Road Test Reviews, Vehicles, Volvo

2007 Volvo C30 T5 – Road Test

While many auto manufacturers are trying to re-ignite the passion for retro-vehicles I never thought I’d see Volvo jumping on the concept – after all what cars from their past would be worth re-creating as a modern art form? When you think of Volvo, generally all that comes to mind is safety and square boxy cars. But wait … wasn’t there one car they made that was actually sporty AND attractive? Yes, of course – the P1800! The original car that “The Saint” drove in the TV series back in the 1960’s. That was radical for Volvo, even back then – but could they do it again in the 21st century?

Enter the Volvo C30. Its lines and curves are so much like the P1800 it’s uncanny. One big thing they have in common is this – if you take the time to really look at it and appreciate it, the C30 is actually a very sexy car – I’ve rarely ever said that before! I’m not the only one that thinks so – one “older” gentleman in a Saleen Mustang actually slowed down to let me get beside him so he could give it a good eyeballing. He then had a look at it from the back and then sped up to see it from the front – all at 60 mph. Once I’d gotten the nod of approval, I blew him off and left him far behind. Road workers would stop and stare, people walking down the street would give it a second glance and other drivers were constantly adjusting their speed to get another look.

For me, I saw the C30 at the auto show last year, and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. After spending a week with it, it was painful to give the keys back – this is one fantastic car.

First Impressions
When we pulled in to pick up the car, I saw an “Arrest-Me-Red” C30 gleaming in the sun – I hoped that was the one I was going to get. Volvo calls it Passion Red and that’s probably appropriate given that the car’s target market is the 30 something’s. That being said, however, the 50 and 60 something’s are the majority purchasers of the C30 according to the sales manager. This particular C30 was kitted out with the lower body cladding and bigger 18” wheels and tires, which makes the coupe a real head-turner.

Although I was told that the C30 would be plenty of fun with its less than impressive-sounding 218 horses, and that it would go as well as it looked, I was skeptical. Fortunately, after just a few minutes I realized that the C30 wasn’t just all show and no go.

The extremely comfortable seats have a 3-person memory and really stood out because not once, did I feel the slightest bit of discomfort. For me – that’s the highest praise I can give any seat.

The nice fat steering wheel is tilt and telescopic adjustable and offers a perfect balance of weight at any speed. The firm suspension, combined with the tight steering along with an incredibly smooth gearbox and clutch, makes the Volvo C30 one of the best vehicles I’ve ever driven. Whether tinkering around town, racing down the freeway or bombing down two-lane highways – this is one of the sweetest cars you could choose for everyday driving – at any price. Throw in the straight 5-cylinder turbo engine and it doesn’t get any better. Any time you need to pick up speed, the C30 is ready to bolt, there’s no hint at any turbo-lag – just press the go pedal and hold on!! While many non-turbo engines need to get close to the red line before they show some enthusiasm, the C30 gets the speed, well into illegal territory long before the red line appears, and it does so quietly and without a fuss. The torque is available from a very low 1,500 rpm and continues right up to 4,800 rpm.

One disappointment is the storage compartments in the C30. Door pockets are very small and border on useless, as is the centre armrest/storage compartment. Unless you have very small items like sunglasses or gum, there isn’t a lot of room for anything else. The glove box is a reasonable size and additional storage can be found behind the “floating” console – a great spot for CD cases.

The audio and climate control systems are very logical and easy to use. My wife pointed out as soon as she saw the interior of the C30 that the floating dashboard with its controls it looks a lot like a remote control – “It looks like you could just pick it up!” she said. The in-dash 6-disc CD/AM/FM/MP3/WMA unit is manufactured by Dynaudio, one of Europe’s leading home theatre companies. The Premium sound system incorporates Dolby® Pro Logic® II surround sound, 10 Dynaudio loudspeakers that are specially designed to provide 650 watts of total power combined with the powerful amplifier. The centre speaker and sophisticated sound processing is calibrated specifically for the Volvo C30, and includes: RDS radio, separate 5×130-Watt digital amplifier, 130-Watt centre speaker, AUX input and steering wheel controls. How does it sound? Incredible!

