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Car reviews - Volvo - C30 - 3-dr hatch range

Launch Story

23 Mar 2007

ONLY months after its launch in Europe late last year, Volvo’s baby C30 has been introduced to Australia with the hope it will prove a veritable elixir of youth for the Ford-owned Swedish company.

Aimed at the likes of BMW 1 Series, Audi A3 – and even the Mini – the new three-door hatch is expected to find most of its customers from outside the Volvo fold. This is a bold plan indeed, with Volvo in Australia hoping as many as three of every four customers will be new to the brand.

Two things will come into play here: how much appeal the new car has, and how competitively it is priced.

Hopefully the company can trade on its impeccable safety record while convincing would-be customers there is no stigma involved here. The plan is to make it entirely acceptable to flaunt a set of Volvo keys in the sort of places in which its youthful new customers tend to hang out.

Initial suggestions were that the C30 would come to market here at an opening price in the mid-$30,000 area where it would have had an instant appeal to those considering the aforementioned Audi A3 (1.6 Attraction opening price $33,950), BMW 1 Series (116i $34,900) or Mini (Cooper $31,100).

But the new car opens quite a bit over the mid-$30,000s, with a tag of $38,450 for the manual transmission C30 LE model – and a whisker under $40,000 for the five-speed auto version.

The top-of-the-line T5 at this stage completes a two-car line-up with a price of $42,450 for the six-speed manual and $43,950 for the auto – a shade beneath the anticipated $45,000 upper-end pricing. D5 turbo-diesel versions will arrive here at the end of the year.

The slightly higher-than-anticipated pricing will make it a little harder to sell the new Volvo proposition, although the standard kit in either model goes a long way towards justifying the dollars. The base LE is far from a stripper model with alloy wheels, leather seats and climate-control.

This, plus the fact that all C30s come with five cylinders and what Volvo claims to be class-leading passive safety, should help dealers get the car over the line.

The C30’s specs have been known for some time now, but just to reiterate: the base LE uses a slightly smaller, 2.4-litre normally-aspirated version of the five-cylinder transverse engine producing 125kW and 230Nm, while the slightly longer-stroke, 2.5-litre turbocharged T5 punches out 162kW and 320Nm, going from 0-100km/h, in manual form, in a quick 6.7 seconds.

It returns 8.7L/100km on the combined cycle, while the manual LE returns a slightly better 8.4L/100km.

The suspension – MacPherson struts up front, independent multi-links at the rear – is shared, right down to the 2640mm wheelbase and track measurements, with the S40/V50 models.

But the C30’s neat looks are partly due to the pared-down body which measures 216mm less than the S40, while added on-road punch comes from it being around 60kg lighter as well.

Although the C30 is a bit smaller, Volvo maintains it is still commodious enough inside to cope with lifestyle accoutrements such as bicycles or surfing gear.

The interior will look familiar to those accustomed to the S40, right down to the "floating" centre console and the generally tidy Volvo control layout.

Undoubtedly the biggest visual impact of the C30 is the rear view that captures much of the show car work Volvo has been doing over the last few years, while also paying homage to the P1800 hatch sold during the 1960s and 1970s and famous as the chosen mount of Simon Templar, otherwise know as "The Saint".

This largely comes from the giant rear window, flanked by enormous tail-light structures, that sweeps almost down to the license plate.

The front of the C30 is more conventional, more than recognisable as an S40 derivative.

The base LE C30 comes with front, side and curtain airbags, SIPS side-impact protection, anti-whiplash front seats, collapsible floor pedals and ABS to help along what is already a tough, protective body structure, while comfort and driver convenience is attended to by climate-control air-conditioning, cruise control, a trip computer, a four-speaker MP3/iPod-compatible sound system, leather seats with power adjustment for the driver and "Stability Traction Control" (which is different to the Dynamic Stability Traction Control standard in the T5 and a $2190 option on LE).

The T5 adds bi-Xenon headlights, larger 17-inch alloy wheels and a six-speed manual gearbox where the LE gets just five speeds. Options on both LE and T5 include a glass sunroof, premium 12-speaker sound system, in-dash six-CD stacker, heated front seats, rear park assist and sports suspension.

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