Driven - Volvo C30 T5 R-design

Now here's a really stylish Volvo... once upon a time that would have been an unlikely statement, but not with this little number. Volvo has recently treated the C30 to a facelift and it's done the car the world of good. As I sat in traffic today I could hear two guys in a hot Commodore next to the Volvo conversing "Hey, it's a Volvo!" exclaimed one, to which his driver replied "That's really cool." And they are right.

Volvo has recently begun selling the updated version of their small coupe, and the facelift really worked. With R-Design Volvo adds colour coding of parts normally black, with deeper side skirts, 17-inch alloy wheels and minor details such as aluminium-colour trim sections around the foglamps and on the mirrors as well as twin tailpipes, and it makes the sleek coupe look very sporty. The shape is pretty good anyway, though the styling at the back is overly complicated and messy. The deep rear window glass harks back to Volvo's classic 1800ES of the early 1970s.

That window, though is the cause of the C30's biggest failing - a tiny and inaccessible boot. There's a clumsy cover, with a lift up flap, which gives restricted access to a space not generous enough for a big suitcase. You can unclip the cover giving marginally better access, which helps. The floor is high, even with a space-saver tyre underneath. Clearly load carrying wasn't a design requirement - and Volvo makes some excellent wagons if that's your priority.

Inside, the cabin has a sporty feel, with excellent front seats, nicely trimmed in a combination of leather and what Volvo calls Lecsand - which sounds like Ikea-speak for vinyl - but it's nice. The driving position is low and sporty, but it's not a hard car to get into or out of. There's Volvo's trademark 'floating' console, with a different finish for each version of C30.

On the road the lusty 5-cylinder turbocharged engine really delivers. There's smooth power and decent torque right through the rev range, and performance aplenty when you give it a bit of welly. And that's one of the most satisfying aspects of the C30 T5, the acceleration and ease of performance. If you really get up the car, the handling and braking are amply capable of handling the power. There's a slightly surprisingly reassuring level of fun to be had from this car. The chassis is excellent, the engine is strong, and in a marketplace short on sporty coupes, it is a compelling package. Well done Volvo.

Engine type: 2435cc 5-cylinder turbo petrol
Power: 169kW
Torque: 320Nm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Price: $47,150 at time of review
Text & photos - Paul Blank (copyright)