a pity is that finding space to store your knick-knacks in the cabin is a stretch. And nice as that signature floating console is, I always find a way to forget my stuff stored behind it!

Access to the two individual rear seats is, by all accounts, rather easy once you master the "bum-first" technique. And once seated, with the front occupants sacrificing a bit of legroom, those seated at the rear have no need to complain about cramped quarters.

Luggage space in the C30 is another oddity.

There's something rather unnerving about slamming a frameless glass tailgate and I never really got over the fear of shattering it. Also, the loading sill is rather high, which makes lifting and storing heavier goods cumbersome.

The flimsy boot cover bothered us too, and one can't help to wonder if its able to stand the test of time.

But no-one said good-looking had to be practical, right?

Under the bonnet

In South Africa, C30 is powered by a choice of two powerplants - a naturally-aspirated 2.0-litre and a turbocharged 2.5-litre T5.

The range-topper, the turbocharged five-cylinder with its 162 kW at 5 000 r/min and 320 Nm at 4 800 r/min, is great to dart about.

An excess of torque and a slick-shifting six-speed manual gearbox with a user-friendly clutch makes it super driveable around town, too.

The "lesser" 2.0's 107 kW at 6 000 r/min and 185 Nm at 4 500 r/min is hardly anything to scoff at, though.

Driving it

The C30's compact dimensions combined with McPherson front suspension and multilink rear axle make it quite the nimble performer.

The T5 is great fun with its heapfuls of torque and inconsequential lag making it a doddle to drive around town.

However, the 2.0 is hardly lazy, and while it does require a fair amount of work to achieve the grin-factor, mated as it is with a five-speed manual gearbox, it has rewards all its own.

Strange as it may seem, between the two the 2.0 actually felt the more balanced of the two and was a lot more fun to potter about in.

The T5 mated with the short-shift six-speed gearbox felt decidedly loose (though this could also just have been the result of a fair number of motoring scribes before me having driven this car in great anger?).

Both test units were standard issue models, while the optional sports suspension with lowered chassis and 18-inch wheels can be specified. Dynamic Stability and Traction Control is standard on the T5, while the 2.0 gets Stability and Traction Control.

Of course, other standard safety equipment includes dual front and side airbags and ABS with EBD and EBA.


  • Build quality
  • Good looking design when viewed from certain angles


  • More could have been done to spice up the standard interior and exterior
  • Verdict

    The C30 is a rather appealing addition to the Volvo line-up, though a bit more could have been done to make it even more appealing. It's sad too that not more of these quirky little numbers are being seen on local roads, since it does offer an attractive alternative to the current crop of hatchbacks.

    However, of the two, the 2.0 seems the more sensible buy at R215 000. Still equipped with a leather-covered steering wheel with audio controls, leather gearknob, power windows and side mirrors, and other nice-to-haves, the 2.0's interior is hardly spartan.

    The T5 costs R265 000, but whether the price premium is worth the 17-inch wheels, power driver's seat, leather interior, more powerful audio system and other bits and bobs comes down to personal choice. If ambling is more your thing, the five-speed Geartronic is always an option though this adds R10 000 to the T5's standard price.


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