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View the cars in our AutoRoadTests Fleet Search Visit our Forum   Contact Us at review of the Volvo C30 T5Date:04/11/2007   (Click Here for more details).OurRoadTests road test of the Volvo C30 T5 SE Sport. Volvoís aim with the C30 is to attract the younger, sporty market. A market into which Volvo intends to sell 7,000 cars a year to the UK alone. Is the car good enough?

C30 T5 SE Sport


The first inklings of the Volvo C30 was at the Detroit motor show in 2001. Back then Volvo revealed the Safety Concept Car (SCC). The SCC (and the subsequent C30 Design Concept and of course the C30 itself) took itís rear end design cues from the 1800ES sports estate which Volvo launched in 1971 and the more recent 480ES (which ceased production in 1995). This is the key to the C30s style and majors on the deep glass tailgate and wide rear shoulders. According to Volvo these are as wide as they could produce, due to the limits of metal stamping. Those two features combined with a wheel-at-each-corner, long wheelbase, low body and wide track help project the C30s distinctive style. Crucially Volvo has nailed the family look and the C30 (from the front at least) has the square chiselled looks one associates with a modern Volvo.

Volvoís aim with the C30 is to attract the younger, sporty market. A market into which Volvo intends to sell 65,000 cars worldwide per annum, with 7,000 of those cars destined for UK buyers. For reference the UK is the Volvoís second Ė third biggest European market.

Volvo is clear that style took precedence over practicality in the choice of just two doors and four seats. The target market made it clear two doors look sportier and that coupe was the preferred body style. That target market is seen as young couples without children and the young-at-heart whose children may have left home. Whilst the car has four seats, Volvo expects the car to be predominately used as a two-seater.

Detroit (North American)
Motor Show 2001
SCC (Safety Concept Car) debuted
Detroit (North American)
Motor Show 2006
C30 Design Concept debuted
Paris Motor Show 2006 C30 debuted

Exterior Styling

The C30 is a good looking car in my book, it combines the chunky Volvo styling, that hewn in granite Ė solid Ė safe looks, with quite frankly, a funky rear. It does so without looking odd or awkward and crucially from whatever angle you look the design works.

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Best looking hatch....
Key to all modern Volvoís designs are the strong shoulder lines that tie the front to the rear. In the C30 these are perhaps the most pronounced of any of the current Volvos. The car we are testing has some great two tone alloy wheels which really fill out the arches and effectively drop the car in terms of perceived ride height. All this combined with the sports body kit which really finishes the car off and can if required be in a contrasting colour to the body work.

Our car is a C30 T5 SE Sport which is the next to top specification. The range consists of C30 S, C30 SE, C30 SE Sport and finally C30 SE Lux. The Sport is distinguishes from the others by the distinctive body kit which wraps the lower part of the car completely. The colour of our test car is Cosmic White metallic and has a colour-coordinated body kit, as opposed to a contrasting one that is standard and is Java pearl colour as seen on the original show car.

From the front, the looks are very much common to the rest of the familyís genes. things of interest include: the bonnet which is inset well within the cars flanks; the front lip spoiler which is unusually flamboyant but reassuringly this has been designed to function with the gently rounded front bumper to reduce injuries in the event of a pedestrian making contact with the front of the car and finally, the front light clusters which are very stylish including the dark eyebrows and slightly smoked appearance.

From the side your eyes take in the low body, wide arches, shoulder line and short over hangs and of course the sloping rear which is accentuated be the rear light cluster. The large 18inch Atreus alloy wheels also make the car look lower and more planted.

From the rear your eye goes straight to the large glass bootlid surrounded by the large light clusters which effectively remove any trace of upper body work, a trick that also makes the car look lower. The rear lights also highlight the wide rear shoulders of the car making the car feel very squat. The large twin pipes also heighten the performance expectations of this the T5 performance model. Finally the rear boot top spoiler creates that final sporty flourish.

The final conclusion on the C30 looks is top marks to Volvo in making probably the most attractive hatch (coupe) on the market.

Interior Styling

Inside the C30 things are very Volvo the floating centre console again is a very effective and still unique piece of lateral thinking. The dash is functional, clear and safe. The seats are a disappointment given all the sporty promises from the exterior I was expecting some great sports seats , instead the seats feel a little normal.

