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Motoring: Volvo C30 proves there is more to a car than great looks

Nauman Farooq | Interrobang | Sports | October 15th, 2007

There was a time when I thought the worst crime in the automotive industry was to produce a great drivers car that was ugly and made from cheap plastics, Lancia Delta Integrale comes to mind.

But I have now uncovered an even bigger crime, a gorgeous car that is miserably boring to drive. Queue the new Volvo C30 hatchback. This is easily the best looking hatchback in the market. Who would have guessed even a decade ago that the best small car design would come from Volvo, producing a stunningly designed car from every angle.

I love the design details like its pronounced shoulders, an angry, aggressive front end, and that unique all-glass tailgate (which is the biggest cause of conversation on this car, some love it, some hate it).

So the exterior is brilliant, sadly however, it looks like the interior stylist was not informed what car he was designing the interior for. In a word, it is dull. It is too dark, the quality of materials used isn't exactly great and the dials in the dash are about as exciting as.... I am sorry, I can't think of anything as dull as those dials.

These days car companies spend time and money on designing cool looking dials, and since Volvo has proven in the past they can design cool looking dials (like the ones in the S60R), why on Earth did they put such plain looking dials in this one? That was a huge mistake if you ask me because you would want the dash to look inviting and exciting, and this one doesn't.

Another huge mistake is with the four-seater layout. All other hatches in this segment are five seaters, it makes them more practical, but Volvo thought it would be a cool idea to make it a four-seater, and since it has a plastic divider running between the rear seats, you can't even force anyone in the middle.

Keeping with the impracticality of this car, just take a look at the trunk. I mean, you can literally see anything that is kept in its trunk. Sure the all-glass tailgate looks great, but it exposes all its contents to anyone passing by. I know you must be saying, “what about a trunk cover, surely it must have that as standard?” No, not even on the top model which is again a huge oversight since if such a thing is standard on a $15,000 Hyundai Accent, it surely should be standard on a car which costs easily twice as much.

However, I am a forgiving person, I'd forgive the car of its sins if it was simply incredible to drive.

Well its lack of driving excitement is perhaps its biggest crime of all. I drove both the regular 2.4-litre, five-cylinder version which produces 170 hp and the 2.5-litre, five cylinder turbo model which produces 218 hp. Both my test cars were mated to a six-speed manual gearbox (five speed auto also available).

The regular version was just too slow and so unexciting, I asked Volvo to see if they could book me the T5 version, to see if the extra power gave it some character. In a word, no.

Both versions are much slower than you expect them to be, and lack any sort of aural pleasure buyers of cars in such a segment would want. Against its main rival, the VW GTi and the Mini Cooper (and Cooper S), the C30 is miles behind.

Yes, the C30 does handle well and has good brakes and it is very safe, but its competitors offer that and more.

Now all this might be somewhat acceptable if the C30 was the cheapest in its segment by a long way, but no, it is actually the most expensive. A base 2.4i will set you back at least $27,000, and the C30 T5 test car I had was a whopping $38,545. For that sort of money I can buy a Mazda RX8, which I know is not this cars direct competition, but when you compare what the two cars offer for the same money, the C30 is nowhere close.

Yes, I am sure Volvo is not going to be happy with this review, but I am unhappy with their car. I was so looking forward to the C30 because I think it looks amazing, like a full course meal at a nice restaurant, instead it turned out to be a turnip.

Volvo showed earlier this year how good they can be when it comes to luxury cars. The new S80 is in my mind still the best luxury car in its segment. The C30 is the opposite and I have to say, thus far, the most disappointing car I have driven all year.
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