Gone is the safe-but-staid association that has long plagued Volvo – the C30 2,0 is a veritable funk odyssey from the formerly-conservative Swedish marque. It’s good, but Volvo Cars SA has priced the hip-and-happening C30 into the fiercely contested upper echelons of the boutique hatch segment – will it succeed?
The C30 is Volvo’s first conscientious foray into the youth market and, in terms of packaging, it’s not a bad one.
There’s no mistaking that Volvo nose, but the wide grille and black headlamp surrounds manage to lend it a more aggressive, sporty appearance. The rest of the car is an odd mixture of modern Volvo and some retro touches that actually work pretty well.
The strong shoulder lines give the C30 good presence for its compact dimensions while the optional 18-inch alloys (part of the sports pack, along with lowered suspension and contrasting metallic bumper) fill the arches with a satisfying purposefulness. Volvo’s signature stacked rear lamps are swept forwards to a dinky roof spoiler and forms an eye-catching frame to the glass hatch – unless I’m mistaken, that’s a retro nod to the P1800ES Sportwagon of the 1970s!
The overall shape of the C30 is unusual, but the broad smile and hip-hop comedy hand gesture shown in my direction by a young gentleman at an intersection can only suggest that the newcomer meets with approval from the trendier set.
The interior also takes on a funky, youthful air with a gorgeous wafer-thin hang-down section sporting a metallic finish with tattoo-like detailing. The fit and finish is typically Volvo-solid. There is a pleasing starkness to the dash’ and there’s little to distract you from a clear instrument binnacle – the only things marring the effect somewhat are the fiddly controls for the audio system.
The seats are firm, but lack any real side bolstering – you feel as though you’re sitting on them as opposed to in them. Room up front is good, but those relegated to the rear will not want to be in such cramped accommodation for too long. The boot is similarly small, but given this car’s overall packaging that is understandable.
Everyone will be clamoring for the turbocharged 2,5-litre version of the C30, but that is not to say that the naturally-aspirated unit of this entry-level car is a bad one. This 2,0 litre four-cylinder engine is mated with a five-speed manual gearbox and generates 107 kW at 6 000 r/min and 185 N.m of torque at 4 500 r/min.
The car responds briskly – it is claimed to dispatch the zero to 100 km/h sprint in 9,4 seconds on the way to a 209 km/h top speed – and the rush is accompanied by a pleasant thrum emanating from the engine under acceleration. The gearshift has an indestructible, mechanical feel to it with each gear clicking accurately into place, but can get a bit notchy when swift shifts are called for.
The steering is very light and responsive whereas the brake pedal has a bit of a spongy feel to it. Having said that, the brakes bite nicely when called upon. Although this car borrows its underpinnings from the S40 it exhibits a neat blend of agility and impeccable manners on the road – it can cruise unruffled at motorway speeds, soaking up the bumps and attack the bends without a hint of body roll.
At a price of R205 000 – before any of the options boxes have been ticked – this car goes from a youth-orientated offering to sitting somewhat uneasily in the upper end of the boutique-hatch segment. The Volvo badge does not yet hold the same cachet as those of the Audi (A3) and BMW (1 Series) and all eyes will be on the 2,0’s snarling T5 stablemate. That leaves this car in something of a no-man’s-land. It’s striking, well packaged and very competent, but will that be enough to justify the entry-level C30 in such an elitist segment?