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2007 Volvo C30 Road Test
The Brick is now Quick
By Kevin 'Crash' Corrigan
Sweden. It's a quirky country when you come to think about it, and the people over there are even stranger, in my view.
You see, all countries have something distinctive about them. Britain, my homeland, is famous for its sense of humour; after all, we have given the world Monty Python, Mr. Bean and even Benny Hill.
Then there's Canada and the Canadians, who must rank as the friendliest people on the planet, and yet, if the average Canadian was cornered by a rabid bear in the woods with only a Swiss army knife to his/her name, they would end up making a fur coat and a nice set of mittens out of him.
Now, the Swedes, they're in a completely different class. Think about it. If you were in any other country and were introduced to somebody's grandmother, she would look just like everyone else's grandmother; how can I put it, oh yes ...old!
Not in Sweden though. Over there, she's more likely to appear as a blonde bombshell or something that is only found in young boys' dreams.
Then, in other parts of the world, if you have friends over, or invite your bank manager around for tea, you'd make small talk about the weather. Not in Sweden! Oh no. Over there, they strip off buck naked and all jump in the sauna.
You see, it appears to me that the Swedish people have the best sense of humour in the world because it's all about shock value to them. They love to make you think one way, then when you're comfortable with that, wham-bam, they've twisted the whole thing around.
Just look at Volvo. Now there's a company that for decades has made safe, reliable and well, boxy automobiles. Their designers had one way of thinking -- a brick is a solid object, tough and practical, so we'll make a car out of it.”
We were comfortable with this. It was the ideal family transport, the perfect machine to haul all our precious items in, like our children and groceries.
But then...those Swedish designers found a peculiar item lurking in their basement, the turbo, and the world was never the same again.
Oh yes! It still resembled a brick, but this brick was now being hurled by a speed demon. Young street racers would laugh at the family hauler sitting next to them at the lights, but before they could get their belly laughs rumbling up to full power, the lights had turned green and the brick was nowhere to be seen.
Ok, so I've finally come to terms with that -- the brick was now quick. So what did they do? They put drive to all four wheels, pumped it full of steroids and created an SUV. Fair enough! We can now pick up the kids and groceries in a hurry, and head out in the wild and woolly yonder for a scrumptious picnic.
I had finally recovered from that shock and now, they've introduced the Volvo C30, a small, safe and fast car that is set to go head to head with the likes of Audi and BMW.
So how does the new Volvo C30 shape up? Will it set heads spinning in the automotive world?
I was fortunate to recently spend a day in the company of this little Swedish number at a Volvo ride-and-drive event, and I can tell you that it caused a stir wherever I went as it is quite the looker.
The front has the now familiar Volvo face, but from there back it starts to look more and more unusual. A slight gene resemblance occurs in the side profile, and by the time you reach the back, it is nothing like a typical Volvo (save for the Volvo V50 wagon, which has a somewhat similar appearance).
And if you set your mind back to the seventies and the popular TV series, The Saint, you may recall a lovely Volvo P1800 that the lead character drove. At the time, Volvo also made a station wagon come-hatchback version of that car called the P1800ES. The rear of the new C30 resembles that in many ways, although it's likely that only a few people like me who eat, sleep and breathe automobiles (people with no lives) would remember it.
I drove two versions f the C30 during my test day, the 2.4i (168 hp) and the sporty T5 turbocharged version (218 hp). Both my testers were equipped with manual boxes, the 2.4i carried a five-speed and the T5 a six-speed.
Yes, the T5 version is obviously quicker and perhaps a little sportier, yet the 2.4i is certainly no slouch. Upon driving both, it is fair to say that they equally showed impressive road manners and were certainly fun vehicles to drive.
Both versions come well equipped and offer a host of accessories, which include a skirt package that can be either matched to the exterior colour, or supplied in other shades to compliment the vehicle. I like that idea.
The interior has been well thought out; as well as being quite roomy for its size. And it has a nice sporty feel to it. As a two-door, the vehicle looks the part; as a four-seater, it performs the passenger-carrying job reasonably well.
Volvo expects to sell 65,000 units a year worldwide, with 75% of sales going to Europe.
The C30 certainly has a young look to it, it is priced right at just over $30,000, and is a fun car to drive. Does that mean that it's a youngster's car? I wouldn't necessarily say that. I tend to agree with Volvo's thoughts. I see the C30 pulling buyers from across the spectrum, from the young to the empty-nesters.
I can see a fair number of Canadians taking a closer look at the C30, and I predict a little shock for the likes of BMW and Audi, but then again, that's what the Swedes do best!
Kevin 'Crash' Corrigan is a writer based in Calendon, Ont., and a regular contributor to CarTest!
Posted June 7, 2007