Whilst Iíd been very interested in the C30, I admit I hadnít realised that it was only a four-seater and found this a bit of a surprise. And whilst I understand the design aspects and aspirations of the car an option of a three-seater bench may have widened the appeal.

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Good spec but not as special as the outside
Volvo states the C30 has the same high levels of quality as all Volvos, but, the car seemed a little cheaper than the C70 T5 Sport that we tested recently. This impression though, may have been literally down to the seats and different fabric used.

The C30 has good specifications across the range: radio/cd. remote locking. electric / heated mirrors, climate control, with Volvoís Air Quality System (AQS), electric windows, Dynamic Stability and Traction control (DSTC) and the full host of Volvoís safety arsenal: Side impact protection system (SIPS), SIPS side airbags, Inflatable curtain(IC), Whiplash protection System (WHIPS), ABS anti-locking brakes and EBD (Electronic Brake Distribution, EBA (Electronic Brake Assist) and four three-point seatbelts with safety boosting tensioners.

The Sport gets different seat fabric a leather steering wheel and a leather gear knob. The later in our car looked a bit tired, which was unfortunate given that the test car had only covered just under 11k miles. In fact the gear lever did look a bit cheap, we prefer the normal knob with the metal insert.

In addition to the standard spec out test car features: RTI Navigation System (Road Traffic Information), Dynaudio premium sound audio system, Bi-xenon pack, Integrated GSM phone, Power folding door mirrors with ground lights and passenger airbag cut-off switch.

The Satnav system works fine and is certainly a useful addition to the car, if you donít already have your tomtom or alternative.

A major disappointment was the Dynaudio sound system which quite frankly was rubbish, a lot of this had to do with it seemingly not being able to get a decent radio signal and quite often completely losing the radio station (radio 1 if you must know) also when the system did get a decent signal the sound quality just didnít stack up. As this is a £1,400 option weíd strongly suggest not having it. Quite why the system is so poor is baffling as we have used the system in other Volvos without any issues and pretty good sound quality.

The integrated phone is a little annoying in that you need to physically put your Sim card into the car, Which as most of you know is a preverbial pain in the Ö. (you can guess the rest). That said once you have done this, the system is great and I guess removes some of the frustrations of Bluetooth. In fact with practice you can get the sim in and out the car Ďblindí (the slot is at the far side of the glove box). The only further frustration for me was that I have so many numbers in my phone that I donít store them on the sim, I store them on the phone. This meant I had no directory available whilst the sim was in the car and that I needed to look the number up (luckily my phone could still work without a sim card) and then type them into the centre-console mounted keypad. Which as you can imagine is not ideal, albeit the keypad is easy to use. Once you have made a few calls the numbers can be recalled as you would with a sim loaded directory.

The driving controls are good and comfortable to use. The gearbox is creamy and the clutch quite light. In fact I hadnít realised how light the clutch was, until I returned to my own Mini Cooper S Works, which felt positively agricultural in comparison. The steering is very light and feels a little disconnected to what is going on down below.

The steering wheel has controls for the cruise control and radio. The on board computer is controlled by the left stalk and displays information such as average speed and mpg, instantaneous mpg, projected tank range. It also controls whether DSTC is switched on or off.

The final disappointment is that the C30 is probably the only car I have driven in the last few years to have rubber floor mats. Given that Volvo is aiming the car at the best the Germanís can throw at the market this seemed an odd choice.

The conclusion on the interior is that itís a bit normal given the expectations that the exterior sets.

Ride, Handling & Steering

After a week with Volvoís C70 T5 I had high expectation for the C30. They shared the same T5 engine and the C70 was a bit of a revelation in terms of its ride and handling. Things looked good for itís smaller and sportier brother.

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Safe and predictable rather than focused and agile.
Sadly the C30 falls into one of my really annoying categories, that is - it is a car that looks fantastic but fails to live up to the promise. Donít get me wrong I really enjoyed driving the C30 for a week and if I had one as my own daily driver Iíd be more than happy. Itís just that nagging feeling every time you walk up to it or spy it out of the window: It looks so tidy and sorted you expect to be blown away by what it can do on the road. Worst still is that everyone else feels the same way and the amount of times people asked about the car and I felt terrible letting down their expectations.

