The thumping grace
Did you design your own house? Have you got a truly puzzling music collection? You have an iguana instead of a retriever, don’t you? If you refuse to go mainstream by getting a Golf GTi and have been longing for something rather eccentric with a dash of fun, meet the Volvo C30 T5 R-Design.
Granted, you might also be Jane or Johnny Public who thinks the brilliant competition (GTi, Scirocco, Type-R, Megane, Focus) is too hard, brash, crass or common. Well, how about some Focus ST power and Scandinavian vogue to make up a rather special Volvo C30?
Special because it has love or hate looks and you’d be hard pressed to find even a handful in Namibian traffic. This makes the C30 rare, almost exclusive and by adding the legendary Ford/Volvo 169kW five-pot turbo with plenty of loud styling, it becomes something even more peculiar: a zeff Volvo.
Modern Volvos are elegant, safe and solid cars that usually don’t lack power but aren’t exactly exhilarating. The C30 T5 R-Design overshadows most of these attributes with a gigantic serving of sportiness to create a halo car for the brand. Look, look, we just made a hot hatch!
Regular readers will know that I love quirky cars, strange colours and wild interiors. Our C30 press demonstrator only got the exterior colour wrong but even snoring white can’t detract from its chunky front end, odd window line, bulbous backside and weird hatch; now with added vigour.
In R-Design trim, the small Swede gets a sport chassis, 18-inch wheels, wide wheel arches, deep skirts, a roof-top spoiler, twin exhaust tips and a reworked interior. Inside you’ll find body-hugging sports seats, racy pedals, a few R-Design badges and a rather large sports steering wheel with satellite buttons for audio and cruise control.
The standard equipment list doesn’t leave much for the (comparably cheap) option list. You get electric this and auto that, a great stereo which can easily be maxed, lots of shiny trim and no-cost options such as LED daytime running lights or different wheel designs.
Volvo tempts buyers with a “Plus” package which includes power and memory driver’s seat, auto wipers, bigger tunes, bi-xenon headlights, Bluetooth audio streaming, rear park assist, auto-dimming rear-view mirror and locknuts for just N$11,500. That’s right, “just”. Are you reading this, Germans?
Its only problem is the 233L cavity Volvo call a boot. Everything else is acceptable but the cargo capacity is slightly ridiculous, covered by an obstructive panel to keep prying eyes from peeking inside the hatch. ¾ visibility is excellent though (heated, too) and the rear seats fold almost flat to allow up to 521L.
So practicality is not its strong point and the C30 will find favour with cool singles or couples who love the minimalist ergonomics like the floating centre console and monochrome multi-function display. It takes a while to figure everything out but rewards you with the same joy and efficiency as a Bang & Olufsen stereo.
All controls are smooth and responsive; the steering offers decent feedback and limited torque-steer from that monster under the bonnet. The T5’s heart is a 2,521cc in-line 5-cylinder 20-valve turbocharged petrol engine worth 169kW (230hp) or 320Nm.
Average claimed consumption is 8.7L/100km (12-ish in town) and CO2 output 208g/km. 0-100km/h takes 6.7 seconds (which our GPS confirmed) and top speed is 240km/h. This all happens with the trademark five-pot thumper sound and a very vocal turbo that can be heard spooling up or down with an occasional dump hiss.
Performance seems restricted in first gear and in true Volvo tradition, the traction/stability control is of the strictest kind. Switch it off and the 1,452kg C30 T5 puts down lots of rubber or under-steers wildly when rushed; use your right foot and steering inputs wisely and the car offers crisp, rewarding handling.
The motor also shines with an uncanny ability to pull forward, even at very low revs in any of the six gears you choose. As is always the case with low profile tyres and sport suspensions, the ride’s a bit bumpy at low speeds but becomes increasingly comfy with speed.
The brakes are excellent, fuel economy from the 62L tank is good if you behave yourself and the tiny gearlever snicks through a tight gate to exploit the next dollop of thumping 5-cylinder turbo power. The C30 T5 is not as hardcore as its competitors; the Volvo grace does shine through in a smooth, lovely way.
Prices start at N$336,400 (Auto: N$349,800) and include a 5-year/100,000km Volvo Plan. If you can live with the choppy slow-speed ride and silly boot, the C30 T5 R-Design will capture your designer heart quicker than any GTi could ever dream of.
0-100m: 6.2s / 94.6km/h
0-200m: 9.4s / 119.9km/h
0-300m: 12.2s / 137.4km/h
0-400m: 14.6s / 150.4km/h
1/4mile: 14.7s @ 93.7mph (150.7km/h)
Climate Overcast, humid
Road Dry tarmac, level
Occupants Driver, no passengers
Fuel level 1/2