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Volvo C30 T5 R-Design Polestar

Click to view picture galleryThe Polestar Express not in any
  way to be confused with The Polar
  Express
,
the seasonal Tom Hanks
  Christmas movie
is Volvo’s big
  little secret. Say Hej to the 246bhp
  Polestar-boosted C30 T5 R-Design...


NOT VERY MANY PEOPLE know this, but Polestar Racing is the Swedish car-maker's long-time Motorsports and performance partner. And now they've used their track expertise to fettle Volvo's likeable four-seat sports coupe.

Externally there's not a lot to give away the Polestar surprise, apart from the very small blue 'Polestar' badge just below and to the right of the C30's individualistic curved rear glass tailgate, and the car's low, wheel-at-each-corner stance. However, our test car's badge-matching bright blue paint job blew discretion to the wind and ensured nobody missed it!

Under our R-Design's stand-out 'summer sky' skin there's a lot going on. T
he Polestar upgrade (£660 and swiftly done at any Volvo dealership) tweaks the turboed T5's chip to liberate more horsepower and torque — and all without increasing the official fuel consumption. Power is boosted from 226 to 246bhp, while torque jumps from 236 to 272lb ft.

“The toned up looks
owe it all to a body kit
plus a deep rear
bumper that wraps itself
around a pair of
rocket-launcher-sized
tailpipes
...”
The toned-up looks owe it all to a body kit plus a deep rear bumper that wraps itself around a pair of rocket-launcher-sized tailpipes. Distinctive five-arm 18-inch alloys with machined spoke surfaces add extra polish (for £795) to a look that will most assuredly satisfy the style police.

Pull open one of the long front doors and you'll find a cabin with four luxuriously-padded and sportily-shaped R-Design leather seats facing an elegant minimalist fascia with clean ergonomics all tied together by modernist Swedish design.

Naturally there's the by-now trademark 'floating' centre console and slim-bezelled white-on-blue two-dial instrument cluster. The SatNav operating buttons are on the back of the right-hand steering wheel spoke (there's also a remote for your front passenger's use, for when it's more convenient or safer) and a one-shot operation glass sunroof.

There's also plenty of headroom and legroom; space up front is generous, plus both the driver and front passenger have lumbar adjustment on their effectively-bolstered seats; seats that provide bone-deep comfort.

The driver sits square-on to the chunky three-spoke steering wheel, wrapped in good-to-grip perforated leather and which adjusts for both height and reach. An adjustable front armrest adds to the feel-utterly-at-home seating.

Visibility, even to the rear through the darkened all-glass tailgate, is good; the long tapering rear side windows also keep rear three-quarter vision as clear as you'll find in a coupe.

The C30 only comes in three-door guise. But you can bring your friends because, as already mentioned, the C30 has four individual seats. Reaching the rear seats is not a stretch too far; and once there adults can relax. A nice touch: the front belts slide on a rail so are not in the way when entering or exiting the rear cabin. Helping to maximise head and shoulder room, the rear seats are set closer inwards to the cabin's centreline, and the advantages of this are that all occupants can join in conversations and back seat passengers enjoy more interesting forward views.

Sport-tuned the
suspension may be, but
along with delivering
sporting driving
enjoyment, the well-
sorted ride is never
harsh and errs
on the side of comfort
for daily driving...”
All occupants will also appreciate the first class ride comfort — every trip in our C30 shared the same ending: arriving at our destination, we always felt as fresh as when we'd set-out, even after 150 miles.

Rolling on 215/45 Pirelli P Zero rubber, the T5 rides quietly — and stays that way even over some quite bad surfaces. Sport-tuned the suspension may be, but along with delivering sporting driving enjoyment, the well-sorted ride is never harsh and, in daily driving conditions, errs on the side of comfort.

Mechanical refinement is another much-appreciated strong point: in spite of the anticipated rorty 'hot hatch' soundtrack out of the big-bore exhausts, the Polestar turned out to be a quiet, relaxing, long-legged high-speed cruiser with 70mph calling for a laid back 2,200rpm.

How about luggage? Fit for purpose, we'd say. The deep privacy-tinted tailgate opens onto a 251-litre boot; and lifting luggage in over the high-ish rear sill is not a problem. If you need to shift some cargo, fold flat both rear seatbacks you'll have a useful 539 litres —
we managed to transport several heavy and bulky 'white' goods when called on to help a friend move. And the loadbay's length — just over five feet — proved to be a van-saver.

