Volvo C70 - seeing is believing

A refreshing makeover for the C70 is doing wonders for Volvo's image, says PETER FRANZEN.I don't believe it - that looks too good to be a Volvo. Twice in one day I got that comment, and it was a recurring theme throughout the test period of the revised C70 drop-top.

A refreshing makeover for the C70 is doing wonders for Volvo's image, says PETER FRANZEN.

I don't believe it - that looks too good to be a Volvo. Twice in one day I got that comment, and it was a recurring theme throughout the test period of the revised C70 drop-top.

The first 'Victor Meldrew moment' was from my son Oliver, a 29-year-old who (unlike his dad) is not much interested in cars. But he was really taken by the cool, muscular-looking C70. The same day a fellow golfer at Dunstan Hall was equally surprised that this handsome steed was from the Volvo stable. He was in his 50s, so clearly the C70 is able to attract attention and admiration across the age spectrum.

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The C70 is a sports coupe that can transform into a full convertible at the touch of a button and the metal roof goes up or down in less than 30 seconds - so you have two cars in one: a sports coupe that offers good performance and agile handling, and a convertible for lazy day, blue-sky motoring.

At launch in 2006, Volvo was the first manufacturer to produce a four-seat premium brand car with a three-piece retractable metal roof - rather than conventional two-piece - thus reducing folding bulk to improve style and increase packaging space. It is built in the Uddevalla factory in Sweden, in a collaborative effort with the legendary Italian coachbuilder Pininfarina. And without being unfair to Volvo, it is the Italian flair which marks out the car. Now the C70 has been given a design refresh to give it a new look.

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The refresh extends beyond plastic components as the front wings have been redesigned to give the nose a more distinct wedge-shape. There are new headlamps which now have a more pronounced upward orientation, while more detail has been added around the fog lamps and the lower grille. From the front, the bonnet and grille form an open, inviting 'V' shape, while the enlarged logo and the new, larger air intakes reinforce a strong on-the-road stance.

The C70 is a four-seater, and while the two rear bucket seats are generous enough in themselves, it has to be said that the legroom is pretty tight. But worse still is the struggle (for an adult) to get in and out of the back seats with any dignity. The driver's front seat is electrically powered to slide forward to help getting in, but despite the big doors it does not give much space to squeeze through to the back. Once in the back, I found my head touching the roof lining. It's OK once you are in, but equally difficult to get out.

So as there is general agreement that it is a bit of a head-turner, what is it like to drive? And is it as good on the inside as the outside?

I drove the 2.4-litre turbodiesel, 180PS, D5 diesel engine matched to a manual six-speed gearbox but this has just made way for two new 2.0-litre five-cylinder diesels - 150PS D3 and 177PS D4. Petrol power is now limited to the sporty 230PS 2.5-litre cylinder turbo.

That said, the D5 was a popular buy new and will still prove so on the used market. It's smooth, refined, and impressively torquey, even in sixth gear it pulls remarkably well from low speeds. In mixed motoring it averaged 44.6mpg - so no complaints on that score.

For a drop-top the C70 feels pretty stiff to drive with little flexing, although I did notice the odd creak and rattle from the roof when travelling over poor road surfaces.

Looking at the sporting nature of the car you might expect pretty firm suspension settings, but it affords civilised travel with no harshness even over broken road surfaces. And it does not compromise the handling at all, with little body roll and a crispness when corning. One slight criticism it is that the steering could do with a little more feedback 'feel'.

The test car was trimmed in cranberry leather, part of the package on this top-spec model. The interior design is really saved by the centre instrument panel described as the 'innovative super-thin 'floating' centre stack'. This not only looks terrific, but hosts most of the major controls in a simple and ergonomic manner. Just as well really, as the rest of the dashboard is a bit dull and uninspiring with too much black plastic for my liking, and a shortage of nick-nack storage.

Of course the piece de resistance of the C70 is its folding roof. It does this quickly and easily, and because of the three-section design there is reasonable boot space remaining when the roof is down. And with the roof up, the boot will accommodate a set of golf clubs (just).

There is no doubt that the C70 will change a lot of minds about the rather 'safe but dull' image of Volvo. This SE Lux Premium model came with a host of goodies and you would expect that for the price label of �32,595 - the new 2.0 D4 equivalent is �33,795. The C70 range starts at �27,995 for the 2.0 D3 ES.

Should you buy one? Well they are certainly more exclusive than a BMW 3 Series convertible, but the Audi A5 Cabriolet might just take your eye too. Tough choice, but it is a compliment to Volvo they can produce a car that can punch its weight in this company.


Price: �32,595 (range starts at �27,995)

Engine: 2,400cc, 180PS D5 turbo diesel

Performance: 0-62mph 8.6 seconds; top speed 140mph

MPG: urban 32.5mpg, extra urban 52.3mpg, combined 42.8 mpg

Emissions: 174g/km

Benefit-in-kind tax rate: 26pc

Insurance Group: 32 (out of 50)

Warranty: Three years or 60,000 miles, whichever comes first.

Will it fit the garage: length 4,615mm; width 2,025mm (door mirrors extended); height 1,400mm

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