Volvo C30 Polestar
Every now and then, Volvo decide to comprehensively ditch their safe, utilitarian image in favour of an approach which is a whole lot spicier. The resulting car is generally a huge hit, combining safety and reliability with performance to set your pants on fire. Favourite of traffic police and family men alike, the turbo-charged set-square, T-5R of the ’90s achieved 60mph in 6.5 seconds whilst ferrying a double divan home in the boot.
Things seemed to have reverted to type in recent years at Volvo, that is until a new kid on the block emerged – the C30 Polestar Concept. With 400bhp and all wheel drive, it was unseasonably hot with performance figures to worry even the mighty Evo X. But, will Volvo again discard their somewhat dowdy shroud and put it into production? Well, there’s time yet I suppose but for now we’ll have to appease ourselves with this C30 R-Design, sporting an enticing Polestar upgrade.
Our test car came in the same Polestar blue that’s graced both the C30 Concept and, more recently the S60 Concept so beautifully, but unfortunately, this is where the similarities ended. Utilising Volvo’s popular T5 engine, the C30 attempts to harness a whopping 250bhp through the front wheels, unfortunately without much success. The chassis just doesn’t seem to have been sufficiently fettled to cope with such power and the engine feels disconnected from the rest of the car, as if it’d prefer to break free from its shackles and carry on alone.
From launch, pedal feel is vague and uninspiring in the Polestar and, whereas other manufacturers such as Ford have adopted clever torque-steer compensation systems like the RevoKnuckle to rid themselves of the inevitable wandering found in high-powered, front-drive cars, Volvo seem to have forgotten. The result is involuntary changes of direction into either a hedge or oncoming traffic, dependant on which gear’s selected at the time.
Once on the move and heading in a straight line, finding a corner or bend is an unavoidable occurrence. The car’s front wheels do an admirable job of multi-tasking propulsion and direction, resulting in levels of grip that inspire confidence all the way to the limit. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link however and in this case, the Volvo‘s seats let the whole ride down. Offering the same support, lumbar or otherwise as your average park bench, I found myself attempting to pilot the vehicle from the passenger seat whilst negotiating a tricky right-hander.
Build quality and safety features are usual Volvo fare which is where the C30 shines over the competition. It’s always hugely reassuring to know that if exuberance overcomes talent, the car is designed and built in such a way that it’ll do it’s best to protect our fragile bodies, especially with 250bhp on tap.
The interior is looking a little dated in the C30 generally, although its floating centre console was always a pretty, if not unusual dalliance with the world of form over function and it still impresses now.
One of the main competitors of the c30 is the impressive Focus ST. One interesting point to note here is that whereas the Volvo has only ever been available in 3 door guise, Ford have decided to only offer the ST with 5 doors. Which approach will prove more popular is anyone’s guess but traditionally, hot-hatches must be a jack-of-all-trades, ferrying the children to school one minute and winning red-light races the next. This task is generally a whole lot more enjoyable when aforementioned children aren’t forced to clamber over the front seats.
By Ben Harrington
Specifications; Volvo C30 T5 R-Design with Polestar upgrade, Price – £22,920, Engine – 2.5l 5-cyl petrol, Layout – Front engine, front wheel drive, Power – 250 bhp, Acceleration – 0-60 5.9s, Maximum Speed – 152mph, Economy – 32.5 mpg combined, Emissions – 203g/km CO2
- Volvo C30 Polestar Concept and Volvo C30 R-Design with Polestar First Drive (motortrend.com)
- R-Design Heralding a New Era of Volvo “Turbo-Bricks”? (newcarquotesonline.com)
- Volvo S60 Polestar headed to production? (digitaltrends.com)
- 2012 Volvo S60 Polestar Concept (athingforcars.com)