Monday, July 20, 2015

K2 Interview: NeedThatCar.com Talks Volvo C30, Mini, & Hot Wheels

The following is an interview conducted by DT's field reporter, K2 Mystery Car. Take it away K2:  Your intrepid reporter here, K2 Mystery Car, this time with a Volvo C30 owner’s experiences and thoughts in relation to the Tuesday, June 9, 2015 post “New Car Tuesday: 2015 Mini Cooper S”.


K2MC: Hello needthatcar.com, thanks for taking the time to share your experiences with your 2008 Volvo C30. Tell us a little about yourself.

Needthatcar.com: I've been into cars since I first started playing with Hot Wheels back when. I grew up loving the Dukes of Hazzard and Knight Rider. When I was 7 years old, my dad put a 231 aluminum block Buick V8 in a 1952 Willy's Jeep and the family went wheeling at Canyonlands National Park. I guess that Jeep really got me started. I've owned hundreds of old cars from junkers to full-on show cars. As for my daily drivers, I go through them like socks though I've had the C30 for three years. It's such a brilliant little car.

K2MC: Have you owned Volvos in the past?

Needthatcar: This is my first Volvo.

K2MC: What drew you to the C30?

Needthatcar: I first drove a C30 in 2008 right after they came out and loved it. Loved the styling, the slick interior, and most of all, that hatch! It's a sexy little car with slick but muscular styling.



K2MC: Did you buy your C30 new or used?

Needthatcar: I saw mine on a lot in 2012 while looking at a Mercedes GLK for my girlfriend. The car looked brand new but it had 70k miles on it. She didn't buy the GLK but I bought the C30. It's got 107k on it now, mostly trouble free.

K2MC: Which variant is it (T5 or R-Design), which options are on it and how many miles have you put on it?

Needthatcar: Mine is an R-Design. Most importantly, it's got the 6-speed. Leather interior, dynaudio stereo, heated seats and 18" wheels.

K2MC: How would you compare it to a MINI Cooper?

Needthatcar: They’re apples and oranges. To a man, everyone who test drives them both on the same day (me, included) would say the MINI is more fun and engaging. A close friend has a MINI and I’ve driven it a lot; it's super fun. The Volvo can put up the same numbers in the 0-60, 1/4 mile, and slalom, but it also treats the driver much better. It's quiet and comfortable with probably the best automotive seats I've ever experienced. But you don't get that seat-of-the-pants feedback from the car. That said, if you don't use the MINI as your basis for comparison, the Volvo is eager, quick and has great manners. I've often referred to it as sure-footed. For a daily driver, give me the Volvo any day over the MINI but for a romp up the canyon, I'd probably choose the MINI. One number the Volvo doesn't match is MPG; mine gets 20/40 while the MINI is closer to 30/37.



K2MC: Have you ever driven any of the other P1/C1 platform-based vehicles like the Focus, Mazda3, MKC, Escape, S40/V50/C70 or Transit Connect?

Needthatcar: Only the V50, which is remarkably similar to the C30 from the driver's seat. I’d love a 2010 V50 with the R-Design trim package.

K2MC: What’s gone wrong with your C30?

Needthatcar: It likes to warp brake rotors because the brakes aren't as big as they should be, it had a crankcase ventilation problem which was covered by a recall and the sunroof leaks. That's about it.

K2MC: What would you improve on the C30?

Needthatcar: Bigger brakes and remove the sunroof; I'm tall and could use the extra headroom.

K2MC: Would you compare the C30 more to a GTI or Golf than the MINI?

Needthatcar: Yes, I think that's a better comparison. Amongst "premium hatch", including the MINI, I really think the Volvo C30 is just far more polished than the others. Not better, just more mature.

K2MC: For you, what’s been your final impression of the car?

Needthatcar: I bought the car for the styling and kept it for the comfort and performance. I added a trailer hitch, making it super handy. But it needs bigger brakes! I've warped two sets of front rotors and I'm not even that hard on the brakes. It's also a really good car for dating. It doesn't have the BMW stigma but it's still a "premium" brand and chicks dig it.

K2MC: Thank you for your time!

Needthatcar: No problem.

For a listing of all Volvo C30s offered on eBay right now, click this link here.


DT's pick of the current live auctions include this 2011 C30 R Design with 6-speed manual gearbox, offered for $21,000 or best offer, here on eBay, located in Orlando, FL. It has 26k miles on the odometer, has a few aftermarket modifications, but looks in good condition.


If that is a bit rich for you, there is this 2008 Volvo C30 T5, offered here on eBay with opening bid at $15,000 reserve-not-met, located in Red Bank, NJ. It has only 2,980 miles on the odometer and a 5-speed manual gearbox; what more could you want?