Some of the issues relate to the limitation of front-wheel drive and the fact that the C30 struggles to put all of it's 217bhp down. The car does struggle and the old adage of 200bhp being the limit for a front-wheeled drive car seems backed up. If it wasnít for the carís extended family the Ford Focus ST and Mazda 3 MPS both of which appear to manage this, with the Mazda achieving this with even more power.

Next issue is the steering which as mentioned earlier is very light and a bit disconnected. The steering itself is fast but there is an area of ambiguity to the feel which leaves you a bit cold.

So the C30 is not a hard edge sports hatch (coupe). Game over, end of review ?

Well not quite, get over this and what youíre left with is a good car. Itís fast enough and relaxing to drive. I think the key here is people who want a stylish, quick but safe car but arenít as bothered about pushing the cars handling. With this criteria the car makes sense.

The more you push the handling, for example with the DSTC control on, the car feels safe and if anything prone to some understeer. With the system off you still get understeer and can provoke even more if you are a little more liberal with the right foot. There is a small amount of lift off oversteer but this doesnít show itself very often. Equally, if you put too much power down then the car suffers from torque steer, as we said earlier a blight of nearly all powerful front wheel drive cars.

We took the opportunity to test the C30s wet weather abilities in the safety of Rockinghamís wet grip facility the car is pretty safe and can recover from a skid, which can be induced using Rockinghamís kick plate*, with relative ease. Again the only negative of the cars behaviour is understeer, but the effects are lessened somewhat in the wet as the wheels simply spin away the excess power. If you provoke the carís tail out, by lifting off the power in a turn or even more so with the handbrake the car is easy to control and you can regain its composure quickly.

The carís ride is good and it is a pleasant car to drive long distances with most surfaces being absorbed by the car dampers.

The conclusion is that if you donít want a focused car and arenít that demanding about the handling then the C30 is great.

(*)Rockingham's wet grip facility is the only such facility in the UK that has a kick plate, basically a computerised metal plate that can randomly throw the back of a car out simulating a skid situation. This combined with special low grip surfaces, lots of water including programmable water walls makes it a superb place to test and hone your car skills and test how cars perform on the limit safely.

If you're interested in this facility we are holding a wet grip day there on Saturday the 17th November 2007. Click HERE for more information.

Engine, Gearbox and Performance

The C30 T5 is powered by a 2521 cc turbocharged five cylinder engine that produces 217bhp and 236lb ft. The official acceleration figures are 6.7seconds to 62mph and a top speed of 149mph.

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Smooth and creamy 5 cylinder 2.5-litre turbo
gives 217 bhp and 236 lb ft.
In practice the engine is very like the car in that it has a strong smooth delivery. The biggest issue faced is deploying the power onto the road especially in the wet and damp conditions.

The car sounds good, which we expected as weíve found this before with the other T5 engined models we have tested. The five cylinder engine produced a rich, smooth and powerful sound.

The gearbox and it's action is very good and so progress up and down the six forward gears is a joy. The clutch as mentioned earlier is light and requires hardly any effort to use. That is not to say it doesn't feels right, it does and is completely in keeping with the rest of the cars controls.

The T5 gets 300mm front and 280mm rear brakes to ensure adequate stopping power. Braking is predictably safe and stable. Little sign of fade with repeated braking.

The conclusion is that the T5 is a quick but not stressful car.

Our own tests:

Acceleration0-30 0-40 0-50 0-60 0-70 0-80 0-90 0-100
Volvo C30 T5 (1 (07 - ))(6.2)
Volvo C30 T5 (1 (07 - ))
FastHatchbacks Figures
2.87 secs4.29 secs5.48 secs6.96 secs9.18 secs11.28 secs13.74 secs17.33 secs
* all tests are carried out on private roads. does not condone exceeding the speed limit on public roads.


