Thursday, October 8, 2009

2007, 2008 Volvo C30, Volvo S40 24i

For once I'll post up a car that's priced as a luxury car and not a mainstream one. These Volvos are part of Ford's effort to bring the Volvo name to the level of mid level luxury.

Introduction: The Volvo S40 is one of the earliest Volvos to change Volvo's numbering structure starting from 1995. The first Volvo S40 used only 4-cylinder engines, it was placed directly between the mainstream brands and the luxury brands. The second generation was introduced in 2004 with several changes better suited to its new role while reducing costs for its parent company Ford. The current Volvo S40 uses Ford's C1 platform commonly used by the European Ford Focus and the Mazda3. To satisfy enthusiasts Volvo also offered a T5 version giving the S40 an all-wheel-drive system and a turbocharged 5-cylinder. The iconic Volvo station wagon meant the S40 had its own version called the V40. Today there are two versions, the C30 and the V50 where the V50 succeeds the V40. The C30 is a 3-door hatchback also sharing the same components and platform of the S40.

The C30 was the very first car I've driven on the job, these were not cars I was expecting to see but ended up doing so and I'm happy to have driven something a bit different. I've never been to curious about Volvo but the image of the heavy Swedish brick was still in my mind what a Volvo was which likely caused that.

Performance: The Volvo C30 and S40s I've driven used the same 2.4L straight-5 engines. These 5-cylinder engines produce 168 hp and 170 lb.ft of torque which doesn't seem like a lot. The good news is the Volvos are not big cars so their acceleration numbers do not reflect what seems to be mediocre numbers. The C30 manages to accelerate from 0-100 km/h in 7.6 seconds while the S40 7.7 seconds. These are good numbers, despite being a 5-cylinder engine they're smoother than some 4-cylinder engines I've driven with better numbers. On paper, the specs of the engine seem to suggest its average, when driven they're pretty fast and more power than most average drivers need.

My Score: 8/10 - The numbers are a bit deceiving.

Handling: The C30 and the V40 both use the same platform as the Mazda3 and the European Ford Focus. Well as I mentioned in the Ford Focus review...this platform is really fantastic and does wonders to the heavier Volvos. It felt great to put the Mazda3 into corners, while the Volvos don't have the same sort of feeling of excitement you still feel very satisfied and more relaxed while cornering. The comfort the Volvos provide even though the suspension can take on corners does not go unnoticed. I'm now very curious to see if this excellence in cornering is felt in every vehicle using this platform like the mini minivan Mazda5.

My Score: 10/10 - Felt great, handles very well and no disruption to comfort can't do better than that.

Interior: I put the Volvo to a slightly different standard than the other cars I've reviewed. The reason being is, the money you spend on a car like the Volvo is far more than what you have to spend on a regular car of similar size. The C30 and S40 are neither very large and actually smaller than the current "mid size" segment. If you were hoping that spending money meant a interior bigger than the other compact cars the C30 and S40 don't do so. The Volvo interior is of decent quality and has a lot of electronic gimmicks like blind spot detectors. My problem is this is really all there is to the Volvo's interior. Pretty decent and lots of electronic goodies, it just doesn't scream luxury and only shows you paid more with all the buttons on the center console. Both C30 and S40 are made in Belgium and from what I've seen have been assembled pretty well. Not too many cars from Belgium make it to North America, but so far they seem to do the job correctly.

My Score: 6/10 - Not luxurious, not a great deal of interior room but very well equipped and some neat gimmicks

Styling: I've never thought much of the older Volvos, to me they were square bricks. Sure you could see that they looked tough mostly because they were tough but I never liked the way some looked. Ever since Ford took over Volvo, their styling has strayed very far away from the square designs of old Volvo. The S40 is very round and extremely modern, as a result they're quite attractive as modern cars. The C30 does the same but has a unique rear end styling that's quite attracting. They don't display the ruggedness of the old but mostly because the old wouldn't pass today's standards of passenger safety of protecting passengers first. I welcome the change and think its a great step in changing Volvo's image.

My Score: 8/10 - Very good modern styling, something Volvo needed to achieve its goals.

Value for money: This is the big problem with these Volvos, while they sit right in the middle this situation means it makes compromises from both segments. It just couldn't sell as a mainstream car because its too expensive with luxury goods and if it didn't include these it starts to threaten the Ford Focus and Mazda3 sales. On the luxury end, it doesn't go nearly far enough since this is the only expensive compact with front wheel drive and doesn't use the same luxury materials that put it up against the Lexus, Audi, BMW or Mercedes, for a little bit more dough you get more in those cars. The C30 is only a 3-door hatchback, if you want a luxury 3-door then its the only choice but if not then it won't serve your purposes. I just felt it compromised too much to sit in what I think is a bad position.

My Score: 4/10 - Sits in the troublesome middle, not cheap enough for the mainstream and not luxurious enough for the luxury crowd.

Overall: 36/50 - In the end a good car that suffers from being in a category nobody wants to be in.

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