Dublin resident Mick reports on life with a Volvo C30.
There doesn’t seem to be a lot of love in these parts for the mark V Golf. Not so here. I had 4 of them. My favourite was the ’08 black 3 door. So much so I kept it for almost a decade. The TSI engine that was reputedly brittle brought me and my learner clients almost to the moon (well over 300,000 kms).
About 18 months ago it started to give a little trouble. Hardly all that surprising I suppose. Hundreds of people of all abilities had driven it. Over 40 oil and filter changes kept the mill running beautifully but it on other fronts it was becoming a case of running repairs and constantly switching off warning lights. I couldn’t put off replacing it much longer.
Everything in life is a compromise, never more so than buying a car. Especially one that I personally drive and teach in. I didn’t want to go brand new again (things were a little tight) but needed a car of similar size. Certain things were non negotiable. It had to possess the correct number of doors and a petrol engine. This is not as easy as it sounds. The ludicrous motor tax regime here in Ireland meant the vast majority of hatchbacks sold since 2008 were either woefully underpowered petrols or more likely, diesel.
I spread a wide net but kept coming back to the Volvo C30. It had many appealing factors, more of which later, but the problem was I could only find diesels. I drove a couple and the 2.0d was nearly as terrible as I feared. It was noisy and far too lumpy and clattery, I knew I could never live with it. I did see a few 1.8 petrols but it’s a heavy car and this too was one compromise too far.
Then I spotted it. A 2.0 petrol. 145hp. It has probably lost a little poke over the years yet it still felt just right, enough urge to make it driveable but not so much to scare the horses. The two significant entries in the debit column were its 10 year old number plates and the 150,000 kms on the clock. It was well maintained and I loved the interior. I bought it (hoping to squeeze 18 months out of it) and despite its age I haven’t regretted it.
With a couple of small changes this could be the perfect compromise between a personal hatchback and the ideal work car. On the downside it is thirsty. I can live with an average consumption of exactly 10l/100km. What really annoys me is that they seemed to have installed a largish thimble instead of a fuel tank. A busy week requires three trips to a filling station. I reckon it should hold at least 65 litres instead of a disappointing 50.
There is no question but that it needs a sixth gear. At the legal limit of 120kph the engine spins at 3200 in 5th. Performance is never more than adequate but the power is always delivered smoothly, predictably and is very linear. Much was made of it being built on the same platform as the mark 2 Focus. Having a mark 2 Focus (our emergency spare) on our fleet I can assure you that they are completely different propositions.
The Volvo feels more planted and stable although this may partly be due to slightly wider (20mm) tyres all round. However the Swede’s handling feels a little inert compared to its cousin. It’s certainly no hot hatch. You don’t get the same road feel and confidence inspiring handling that even the basic 100hp Focus gives you. The final drawback is the tiny boot with its fiddly privacy cover.
There is plenty of good stuff. I can spend over 12hrs in the cabin in one day. This is truly a nice place to spend time. Buttery soft leather on possibly the most comfortable and hugely adjustable seats I’ve ever sat on. I quite like that there are only 2 comfortable rear seats with a little extra width and an armrest.
Great HVAC and a nice sound system and that lovely central floating console. It also has the perfect amount of spec. Cruise control doesn’t often get used but auto wipers and lights are a boon in my line of work. No touchscreen thankfully and it’s a doddle to explain the intuitively laid out secondary controls. There’s a nicely weighted clutch (that results in very few stalls) and a well sprung gearstick with a short throw snick snack change. Brakes are reasonably communicative and allow for precise and smooth halts.
The icing on this rather nice cake is its looks. Students are constantly surprised sitting into the C30 instead of the Micra/Yaris/Fiesta they were expecting. The more I look at it the more I think that it’s quite a DTW type of car. It was thoroughly modern at launch (and still looks really fresh over a decade on) yet still reflected Volvo’s heritage, especially the beautiful rear opening. Not terribly practical maybe but I love how it looks.
There is no compromised 5 door version so you never see one head on only to be disappointed when a flawed profile view drives by. When seen from above it has a subtle taper towards the rear giving it almost a boat tail. Sharing everything from the B pillar forward with its 2 larger siblings is no bad thing as these are well styled, coherent cars. However I enjoy watching it most from the rear three quarter view where that unmistakable tail is a thing of beauty. It has been reliable, easy to drive and popular with my clients…
…I might just get another year out of it.