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MOTORNET: Baby Swede

Baby Swede

SCOOP MOTORNET with Karl Ferguson
Images by Neil Mackenzie -

A cynic might suggest that a red Volvo is a good way to get attention for a new model, but believe it or not, Volvo have a tradition of producing red cars, especially when it comes to the smaller vehicles of the range. In fact, I distinctly remember driving both a red 360GLT and 440, so it came as no surprise that the spiritual successor to both these models, the C30, carries on the tradition.

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Fortunately, the C30 is worthy of more than a discussion about its colour palette. The new range of ‘C’ cars may have officially been launched in New Zealand over a year ago, but you wouldn’t have guessed that based on the attention it attracted it literally turned heads. And so it might it’s certainly the most unusual Volvo to hit our shores of late, its high sides, and typically Volvo nose giving way to a tapered rear and distinctive, sloping roofline incorporating a large glass tailgate. It works from most angles, though can look a little clunky from the rear three quarter view in my opinion. I like it even so, and it makes a very strong statement when compared to the ubiquitous hatches that seem to dominate our roads.

Neither is the C30 just a misguided design exercise by Volvo that made it to production. It might only sport two doors, but it’s a genuine four seater, with excellent rear access and plenty of head and leg-room once you get there. The boot appears slightly smaller than the average hatch, but with the seats laid flat, the little C30 presents as a genuine load carrier, while the centre armrest can also be lowered to allow portal access for oversized or long items.

The interior is also typically Volvo no bad thing. The now trademark floating centre console makes an appearance while the grey cloth interior is attractive if not quite as inspiring as the exterior design. The overall minimalist tone is lifted by alloy style inserts on the doors and centre console, while the rest of the cabin impresses thanks to its strong build quality and generally high calibre materials.

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The test car the C30 S is the entry level vehicle of the range, and joins the more powerful turbocharged T5. Sans turbocharger, it still sports the T5’s quirky, inline five cylinder motor, including the distinctive engine note that once opened up, just adds to the little Volvo’s charm. With a capacity just shy of 2.5 litres, the C30 makes an honest 125kWs, and 230Nm of torque, and while not fast it manages the 0-100km/h sprint in 9.84 seconds it’s a solid powerplant.

Sadly, while the engine is happy to rev, it really needs to be worked to feel sporty. Frankly, the standard and somewhat lethargic five-speed transmission doesn’t help matters and frequent use of the manual mode is required to get the best from what the otherwise spirited C30 has to offer.

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On the road, the C30 displays ride characteristics of a much larger car, soaking up bumps and generally making an excellent fist of negotiating poor quality road surfaces. Fortunately, this is not at the expense of handling characteristics. The Volvo turns in well, gripping consistently, and feels pretty well sorted, though push the performance envelope and the C30 will revert to type manageable but less than desirable understeer.

Standard equipment is good and includes 16” alloy wheels, dual zone climate change, cruise control, a trip computer and a lengthy list of standard safety features as you might expect from Volvo. It misses out on the T5’s bigger wheels and standard leather upholstery, but for the most part, punters won’t be missing any creature comforts.

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At $44,990, the C30 slips neatly into the pricing pool of German and French euro-chic hatches and while not a price leader, it potentially offers greater engine capacity (if not necessarily performance) over its main rivals. More importantly, the Volvo offers a point of difference. The distinctive styling may not appeal to all while the three door arrangement could also limit appeal if first impressions are any guide, there are plenty of punters who like the idea of not just a red Volvo, but a head turner to boot.


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