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ROAD TEST: Volvo C30 R Design Polestar AT
Available overseas since 1996, Polestar is the 'official' non-warranty-wrecking way to add a bit of performance fizz to your Volvo. Now, via Volvo dealers, South Africans can experience this performance software in a wide variety of Volvo sedans, hatches and SUVs, including some older models stretching back to 2005.
We've just tried out the C30 T5 Polestar and it was also a chance to get reacquainted with one of the quirkiest hot hatches on the block.
The C30's been on the block for quite some time, five years to be exact, but the three-door hatch hardly looks dated and the 2010 facelift did a good job of keeping it looking fresh and exciting.
It gets even better with the R Design package fitted to our test car, which treats you to large five spoke rims (up to 18-inches in diameter), colour-coded body kit, lowered suspension (10mm), metal-finish mirrors and some unique trimmings and automotive garnishes in the cabin.
Add the Polestar kit and you have the hottest C30 on the block, but can it still stand proud in the hot hatch parking lot?
The Polestar kit, costing just over R10 000, adds a small but useful output increase for the turbocharged five-cylinder engine, with power rising from 169kW to 184kW and torque from 320Nm to 370Nm.
Performance is satisfyingly rapid and I liked the engine's off-beat five-pot growl, but the lack of responsiveness left me wishing for Volvo's Powerstar dual-clutch gearbox. The self-shifting C30 is fitted with Volvo's standard torque-converter five-speed automatic transmission, which takes a while to respond to your pedal inputs. Go for the manual rather.
Around corners, the C30 is safe, accurate and predictable but it's still no match for a Renault Megane RS or VW Scirocco. Instead, the C30 sets itself apart from the hot hatch pack by offering a relatively comfortable and compliant ride quality.
In fact it's a very comfortable car to drive, period, and if you're looking for a really fast hatchback that's more mature than those aforementioned rivals, the C30 could be just the right fit.
Just don't expect it to feel really sporty in any particular respect, besides the way it accelerates. Even the bus-sized steering wheel detracts from the racy feel that you'd experience in other performance-oriented cars.
Nor is the C30 particularly practical. Sure, the rear legroom is fairly generous but headroom is restricted and the boot is small. That's the price you pay for its quirky, distinctive design.
If you're looking to break away from the Tom-Dick-and-Harry mould with something comfortable, quirky and fast, this C30 will have loads of appeal. But while it's nice to have it with the R Design package and Polestar kit, the 370 grand asking price is on the steep side, even considering what you're getting.