Rear seat accommodation is very good for a car of this size. As is the norm when entering and exiting any two-door coupe, it’s a bit of a struggle, but once back there it’s very comfortable with plenty of room for feet, knees and hips as well as a surprising amount of headroom. One thing to note however is if the driver is tall, the rear seat accommodation will probably not be quite so generous. The seats are very comfortable and perfectly angled to coddle rear passengers – there’s even a little arm-rest for them. The rear seat folds 45/10/45 for additional cargo capacity, and folds virtually flat.

The 12.9cu-ft. rear hatch trunk is a reasonable size for this type of car, with the usual advantages of a hatchback. Unfortunately, the cargo cover (soft or hard) is optional – which surprised me for a vehicle in this price bracket. Because the rear window is so large, it’s virtually impossible to keep your belongings hidden from prying eyes without the cover. One thing I didn’t like was the way the rear hatch opened – you had to use the key fob or remember to unlock all the doors with the power door lock button – it was often very annoying having to get back inside the car to unlock it.

The tested vehicle was the T5 Version 2.0 (U.S.) which adds $3,000 to the base price and the following items: Body styling kit with spoiler; Larger chrome exhaust tips; Standard 18″ Diamond Cut wheels; Dynamic (sportier) suspension; Dynaudio 610-watt sound, including 10 speakers and Dolby ProLogic II Surround Sound; and Sirius Satellite Radio. Also, the plethora of options are completely ridiculous – why not put everything in one or two packages instead of being so complicated by individually ordering everything? The 18” Atreus Aluminum Wheels and the lower cladding body kit are no-charge options in the US, while in Canada the price is $3,400. A five-speed automatic transmission (with Geartronic) is available for the T5 model. The U.S. T5 model gets 227 horsepower, while Canada makes do with 218 for some reason.

For more details, pricing and options go to: or

The Conclusion
As a sporty coupe in the small-luxury market, the Volvo C30 T5 is one incredible car. This is everything the Audi A3 should be – but isn’t. The seats are very comfortable and supportive, while the chassis and suspension are on par with any true sports car. The gearbox/clutch combination is one of the best available – in any price bracket. There is nothing other than a couple of quirks to fault this car that I can think of. I wouldn’t hesitate to purchase one of these.

Bumper to Bumper for 4-years/50,000-miles [4 years/80,000 kms in Canada]. Roadside Assistance is 4-years/unlimited miles/kms.
Towing capacity: 2,000 lbs

Pricing for the 2007 Volvo C30 T5
As tested: $31,593 [$41,945 Cdn]
Base price for the starts at: $25,700 [$31,995 Cdn]
Destination & Delivery: $745 [$1,615 Cdn]

Fuel Consumption: [Premium – 91 Octane]
The 2.5 Litre manual is rated at 22 mpg [10.7 L/100 kms] City and 32 mpg [7.3 L/100 kms] Highway and 24.8 mpg [9.5 L/100 kms] on a combined cycle. I averaged 28.7 mpg [8.2 L/100km] during 100% highway driving

A blast to drive – I didn’t want to give it back
Extremely comfortable seats
Terrific fuel mileage
Superb clutch/gearbox/suspension
I could go on and on

No beverage holders for rear occupants
No rear cover for the cargo area.

Back Seat Driver Test: 10 out of 10
“I’m quite surprised there’s so much room back here, you wouldn’t have imagined it from the outside.”
“There’s plenty of space back here and the seats are very comfortable.”

Immediate Competition:

By The Numbers…
Powertrain: 2.5 Litre turbo-charged in-line 5-cylinder engine with CVVT, 6-speed manual transmission; FWD
Horsepower: 218/227 @ 5,000 rpm
Torque: 236 @ 1,500 – 4,800 rpm
0-60 mph: 7.4 seconds.

10 – Quality
10 – Noise, Vibration & Harshness (NVH)
9 – Cargo Area/Trunk Space
9 – Special Features (SatNav/Heated Seats/ Sunroof, etc)

10 – Ease of Entry/Exit
10 – Front Roominess
10 – Rear Roominess
10 – Driving Position/Controls

10 – Drool Factor
10 – Fit & Finish

10 – Engine
10 – Transmission
10 – Ride & Handling

Ownership Value
9 – Bang for the $$
10 – Fuel Economy

147 Total / 150

Copyright © 2007 by Iain Shankland. All rights reserved.
Text: Iain Shankland / Images: Iain Shankland

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