Volvo C30: Five-star car
THE trouble with good things, if you’re a contrary snob like me, is that they become popular. Golf GTIs, Ford Focuses, Subaru WRXs, Audi A3s – great cars, but they are everywhere. Common, you might say.
So if you’re after a premium hot hatch and want to stand out from the Audi A3s et al, this Volvo C30 T5 R-Design Polestar Edition I’m driving might be just the thing. Despite both a distant heritage which boasts the slightly nutty 480 and the elegant P1800ES – which Volvo claims the C30 is descended from – and a recent track record of producing some rather sporty and indeed exciting SUVs such as the XC60 and XC90, Volvo still carries with it something of a staid reputation. That’s what you get when you spend the 80s earnestly producing boxy and unfashionably safe vehicles which had all the sex appeal of an Ikea Fjell wardrobe. Hopefully, the borderline insanity of this five-cylinder licence despoiler will vanquish the stereotype.
There’s certainly nothing wardrobey about this car. Side-on, it has a similar presence to an Audi A3, but has a more aggressive, slightly angular snout, while that glass back-end harks back to the 480. The R-Design packs in some subtle tweaks compared to the basic C30 – a lot of which you can’t see because all the action is happening underneath – but you do see the roof-mounted rear spoiler, 17-inch alloys and colour-coded bodykit, if not the stiffer suspension.
Step inside, and things are a little underwhelming. The R-Design leather seats are a treat, and do a fine job of hugging you tightly as you burl round corners, but the dashboard and console are disappointingly sparse and plasticky. And then there’s the LCD display screen, which will only emerge from the dash if you can find the remote control – yes, remote control, as in the thing which gets stuck down the side of the sofa – and activate it. In 2006, when the C30 was conceived, maybe this all seemed very futuristic. Six years later, in a car you’ve just paid almost £30,000 for with all the options, it seems bonkers – and not the endearing kind of bonkers. The annoying, cheap, lazy kind which will have your passengers chuckling, if not dying in a fireball as you frantically fumble around to retrieve that infernal remote from under the brake pedal while you hurtle round Deadman’s Curve.
In any event, you can wipe the smirk off any passenger’s face and turn it into a hideous G-force-induced gurn by twitching your right foot and summoning forth the hounds of hell resident in the five-cylinder 2.5-litre engine. The bog-standard T5 engine blurts out 230bhp, but the Polestar upgrade, which costs £660, adds 20bhp and boosts the standard 320Nm maximum torque to a thrilling 370Nm. Which in real terms means that if you so much as look at the accelerator pedal, the car lurches forward with little concern for your vertebrae. It’s an exhilarating experience, made all the more enjoyable by the emphatic roar of the engine as you flick your way through the six gears – although such is the barely-contained power burbling through the pedals, it took me a little practise to find the right balance points between clutch and accelerator when charging up the ratios.
The steering feels a little light and a touch uncommunicative, but the suspension is firm without ever becoming uncomfortable on the bumps and the car feels well planted in the corners.
Build quality is solid – almost a little too solid when it comes to the doors, which I reckon could have your foot off were you to get out on a windy day and let go of the handle.
The drawback with all that speed and power, of course, is the fuel consumption, although it’s hard to imagine anyone interested in buying this car is thrifty at the petrol pump. Volvo reckon you can get an average of 32.5mpg. That would obviously involve not tearing off the line at every set of traffic lights, shrieking like a demented child as you disappear into the distance – which is something I simply couldn’t resist, hence my rather pathetic 25mpg return. That thirsty engine puts the C30 T5 in the K tax band, which means you’ll contribute £600 to George Osbourne’s turtle soup fund in your first year of ownership before it drops down to a still-not-very-nice £270 per year. Options include sat-nav at a ridiculous £1,535, sunroof at £610, rear park assist at £385, the fantastic audio upgrade at £410 and that £660 Polestar upgrade which won’t violate any of Volvo’s engine warranties.
So it ain’t cheap. But that could prove to be part of its appeal – you probably aren’t going to see too many of these on the roads, which for some people will make that price tag a premium worth paying.
CAR Volvo C30 T5 R-Design Polestar
PRICE £22,125 (£28,120 as tested)
INSURANCE GROUP 33
PERFORMANCE Max speed 149mph; 0-60mph 6.2s
FUEL CONSUMPTION (combined) 32.5mpg
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Weather for Edinburgh
Wednesday 19 June 2013
Temperature: 8 C to 19 C
Wind Speed: 20 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 11 C to 19 C
Wind Speed: 7 mph
Wind direction: North