C30 fulfils its original promise

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 June, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 18 June, 2010, 12:00am

Every so often, Volvo breaks away from its traditional conservative design and comes up with cars that break the mould and turn heads.

In the 1960s, there was the P1800, the runabout of Simon Templar in the television series The Saint, and later its estate variant, the P1800 ES. In the 1980s, there was the funky looking 480 Coup?

Then, in 2006, Volvo introduced the C30, a premium hatchback with a distinctive rear design echoing that of the P1800 ES, but with a front end that was bland in comparison. Now, with a new facelift for this year, the C30 has fulfilled the promise of the original design with a completely revised front and modified rear end.

For the past decade, Volvo's car division has been under the wing of Ford and the new front design, with trapezoid motifs, draws its inspiration from present Ford models such as the Kuga. The C30 looks quite different to its predecessor, with a new, honeycomb-patterned grille and sweeping, sharper-angled headlamps. An enlarged air intake, a fresh bonnet and front wings make the C30 look sportier and more imposing on the road.

The cabin is light and airy, helped by the optional sunroof, and the fit and finish of the trim is of a very high quality. Sitting in the driver's seat, the C30 feels just right. The two-tone leather and cloth seats are comfortable, the controls are perfectly placed and the seating position is excellent. The large rear window provides plenty of rearward visibility, but the boot is shallow and any luggage will obstruct the view.

With the rear seats upright, boot capacity is just 233 litres, extending to 876 litres with the seats folded. Getting into the back is easy compared to many other two-door cars, but due to the high shoulders of the rear bodywork, the cabin narrows the further back it goes and there is only sufficient room for two bucket seats. Leg space is generous though, and the view forward is better than in many cars as passengers sit closer to the centre of the cabin. It's a very easy car to drive, and fun too.

The C30 uses the chassis of the Ford Focus, one of the best in the business. It's a fairly standard suspension setup, with McPherson struts at the front and multilinks at the rear, but the ride and roadholding capabilities are very good. Cornering is precise and controlled, and it takes a determined effort to get the C30 to understeer. The steering is nicely weighted, although a little lacking in feel, and the brakes inspire confidence.

The smooth and refined 2.0-litre, four cylinder engine produces 145 bhp and 185 Nm of torque, with 0-100 km/h taking 9.7 seconds and a top speed of 205 km/h. A five-speed Geartronic automatic transmission is standard and fuel consumption is quoted at 8.1 litres/100 km.

Volvo has an enviable reputation for safety and the C30 does not disappoint with its five-star Euro NCAP rating. Apart from its patented front structure designed for optimal deformation, Volvo's unique Side Impact Protection System displaces the energy from a side collision to other parts of the car and prevents intrusion into the cabin.

Overhead protection for the driver and passengers is improved by the Inflatable Curtain system, a large airbag built into the headlining which catches the head in a controlled manner. Side airbags at the front are standard and a whiplash protection system is integrated into the front seats. If you're in the market for a stylish two-door hatchback, the HK$269,000 C30 is worth a look.