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First drive: Volvo C30 SportsCoupe – on sale December

Volvo

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Review

“We’re not afraid of your reaction.” Those who shop at the upmarket Mailbox in Birmingham during November are greeted with these words projected on the wall of the ‘C30 Boutique’ – a venue for dealers and the public to see Volvo’s new offering in the metal.

C30 is a new attempt by Volvo to appeal to a younger audience with a smaller, trendier vehicle. It is aimed directly at the under-35s who have no children – or the empty nesters who no longer need a large, family car but who are loyal to the Swedish brand.

“Only 10% of our customers are currently under-35 – we aim to improve this to 45%,” says Iain Howat, offer manager UK, Ireland and Iceland.

“We have never claimed it to be a family car; 85% of our customers are expected not to have children.”

Howat is keen to point out that the C30’s prospective audience stretches far further than the obvious Compact BMW and Audi A3 customers. “Other targets are Beetle, Mini, Audi TT and Alfa 147 -– all of these are emotionally bought cars.

“Pricing is less of an influence -– these customers are looking to make a statement; to do something different.”

Price, however, is something that Volvo has clearly considered. The S, SE and SE Sport, for example, do not come with leather interior as standard – this is only available as standard on the SE Lux version. The reason for this? Company drivers do not usually have leather on their vehicles, and Volvo expects the C30 to appeal to these customers. So, in other words, it keeps costs down.

C30 has had an amazing response since its concept started doing the motorshow rounds. Volvo has had 20,000 ‘handraisers’ expressing interest. However, sales projections are modest. “We expect 5,000 sales for 2007, 40% of which will be fleet,” says Howat. “For 2008, it is 7,000 – 50% fleet.”

Expect a three-way split on sales between the S, SE, and Sport versions, he adds. The target is for 65,000 per year – 75% will go to Europe.

There will be 2,000 cars available for sale between now and 2007 – and here’s the shocker for the dealer world: “When are we going to do TV advertising?” asks Howat. “We believe it will be easy to sell 2,000 vehicles, so you might not see any.”

This, however, does not mean that Volvo is leaving it to chance. There’s the C30 Boutique, mentioned earlier, and “underlying promotions” such as dealer-based and web-based ideas (and the press, of course) – just not TV.

“This car is not about the driving experience,” says Howat. “It is sold on emotion. We are training dealers to go out and talk to people about the car – ask them what they think.”

John Lefley, director of public affairs, adds: “The people that go to these centres are our target customers; they don’t have mortgages, they have disposable income.”

Behind the wheel

This four-seater is beautifully designed with the rear seats positioned centrally, which encourages conversation and means that you can view the road from the back.

At the front, the centre panel curves seductively up from the gearstick to the windscreen; function buttons are laid out symmetrically and easy to locate.

We drove the 217bhp T5 petrol and the 178bhp D5 diesel. Both are strong, willing engines that allow the C30 to be driven hard, but are smooth enough to cope with urban pootling.

“It’s not about the driving experience,” says Iain Howat. True, the C30 is no sportscar, despite its sporty exterior, but the power is definitely there when required. You just won’t get your face contorted by G-force when you accelerate.

This car really should appeal to its target audience, and if the sales are not as high as expected, then maybe Volvo will have to reconsider its advertising pitch.

Price: £14,750-23,795
Engine: Petrol (P): 1.6, 1.8, 2.0, 2.4i, T5. Diesel (D): 1.6, 2.0, D5
Performance P 0-60mph: 6.2sec (T5) to 11.2sec (1.6) . D 0-60mph: 7.8sec (D5) to 11.3sec (1.6). P top speed: 115mph (1.6) to 149mph (T5). D top speed: 118mph (1.6) to 140mph (D5)
Efficiency: Petrol: 30.1-40.4mpg comb, 167-208g/km CO2. Diesel: 40.9-57.6mpg comb, 129-182g/km CO2
CAP RV 3yr 30k: P: £6,475-9,800 (44-43%). D: £7,000-9,725 (42-41%)
Rivals: Audi A3, BMW 1-series, Alfa 147
Strength: Safety combined with style
Weakness: Not as sporty as looks suggest
Opportunity: A new audience for Volvo
Threat: Lack of advertising?
USP: Back to this segment for Volvo

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