Dan Trent: The Volvo hatch to choose over a TT

24th July 2017
1960s-revival-fashion-guide-main-07032022.jpg Dan Trent

Well this one took a turn for the unusual. My path into the classifieds this week followed an urge to check out how Volvo C30s are doing at the moment. I’ve always liked the look of these, the quirky design a pleasing homage to Volvo’s occasional habit of building eccentrically stylish coupes. 


This can be traced back to the P1800, which I’ve always rather liked, especially in shooting brake form. The pop-up headlight 480 of the late 80s was no rocketship dynamically but the futuristic looks were always rather nice I thought. And the C30 picked up where those cars left off and, though no longer in production, remains a handsome car and an appealingly alternative choice to stuff like the Audi TT, BMW 1 Series or Volkswagen Scirocco.

Because, yes, in T5 tune the C30 was respectably fast. The Focus ST with which it shared a platform and engine was a cracking car, that warbly five-cylinder turbo both charismatic and usefully more muscular than the four-cylinder motors in most rivals. That Focus’s performance and attitude wrapped in cool Scandi-design? You’ll hopefully share my curiosity.  

As stock the T5 has 230ps [227bhp], which is a good start. The R-Design package looks great too, the understated bodykit and tasteful alloys giving the C30 a discreetly sporting image. Late, low mileage ones just about hit £10K it seems but you can find examples like this post-facelift, 2011 car for much less - £7,495 with 70,000 miles on the clock in this instance. You can pay nearly double that for front-wheel drive Audi TT of comparable age and mileage, this having less power and a more ‘ordinary’ four-cylinder motor. The TT is a nice car of course. But I rather like the Volvo’s more left-field approach, I think it’s better looking, it’s got four usable seats and those Focus underpinnings sound a little more inspiring from a handling perspective. 


I was tempted by this low-mileage one in rather fetching lime green metallic but at just shy of £10K it’s on the pricey side. This dark grey one is a little more reserved but, being a bit of a tart, I like the wheels more and the two-tone leather lifts the already stylish interior. And it’s three grand cheaper. Ideally I’d want one with the (apparently very good) Dynaudio option but these seem rare. 


All very well. But what on earth does this have to do with Jehovah’s Witnesses?

Well. That five-cylinder motor isn’t just characterful, it’s also got plenty of headroom for tuning. Volvo’s official performance brand Polestar built a very, very cool concept with four-wheel drive running gear and an upgraded engine. Very upgraded. To the tune of 451ps [445bhp] and finished off with trick Ohlins suspension and a suitably serious bodykit. I drove a similarly fettled Polestar S60 with over 500bhp and it was absolutely fabulous. Sadly both remained one-off prototypes but Volvo dealers will still sell you an official Polestar upgrade for the C30 that boosts power to 250ps [247bhp] and slashes half a second out of the 0-62mph time. Not bad for £835.

Further digging uncovered another Swedish tuner by the name of BSR, conversation with the UK distributor rather bizarrely turning to the fact the founders are Jehovah’s Witnesses. So, you’d have to expect the claim of 258ps [254bhp] to be truthful. Better, you can get the fully warrantied Stage 2 package for £1,093, this including a sports exhaust system. And if that gives you more of that lovely five-cylinder warble that has to be a good thing. Pair that with a nice suspension kit to sharpen up the handling – Ohlins would seem appropriate, given it’s a Swedish brand and every car I’ve driven with its dampers has handled beautifully – and I think you’d have a very, very nice car indeed. And still be looking at significantly less than that TT.

Maybe I won’t pretend I’m out next time there’s a knock at the door. I’ll still pass on a subscription to Watchtower. But if they want to talk about tuning packages for stylish, turbocharged Volvo coupes I’ve got all day.

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