Thursday, October 11, 2007

The search for my next car.. Volvo C30 test ride review

When most car buffs like me think of Volvo, the first thing that usually comes to mind is safety. Volvo has prided themselves for many years in having cars labeled "the safest on the road." Of course safety is a top priority, but Volvo has always been so obsessed with it, they definitely let things like design and performance take the back burner. Over the past few years, Volvo has taken steps to draw in a younger clientele. First there was the S 60 R which had all the makings of an amazing car. All wheel drive, aggressive 18-inch alloys, and a Turbocharged 5 cylinder engine pumping out 300hp and 295 lbs ft. torque. This should have been Volvo's torch carrier right? This should have slammed Volvo right in the midst of the Japanese Playstation generation cars and the German benchmarks? Wrong, it didn't work. It was one more car lost in a sea of well-established rivals, and really fell short of what Volvo had expected. It wasn't that it was a bad car... in fact it was a great car! It just didn't really fit in. It was like the smart kid showing up at school one day with a new hip outfit trying to hang with the popular kids. But, don't think that Volvo have given up, their latest addition to the line up shoots strait at the heart of the ultra-hip crowd. A drop of the gloves to VW's champion GTI hot hatch. Let's meet the challenger ladies and gentleman. The Volvo C30.

In my last few post about the quest for my next car, I usually have some elaborate story about how the car drew me in like a siren tempting Odysseus. Not this time though. In fact it’s really simple, a good friend starting working at my local Volvo dealership as salesperson. Knowing I am shopping for a new car, he gave me a ring and told me to check out the new Volvo C30. I had heard some buzz about the new C30 so I figured I should go check it out in person. Walking in the showroom I immediately noticed a "Swedish Flag Blue" C30 sitting right up front. I call this car "Swedish Flag Blue" because IT HAD THE SWEDISH FLAG ON THE ROOF!!! Ok, I know that is a common thing for Mini's to have the British flag on the roof and what not, but come on! No way on earth I would drive that car in public. My salesperson friend soon explained it’s just a decal, and they can remove it. A little more reassured I had a seat in the new C30. The only way I can describe the interior is "Swedish Furniture store." Everything is very different. The floating center console is wild! I loved it! Really cool design! All the buttons seemed quite functional in placement, but it did have somewhat of a Spartan appearance. The glass hatch door is a very different design. Some may not like it, but I actually found it quite cool. All the accents inside were color matched to the blue on the exterior. I have to admit I didn't mind that to much either. What I did mind was the graphic read out for the AC/Stereo controls. It seemed very low resolution, like a 1980's Casio calculator.

We proceeded outside to test drive the other C30 they had on the lot. Walking up to this car it was a totally different car compared to the Swedish flag dream in the showroom. It looked fantastic! A combination of colors I have never seen before on a car. Pearl white with cream olive and black accents matched with 17-inch alloys. According to Volvo's website, you can custom order the colors of your C30. Picture a color fondue for your car. Dip your C30 in a little bit of this, a little bit of that and top it off with chocolate sauce. This particular car had a manual transmission and as we pulled out of the lot I immediately noticed how soft the clutch was. A hard sneeze at it could depress this clutch. This car would be the perfect car to learn how to drive a stick. It was effortless to snap through the gears and within two minutes I had forgotten I was driving a stick.

The C30 has a turbocharged version of Volvo's T5 5 cylinder engine pumping out 227 hp and 236 lbs ft. torque. I would have thought this cars power to weight ratio would equal quite a little screamer. On paper the C30's stats are impressive, but I honestly have to say this car did not feel quick. In fact it felt sluggish. I won't say there was any turbo lag because it didn't even feel like it had a turbo. Everything about this car felt mediocre. Handling was ok, breaking was ok, interior room was ok, fit and finish was ok. It was all so middle of the road it’s hard to really write about this car. One thing I can write about was the air conditioning. Granted it was a blistering hot Florida day, but after 10 minutes of driving on full blast, the air conditioning was barely cool. Towards the end of my test ride I only had one thought in mind... "Get me out of this car!"

Maybe I am being a bit harsh because the heat was making my temper flair. This car just wasn't what I expected it to be. Volvo has made a great attempt with this car. It looks cool, it's a sleek and different design. But, once again I have to point out that although the base MSRP for the C30 is around $22,000, the car I test drove was over $30,000!!! As it stands Volvo has some catching up to do if they want to compete with VW. It’s a good start, but in my opinion, going toe to toe against the heavyweight champ GTI leaves the C30 with a black eye and a bloody nose.

For more info on the Volvo C30 click here "Volvo C30"

Check out Fifth Gear's review of the Volvo C30

1 comment:

Singing to Jeffrey's Tune said...

Interesting comment about the colors. I had an uncle that worked for Volvo. He used to bring home the left over paint (touch up paint and what not that was to be sold to dealers, but had "expired"). It was the strangest colors on the planet. Chocolate Brown, spinach green, terracotta orange. Weird colors for a car I always thought.