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Volvo by Richard Webb

designed around you specs

Safety and security were the concepts around which Volvo built its reputation. Richard Webb looks at the quintessentially Swedish brand and its evolution.

Volvo C30 D2 Power: 84kW Peak Torque: 270nM Speed 0 – 100 km/h: 11.3 sec CO2: 114g/100km Price: R236 100

The C30 raises a few eyebrows with its unique style and personality

Brands that have been around for a long time tend to have entrenched

intentions, be prepared to change your entrenched view of what the

Volvo still enjoys a loyal band of followers. Many Volvo owners

China surged by 36% to 21 000 units in the first six months of 2011

meanings in their customers’ minds. For example, Volvo used to be

Volvo brand means to you. Volvo has a long heritage of building safe

considered their older models to be slow and heavy, thus earning the

compared to the same period the previous year. Furthermore, the Chi-

synonymous with safety and overly cautious drivers. These entrenched

and dependable cars, but now you can safely say ‘Volvo’, ‘sportiness’

nickname ‘brick’ for the classic, block-shaped Volvo. You may not think

nese manufacturing plant in Chengdu has started construction and

meanings are often difficult to change quickly but Volvo knew that it could no

and ‘luxury’ in the same sentence without fear of contradiction.

that a brick is a term of endearment, but it really is in this case. Still, in

Volvo are said to be considering a second plant in China. But how do

Their modern cars do still draw upon their substantial heritage though.

the late 1980’s Volvo moved away from the boxy styles to more sporty

their cars fare in a South African environment? I was invited to drive

Volvo is about safety, sure. But if you take a look at the set of values

The company traces its origins back to Gothenburg, Sweden, in 1927. (The

models, including the factory-supported Volvo 240 Turbo, which won

both the Volvo C30 D2 and the Volvo V60 T4 to find out.

that drive people to buy a premium car, safety is in there, but it’s not

same year the Strathclyde whisky distillery was founded by Seager Evans.)

the 1985 European Touring Car Championship and the 1986 Australian

always the highest on the list of ‘must haves’. Of course people want safe

From day one, Volvo’s two founders, Assar Gabrielsson and Gustaf Larson

Touring Car Championship. They also stunned the British motor racing

The C30 D2

cars, but it’s become an expected feature for premium cars nowadays. So

built safe cars that withstood Sweden’s harsh climate and poor road condi-

scene in 1994 when they entered a pair of 850 estates in the British

The C30 is a very sporty-looking car. It shares a fair amount with the S40

Volvo had to do something radically different for its cars to get the

tions of the time. Their overriding principle? Safety should always be the

Touring car Championships. Suddenly, Volvo was cool again.

it’s derived from, but is lighter and more responsive to drive. The car

attention of their market and challenge set perceptions of the brand.

basic tenet in all their design work. Their focus on safety, durability and

Volvo cars are now owned by Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, follow-

corners sharply and only understeers when really pushed hard. Whilst

longer use its commitment to safe design as its unique selling proposition.

They have recently re-imagined the brand, placing what they call

quality has remained central to the business that now produces sports utility

ing their sale by Ford Motor Company’s Premier Automotive Group.

other rivals like the Audi A3 and BMW 1-Series may seem to be the

‘the human factor’ at the centre of their future development. If the

vehicles (SUV’s), station wagons, coupes and saloon cars, with global sales

The agreement was worth $1.8 billion and is the largest overseas acqui-

default choice, this Volvo will appeal to those who want some some-

latest two Volvo’s I’ve driven locally are any indication of their

of 373 525 cars annually. (An increase of 11.2% when compared to 2009 sales.)

sition by a Chinese carmaker. Perhaps unsurprisingly, sales volume in

thing different. I drove the 1.6 litre diesel, which impressed me with its



5|2011 65



Typical V60 customers like the extra flexibility offered without compromising sporty design

Volvo V60 T4 Power: 132kW Peak Torque: 240nM Speed 0 – 100 km/h: 8.5 sec CO2: 155g/100km Price: R320 800

refinement and smooth power delivery. Low down in the rev range, it may lack a little punch, but is fast through the gears and has a distinctive feel not seen in others cars in this sector. Volvo claims the C30 is aimed at younger buyers who put style high on their list of priorities alongside driver appeal - so it’s no wonder sales have been healthy from the start.

I tried the small capacity 1.6 litre turbocharged petrol version but I’d

Viewed from the front, it bears a resemblance to all Volvo models

never have guessed it had such a small cubic capacity. On the road, it’s

and wears the corporate face well. It’s at the back end that the design-

very well behaved, yet can be provoked if you fancy some spirited driving.

ers have been very daring and the car really stands out amongst Ger-

It may be true that long-established brands find it tricky to shift con-

man competition. Think Volvo 1800ES and Simon Templar in ‘The Saint’

sumer attitudes. But Volvo have managed to retain the core promise of

with its unique proportions and angles. The unusual u-shaped glass

safe, well engineered cars and have added more than a ‘wee dram’ of

hatch is framed by arty tail light clusters. It really is a welcome change

luxury whilst drawing upon sporting prowess from their motor sport

from the ordinary hatchbacks we’ve become used to in this sector. This


premium hatch is also now available in the R-Design variants, with bespoke sporty trim and some neat detailing. It actually has a large boot, but in reality seems smaller than the statistics would suggest. Yes, the two rear seats are comfortable but it’s the driving environment that will sell this car. With elements like the stunning floating centre console, excellent seating position with plenty of adjustment in the seat and steering wheel, it’s a superb car for the money. I reckon resale values look fairly promising too.

The Swedish whisky connection Whilst most brands may need time to mature, sometimes the exception disproves the rule. An example would be Mackmyra, a Swedish whisky distiller which only registered as a business in 1999. Mackmyra is a very young distillery indeed. Founded by eight civil engineers who had previously attended university. One skiing trip at the Swedish resort, Sälen resulted in an inspired idea.

Volvo V60 T4 When I first clapped eyes on the S60 saloon I knew it was a completely new type of Volvo. Sportier and more stylish than the staid Swedish motors of old. It was a refreshing change to rivals like the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes C Class and Audi A4. The V60 is the estate car version of the S60 and is certainly easily good enough to hold its own in the premium sector in which it competes. The V60 shows just how far-reaching Vol-

Soon after arriving, they realised that they had all brought a bottle of whisky. This lead, as it surely would, to some spirited whisky tasting. That, in turn lead to them wondering why there was no Swedish distillery. The rest is history. A very short history. The First Edition is a very light gold and the nose carries notes of seductive malt and

vo’s revitalized strategy has been. This is the first time that Volvo’s

with it a hint of smoke, honey, vanilla, pear

offered a five-door car in this size and it doesn’t follow the established

and marzipan. The palate is indeed very

Volvo template for estate cars at all. Its design emphasises sleek good

similar to the nose and quite fruity.

looks more than carrying capacity. Don’t think of it as an estate: think of it as a sporty and practical alternative to the competition.

Eye: Light golden. Nose: Malty, light smoke, vanilla, marzipan and pear. Palate:

The rising waistline and coupe-esque sloping rear roof gives rise to

Full flavoured and well balanced; lightly

the smallest third rear side window of any Volvo estate in history. Yet

smoked malt, fruity (pear, dried apricots),

the car still manages to feel bright and airy. The overall effect is

honey, vanilla and once again, marzipan.

extremely impressive. 66


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