This is the home of automobile road tests in South Africa. We drive South African cars, SUVs and LCVs under South African conditions. It also just happens that most of the vehicles we drive are world cars as well, so what you read here possibly applies to the models you can get at home. To read one of our road tests or launch reports, just select from the menu on the left.
* Please note that prices quoted are those in effect at the time the vehicle was tested
A question of lifestyle rather than age
“This is a nice little ladies’ car,” the Assistant Fleet Manager told me, as she handed over the key to Volvo’s entry level C30 1,6 that day. In certain respects that I will get to later, I could agree, but methinks the lady just wanted the newcomer kept as a secret to be enjoyed by women alone.
The C30 has been around for a while in 2,0 litre four-cylinder and 2,5 litre T5 form, but this 1,6 litre entry-level version was introduced to SA buyers last September.
Intended by its makers to attract a wider range of young buyers looking for a visually appealing and fun-to-drive city car or sporty runabout, it could also appeal to empty-nesters wanting an entertaining car that suits their similarly intense and busy lives.
It’s a question of lifestyle rather than age; just as not everyone wants or needs a seven-seat people carrier or a wannabe bundu-basher, enjoyment of small athletic motorcars accenting style, rather than boring practicality, is not the preserve of under-thirties alone.
Its styling either appeals or fails. Comments ranged from “cute” and “love that glass back hatch” to “what were they thinking – that awful glass back hatch?” The window in question is an unashamed flashback to an equally controversial styling element in the P1800S of some decades past – it was either loved or hated back then as well.
Before we become too involved, let’s get two things out of the way:
• This is not a practical first car for young families – the boot is ‘way too small and the two door configuration is not convenient for regular school runs. Rather think of the individually sculpted rear buckets as being there for occasional use only, or as a place for the two of you to toss your suitcases when taking off for parts not previously explored.
• This may be the smallest engine in the lineup, but the car is not necessarily gutless or boring, provided you take charge and drive it with a certain enthusiasm. Performance is on a par with other 1600s – slightly slower than a few, equal to some and better than many that you might expect to be quicker.
The C30 is a car you get into and wear like a favourite outfit, rather than feeling perched on kitchen chairs in a ‘bus. It is a car you take charge of; keep the revs buzzing, use the brakes, grab a fistful of steering wheel and point it the way you want to go.
All the usual safety kit is there, plus some more, so don’t fret about going beyond the limits. The chassis was designed to handle the muscle of Ford’s turbocharged 2,5 litre motor, so a naturally aspirated 1600 isn’t going to stress the technology too much.
The front seats adjust vertically, horizontally, let you select a comfortable squab angle and offer lumbar support as well. All adjustments require manual input – the car is priced accordingly, after all, but once set they stay that way until new owners take over. The little Volvo is hardly something you would lend out lightly, is it? For those who simply have to have an electrically adjustable driver’s seat with memory, however, one is included in the third-level “Elite” options package.
Unlike most modern cars, the Volvo’s interior is surprisingly (expectedly?) Swedish minimalist. Apart from the gauges and steering column controls, the only buttons and switches are found on a slender panel curving down between the fascia and the centre console. The effect is either welcome or harshly bare, it’s up to you.
Speaking of the slender panel, this is one of the items that might qualify the C30 as a “woman’s car.” The knuckles of my left fist kept mistakenly engaging aircon buttons whenever I shoved the gear lever forward into third or fifth.
Another concern is that there is not quite enough space for a size twelve left foot to squeeze between the clutch pedal and the centre casing, when putting said foot down on the floor.
Finally, a unisex whinge – the seatbelts are too far back to reach for over your shoulder, but grabbing down behind your hip does the trick. It’s simply a matter of changing technique. The same could be said of placing one’s hand differently when changing gears, or that those with fat feet might discard their fat left shoes. Life is about compromises.
From a woman’s point of view, the Volvo C 30 combines style and enjoyment with the marque’s renowned safety record. Men appreciate these qualities as well, so provided they are not too big-footed or hairy-knuckled, are able to join in the fun.
Price: R 214 500
Engine: 1 596 cc DOHC 16 valve, inline four cylinder
Power: 74 kW at 6 000 rpm
Torque: 150 Nm at 4 000 rpm
Maximum speed: 185 km/h
Fuel Index: 7,9 l/100 km
CO2 gm/km: 184
Luggage space: 184 to 664 dm3
Service intervals: up to 20 000km
Spark plug life: up to 60 000 km
Maintenance Plan: 5 years/100 000 km
This is a one-man show, which means that road test cars entrusted to me are driven only by me. Some reviewers hand test cars over to their partners to use as day-to-day transport, so barely experience them for themselves.
What this means to you is that every car reviewed by me is given my own personal evaluation and receives my first-hand seat of the pants judgement - no second hand input here.
Every car goes through real world testing; on city streets littered with potholes, speed bumps and rumble strips, on freeways and if its profile demands, dirt roads as well.
I am based in Pietermaritzburg, KZN, South Africa. This is the hub of the KZN Midlands farming community; the place farmers go to in order to buy their supplies and equipment, truck their goods to market, send their kids to school and visit to kick back and relax.
So occasionally a cow, a goat or a horse may add a little local colour by finding its way into the story or one of the pictures. It's all part of the ambience!
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