Volvo C30 T5– 2008 First Drive: Perception can be hard to change.
Take Volvo for instance. If someone tells you to think of a Volvo, we’d bet the first thing to pop into your head is the old 240 sedan, the one that inspired Dudley Moore’s character in the 1990 movie Crazy People to use, “Volvo. They’re boxy, but they’re good,” as a winning ad line. Boxy hasn’t described Volvos for some time now, but the momentum of that classic sedan is tough to overcome, especially when your reputation is as square as your cars used to be.
With its buyers mostly female, mostly in their 40s and mostly earning around $140,000, Volvo feels as if it’s losing its common touch. The new C30 T5 is designed to be a car to change all that by getting younger, male, less affluent buyers into the Volvo showroom. Part of the catch is that the C30 represents a whole new way of selling cars for Volvo. Customization is as key to the C30 is it is for Scion and Mini, and the result is a Volvo that doesn’t look anything like your college physics professor’s ride. Instead, it’s narrowly focused on those who are intrigued by the Scion way of selling cars, but perhaps want a bigger car, secretly crave Volvo’s safety image, or just have more money to spend.
The C30 is definitely a step in the right direction to enhancing Volvo’s image. It isn’t a revolution in the automotive world, but it’s a serious step forward in associating Volvo with fun. The C30’s unique rear end styling is eye catching and the driving experience backs it up: part Volvo sedan, part edgy hatchback. The most obvious target for the C30 is the Volkswagen GTI, and while it doesn’t sink the German standard bearer, it gives it one hell of a broadside.
It’s no coincidence that the C30 bears a strong resemblance to the S40; they’re based on the same platform and share virtually identical sheet metal from the windshield forward. They’re also mechanically similar, with the same suspension, steering and engine, although the last is more powerful here. Another thing the C30 shares with its sedan cousin is safety: Volvo claims crash test results for the C30 are just as good as the S40.