Volvo’s late-blooming hot hatch entrant receives some added spice in the form of Polestar goodness. Meet the Volvo C30 Polestar R-Design.
Volvo C30 Polestar rivalsLet’s admit it, Volvo isn’t the first brand to come to mind when you do a mental police line-up of usual hot-hatch suspects. Your repeat offenders are all here: Volkswagen Golf GTI, Ford Focus ST, RenaultSport Mégane, Opel Astra OPC. Volvo just doesn’t seem to fit the bill here, does it? The C30 was Volvo’s attempt at entering the small hatchback/coupé market and despite it being a respectable product, the market sticks to what it knows and it’s difficult to break into an exceedingly tough segment. The Volkswagen Golf, for instance, is a damn good product and sales volumes are huge. The Volvo C30 has done alright for itself though and has spawned some cool derivatives like the DRIVe eco car and the T5 sports version.
Volvo C30 Polestar aggressive looksThe T5 R-Design is the range-topping performance model and, on paper at least, appears to match its hot-hatch counterparts. The R-Design bodykit gives the Volvo C30 Polestar considerable design flair and presence thanks to the addition of twin pipes out the back, a boot spoiler and a sporty front/rear bumper. In the week that I had the C30, it turned heads wherever I went. Thanks to the combination of a glacier white paintjob, big 18-inch alloy wheels and aggressive kit, I landed up fondly calling it Polar Bear.
Volvo C30 Polestar engine and driving experienceIf you’re familiar with the Ford Focus ST, you’ll know that it has a 2.5-litre five-cylinder underneath the bonnet. The Volvo uses an identical engine, but however has tuned it to deliver 169kW and 320Nm which is respectable by anyone’s standards. However, Volvo has decided that it needs some performance credentials and has partnered up with Polestar who has long been associated with Swedish motor sport. Polestar is basically a performance upgrade for your Volvo and can be ticked as an option when buying a new Volvo or, retrofitting it at the next service interval.
This particular C30 T5 R-Design, to give it its full name, has received the Polestar treatment. This consists of an engine management reflash (commonly known as chipping) which gives it a significant power boost. According to Volvo, power is now said to be 184kW and 370Nm, which is an impressive increase. Having driven the standard T5 R-Design (and loved it), I’m happy to report that the Volvo C30 Polestar feels quicker and eager, particularly after second gear. In-gear acceleration is strong and when you put your foot flat, you’re greeted with a terrific, throaty roar from that magnificent engine. Expect to hit 100km/h in about seven seconds. What’s even more impressive is the way this vehicle lunges from 80km/h in third gear. Gearshifts are exceptional, thanks to the short-throw action. Despite this being a performance vehicle, fuel economy isn’t as bad as I thought it would be. By the end of the test period, the Volvo C30 Polestar had just under 10L/100km on the display.
Volvo C30 Polestar handlingHandling is good for a vehicle that has this amount of power going to the front wheels. Most performance front-wheel drive cars would rather spin their tyres than generate any useful traction. The Volvo is no different and will light up the front tyres if you push it too hard, too soon. Thanks to the R-Design suspension though, the Volvo C30 Polestar darts around and is fun to drive, without breaking your back on the bumpier of roads. It doesn’t quite have the comfort of a GTI or the precision of a Mégane RS but it’s still commendable.
Volvo C30 Polestar interiorDespite being marketed as a semi hot hatch, it stillcomes with a reasonable amount of specification. The R-Design theme has been carried into the cabin and the two-tone leather sport seats have embossed R-Design logos. The pedals are aluminium and there are numerous splashes of sportiness across the gearstick and interior panels. The Volvo C30 Polestar features the floating centre console with an impressive storage area behind it (perfect for house keys), iPod-compatible car audio system with Bluetooth, a potent air conditioner as well as the latest safety features. The key does feel extremely budget though!
Volvo C30 Polestar conclusionYes, it’s a Volvo hot hatch, which is a rarity, and that’s not something that every petrolhead will be instinctively leaning towards, but it’s a step in the right direction for the Swedes. It’s not perfect, it’s not quite as fast as its rivals, nor is it as refined but, for your R345,900 you’re getting a very attractive, comfortable and quick vehicle.
Volvo C30 Polestar price in South AfricaThe Volvo C30 T5 R-Design retails for R347 600. Factor in a few thousand Rand more for the Polestar upgrade.
We like: · The coolest Volvo in ages · Five-cylinder engine even better thanks to Polestar · Looks great
We don’t like: · Dated interior · Thirsty when driven hard · Can't quite match the established hot hatch suspects
Volvo C30 Polestar specifications
Engine: 2.5-litre, five-cylinder, petrol Power: 169 kW @ 5 000 rpm (Polestar 184 kW) Torque: 320 N.m @ 1 500 rpm (Polestar 370 N.m) Transmission: six-speed manual Wheels: 18-inch 0-100 km/h: 6.7 seconds (claimed) Fuel economy: 8.7l/100km (claimed combined cycle)