Fleet News

Volvo C70

Volvo

Review

SO this is it – the first chapter in Volvo’s three-pronged campaign to lure user-choosers away from the prestige German marques during 2006.

The C70 replaces two models – the C70 Coupe and C70 Convertible – and has now become two cars in one, a four-seat convertible with a folding metal hardtop which retracts in 30 seconds.

It will be joined in June by an all-new S80 executive saloon, offering a choice of front and four-wheel drive, and later in the year by the C30 – a three-door hatchback to rival the Audi A3.

But Volvo’s first target is to convince potential buyers of the Audi A4 Cabriolet, BMW 3-series convertible and Saab 9-3 convertible to peruse the C70 brochure instead.

On sale in March, the C70 is tasked with growing Volvo’s share of the UK’s premium badge convertible market from its current 5% share.

Annual sales for the new model will be about 3,000 – nearly a thousand more than the previous C70s managed in their best year in 2001 and the second biggest market for the car globally after the US.

And it is fleets which will be key to helping Volvo gain more market share in a sector which has quadrupled in size in the past 10 years from under 5,000 sales annually to a peak of more than 20,000 in 2005.

Iain Howat, C70 product manager at Volvo Car UK, said: ‘The fleet opportunity is crucial for us to increase sales.

‘We expect the corporate mix to be as much as 50% for the new C70, compared with 30% for the previous versions.

‘The challenge is also to attract younger customers to the brand and get them to purchase with the heart and not the head.’

The average age of C70 buyers is currently 51 but Volvo expects the new version to bring this down to 43. The majority of these buyers will also have a family, so the C70’s ability to seat four adults will be key.

As well as being practical, the C70 will also find favour with those fleet managers who usually disregard convertibles because of the security implications of having a car with a fabric roof.

Thanks to its metal hardtop, the C70 is as theft resistant as any conventional coupe model.

When the C70 goes on sale in March there will be the choice of two petrol engines – a 2.4-litre five-cylinder with 170bhp and the turbocharged T5 with 220bhp. Both are available with the option of a five-speed Geartronic automatic gearbox.

Volvo has decided not to import the 140bhp version of the 2.4 engine to the UK because it doesn’t feel it has the necessary oomph to appeal in the sector.

However, later in the spring, it will also import the D5 five-cylinder turbodiesel, offering 180bhp. This is a reworked version of the D5 unit found in the S60 and V70, although it loses 5bhp in the C70 because of packaging problems under the bonnet.

Apparently there is not enough room in the engine bay for all the cooling components which give the D5 185bhp in the larger models, so some of the cooling has been lost and the engine detuned to cope.

Prices begin at a whisker over £26,000 for the 2.4 Sport and rise to £33,225 for the T5 SE Lux. This pitches the C70 at a comparable level with the A4 and 3-series at the entry-level, with Saab 9-3 prices starting at £25,000.

While the Volvo is pricey at the higher end of the range, it is well-equipped.

All models come with 17-inch alloys, climate control, cruise control and the electric roof as standard, while SE versions add leather seats, wood trim, upgraded stereo and electric driver’s seat.

The SE Lux gains 18-inch alloys, rain-sensing wipers, an even better stereo and electric front passenger seat.

However, 18-inch alloys are a no-cost option in the lower models – the decision being made after consulting with fleet managers who said there were cost issues in having bigger alloys and lower profile tyres as standard, illustrating how Volvo really values fleet business for this car.

Behind the wheel

ALTHOUGH this section is entitled ‘Behind the wheel’, it’s worth having a stroll around the C70 before getting in.

This is a car which looks striking with either the roof up or down. Unusually for models such as this, the Volvo hasn’t got the bulbous bottom which is usually required to accommodate the roof mechanism. This is because the C70’s roof is a three-piece item which takes up less room when stowed. However, boot space isn’t brilliant – there is only room for a couple of soft bags when the roof is down.

At the front and back there are clear Volvo family styling cues, especially around the light units. The same thing is true inside, with familiar Volvo controls and the ‘floating’ centre console design first seen in the S40 and V50. Start the engine (only T5 petrols were available to test) and the trademark straight-five thrum is evident.

Then it’s a case of pushing the button to get the roof down, slotting the gearbox into Drive and heading off.

Although the T5 offers 220bhp it’s evident that the extra weight required for the roof and its electric motor mechanisms has blunted the engine’s normal offering.

Although the C70 isn’t slow, it doesn’t feel as fast as a T5 should. Perhaps the D5 diesel, with its far better torque figure, will improve matters.

Making a judgement on the C70’s driving dynamics is a little tricky as the test routes on the launch in Dubai were arrow straight – one section didn’t have a bend or corner for nearly 100 miles. But at cruising speeds with the roof down and wind deflector in place, conversation between driver and passenger is easy. It’s also very comfortable thanks to a supple ride and the engine’s low revs at motorway speeds.

Driving verdict

THE C70 is a car to cruise around and be seen in and in this respect it excels. It’s a classy, clever car and the folding metal roof gives it an advantage against its fabric-roofed rivals.

Model: 2.4i T5
Max power (bhp/rpm): 170/6,000 220/5,000
Max torque (lb-ft/rpm): 170/4,400 236/1,500
Max speed (mph): 137 (134) 150 (146)
0-62mph (secs): 9.1 (10.0) 7.6 (8.0)
Fuel consumption (mpg): 31.4 (29.4) 31.0 (28.8)
CO2 emissions (g/km): 215 (229) 217 (234)
On sale: March.
Prices (OTR): £26,200-£33,225

Auto figures in brackets

CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.

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