The C30 does not set out to be a practical car, Volvo even stated this in itís design philosophy. After all it is a two door four seater with a stylish rear. Having said that the decision to stick to just four seats, means that they are fitted in an ideal position to maximise head and shoulder room. The rear legroom whilst not massive is also adequate for what is really designed to be a 2+2 (again Volvoís intention).

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Not too thirsty, and Group F emissions.
Boot reasonable but a bit of a shop window
The front seats feature a slide forward action that tilts and slides the seat forward allowing rear passengers easier access. A feature of the design is that the selt belt is caught in a a plastic catch to keep it forward and close to the front seat Ė this however then needs to be slid back and out of the way to allow the rear passengers to enter. So in someway the feature seems a little at odds with the purpose of the seat mechanism.

The boot is actually not that small (364ltrs) but is a little more awkward, given its high entry level (654mm from the ground). Equally the large rear glass area (the complete bootlid) makes the contents of your boot very obvious. To counter this Volvo has designed a three-part fabric liner that whilst effective, needs to attach in six places: left and right front top, left and right rear top and left and right rear bottom. Thus a simple boot cover, becomes complicated. If you have it in place you need to undo at least one and probably both of the bottom straps to get things into and out of the boot. Without it in place the contents of your boot are clearly visible. Plus when you put the rear arm rest down, you can see straight into the boot, and also items may make their way through into the car if you had to brake hard.

The rear seats can be folded down and when this is done the boot volume increases to a sizable 1010 ltrs

Economy wise the Volvo manages 22.6mpg urban, 43.5mpg extra urban and 32.5mpg combined. Our test car will have had harder than normal usage (as with most press cars) and showed between 23.8 and 24.5mpg. So you should expect high 20s at least.

Emissions wise the car crucially falls below 225g/km (208g/km) and is therefore rated as a band F.

For reference the 5-speed geartronic T5 achieves 20mpg, 42.2mpg and 30.1mpg with an emission figure of 224g/km Ė again ranking the car as band F.

The car has a 62-litre tank making a range in excess of 400 miles possible.


I reach the conclusion in a bit of a quandary. I really like the car but itís left me a bit confused.

To look at the C30 is the best hatchback on the market. It looks the business and it wasn't hard to notice the attention the car received during its week in my possession. However, Iím still irked by the fact it doesnít live up to its bad-boy looks.

That said, as an everyday car it is good to drive and as long as you donít expect too much from it, you wonít be disappointed.

When it comes to price the Volvo doesnít exactly win either as the car is priced:

C30 2.4i S £20,995 (the T5 is not available in the basic S spec level)
C30 T5 SE £21,495
C30 SE Sport £22,995
C30 SE Lux £23,795

Our test car was a SE Sport and had a further £5325 worth of options. Adding up to a grand total of £28,320.

At that price the car is competing with the best from Audi, the S3 (£26,975); BMW 130 M Sport (£26,385); Mercedes C Sports Coupe C350 Sport (£26,887) and the Volkswagen Golf R32 4motion (£24,597)

Other more focused hatches include: Vauxhall Astra VXR (£19,185), the family relations the Focus ST (£20,010) and Mazda 3 MPS (£18,995); Honda Civic Type R (£17,627), Renault Clio Renaultsport 197 F1 Team R27 (£17.250) and its bigger brother Renault Megane Renaultsport 230 F1 Team R26 (£19,860) .

I think the C30 is a bit like the original Audi TT, it is a stylish car and the fact it doesnít quite deliver on itís looks will be neither here nor there to the people who buy it. Our car had stacks of options making itís price high Ė remove these, or most of them and you get a more competitive price and in that case the Volvo looks a pretty attractive, grown up alternative.

Quick Section Links:†††††††††
1. Background
2. Exterior Styling
3. Interior Styling
4. Ride, Handling and Steering
5. Engine, Gearbox and Performance
6. Practicality
7. Conclusion

Related Links:†††††††††

Volvo C30 Design Concept press release

View our review of the Volvo S80 V8

View our review of the Volvo S80 T6

View our review of the Volvo S40 T5

View our review of the Volvo S60 R

View our review of the Volvo S60 T5

Photo Links:†††††††††

Full Set of Photos taken during this test

Full Set of Photos taken at Rockingham Wet Grip Facility

Volvo's UK website



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