Smaller everyday items in need of safe out-of-sight storage can go in the large multi-compartment well beneath the boot floor that's also home to a tyre repair kit. Our test car came with a rigid load cover (with a hinged access lid) that adds a very reasonable 55 to the price, and which can be easily removed whenever you need maximum to-the-roof cargo space.

In-cabin storage is also good and includes usable door pockets, a storage box under the front armrest (its lid flips over 180 degrees to form an impromptu drinks tray for rear passengers), a second bin with a sliding lid (that also holds two cups) alongside the compact swan-neck handbrake, and two-tier side pockets in the back cabin. Surprisingly handy, too, are the soft mesh pockets attached along the leading edge of the driver's and front passenger's seat bases.

Externally, with its knuckled-down stance, the Polestar-tweaked C30 certainly looks a player — and it delivers. It's underpinned by the same suspension set-up as the T5 R-Design: sports suspension lowered by 10mm, stiffer springs and dampers and quick steering.

The Polestar’s beefier
torque hits in the mid-
range, where its
convincing punch will
keep speed junkies
entertained...”
All of which gives the C30 a well-planted feel with plenty of front-end grip accessed via the sharp and precise steering. Pressing on, it handles the extra Polestar power with ease.

In short, you simply point the front wheels and apply the power... good body control and a competent chassis do the rest. Reassuringly predictable, it grips keenly and is good fun to drive. The brakes are fine, too, and pull you up crisply and cleanly every time.

The Polestar's 246bhp reaches the front wheels via a six-speed manual 'box with less savagery than similarly tooled-up hot hatches. Power delivery is impressive and accompanied by an agreeable five-pot warble.

Getting all fired-up comes easily to the 20-valve 2.5-litre powerplant; the beefier Polestar torque hits in the mid-range, where its convincing punch will keep speed junkies entertained. Plus, thanks to the super slick gear change action, making the most of the six ratios is always a pleasure.

Use the revs and there's no doubt that the Polestar's got pace: drop the clutch and floor the accelerator and you'll pass 60mph in 5.9 seconds from standstill. And when you're not trying to confirm the 149mph top speed, the plentiful torque keeps it all nicely on the boil.

And the pump penalty for all this get-up-and-go? Officially it's 22.4, 32.5 and 44.1mpg respectively for urban, combined and extra-urban driving; our overall week-long test figure came out at 28mpg —
a figure most go-faster owners would be happy with.

In equipment terms the Polestar-spec C30 has all you'll need —
amongst other items you get SatNav with a pop-up screen, 18-inch alloy wheels, driver's information centre, two-stage heated front seats, automatic drive-away locking, remote audio controls on the R-Design sports steering wheel, power windows and heated door mirrors (with powerfold on demand and on-exit locking), tinted and privacy glass, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, cruise control, auto lights 'n' wipes, keyless entry and locking, and a climate control system that keeps the air inside the car cleaner than the air outside.

“When those 246 horses
are merrily kicking up
their heels, it’s
reassuring to know that
you’re as safe as
Volvo can keep you
...”
The comprehensive list of safety items includes stability and traction control, anti-whiplash front seats, and Volvo's Side Impact Protection System. 'Intelligent' two-stage front airbags are there to minimise the likelihood of facial injuries caused by the airbag hitting an occupant too hard in an accident.

Another handy safety feature is Volvo's Intelligent Driver Information System that knows when the driver is likely to be concentrating most (accelerating, turning, or braking heavily) — at these times it delays any non-essential messages or incoming calls until it's less distracting for the driver.

And for those times you don't feel like hitting the high revs and making the Polestar's five-pot sing, the Dynaudio Premium Sound system (an extra £410) will provide some high-performing audio: a 6-CD unit with a digital amp, ICE Power technology from Alpine, 5x130W output, Dolby Pro Logic II Surround Sound, plus ten high-quality speakers.

'German' is always nice, but it's great to have a choice —
especially something that will stand out from the crowd like this classy Swede. Good too that it does sedate as smoothly as a boulevardier; but it can also be a real blast. And when those 246 horses are merrily kicking up their heels, it's reassuring to know that you're as safe as only Volvo can keep you. MotorBar

Volvo C30 T5 R-Design Polestar | 22,785
Maximum speed: 149mph | 0-60mph: 5.9 seconds | Overall test MPG: 28mpg
Power: 246bhp | Torque: 272lb ft | CO2 203g/km