Images from https://www.media.volvocars.com/us/en-u.  

51 comments:

  1. I've had the pleasure of driving (hooning) one of these as a loaner from a Volvo dealer in MI (they're since out of business, but I doubt it had anything to do with the slow C30 sales). As competent as it was, I found myself wanting the R version for a little more HP. Reminded me a lot of what the Mk1 Scirocco was in its day.. as quick as many, very easy to control (toss) typical front driver understeer but so easy to predict that it was very fun even in the first few minutes.

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  2. ~ I'm nit-picking but......
    . Isn't the 231ci Buick a later V6 with cast iron block? An aluminum block Buick V8 would displace 215ci, 3.5liter as does the first Rover/BMC aluminum V8.

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    1. Hey Scot, I think you're observation might have gotten added to the wrong post. Wouldn't want what you said to go to waste!

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    2. ~ My remark was directed at the sentence, 'When I was 7 years old, my dad put a 231 aluminum block Buick V8 in a 1952 Willy's Jeep and the family went wheeling at Canyonlands National Park'.
      . I'm not aware of a Buick 231 aluminum V8.

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    3. Aha! My bad and my apologies. You were in the right place! Thanks for the correction. I'm sure needthatcar's memory was just colored by time and age. Who can remember specifics from age 7? Even though it was just yesterday for me (maturity-wise) (not really, it was a looooong time ago for me) (I know you are, but what am I!) (you're not invited to my birthday party!), I certainly can't.

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    4. ~ heheheh, I was convinced that you were right until I read through NTC's original quotes. And when is this b'day party I'm crashing? ;)

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    5. The engine in the Jeep was an aluminum block Buick 215 V8 from the 1961-1963 Buick Special. That was just me not remembering. It was definitely a V8, and a damn cool one at that, as that particular engine only weighs a touch over 300 pounds.

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  3. King Lettuce Head? The fallen Crown of the Cabbage?

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  4. Awesome. The C30 is one of my favorite cars when it comes to looks alone. Too bad they are rare as hen's teeth in these parts.

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    1. You're right, Andrew. Here are the sales numbers, from Wikishmedia.

      [img]http://i.imgur.com/aDtto8e.png?1[/img]

      Why weren't more sold? My guess is a lack of marketing (I can't recall seeing any, in fact) and a high MSRP. In 2008, it was (base) $23K and in 2013, it was $25.5K (source: J.D. Power). A 2008 MINI started at $18K MSRP, while a 2008 GTI began at $22.8K...and I think we begin to see the problem.

      Gianni has suggested to me that Mazda has a similar issue with its current lineup. Though the brand is perceived by many to be more of a bargain proposition, while the reality is that it is moving more in the lower premium direction (the new CX-3 being a perfect example of that).

      Though Volvo may not fit that description exactly, the C30/S40/V50 clearly suffered from marketing confusion; how does one market a sporty compact with definite luxury leanings? The size of their stablemate C70 made the message clearer but not the other three. Tough one. I think the timing was also off, with the sudden popularity of tiny CUVs. Do the full-on Subaru Outback treatment on the trio and I believe that they would have had more sales success. But who knew, back when they were released?

      Also, I'm sure lots of my fellow DTers will agree with me in stating that you can't have the same car selling in high numbers that doesn't visually change much in all that time, especially from a small maker like Volvo. The old 3-year redesign rule still seem valid, even if it means just adding a body kit and upping the hp a couple. Something to differentiate old from ooo-I-gotta-have-the-new-one would have been good.

      So is the C30 an interesting modern collectible for us cheapskate gearheads that like a bit of the strange (take that as you will)? I say yes, just as all sporty Volvos have ever been. Paul Newman placed his stamp of approval on the brand many years ago and whose gonna argue with that?!?

      A standard or Polestar C30 not weird enough for you? Try the 2008 Boston Red Sox edition, of which 107 were produced. Can you name another car with an edition focused on a baseball team?

      2008 Volvo C30 Boston Red Sox edition with 160K miles for $10K for sale in Haverhill, MA

      [img]http://i.imgur.com/pt7a6ag.jpg?1[/img]

      [img]http://i.imgur.com/YkasIYu.jpg?1[/img]

      [img]http://i.imgur.com/4Ng5l7w.jpg?1[/img]

      [img]http://i.imgur.com/EZJM6o3.jpg?1[/img]

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    2. In my opinion, that dash design is one of the best, most interesting to be sold in a long time, regardless of maker.

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    3. The dash was available with a basic plastic or metallic finish. Optionally, wood and even a clear, see-thru (!) version were also available on various models. As time went on, additional options were also available but here are the two I mentioned.

      Get your IKEA on.
      [img]http://i.imgur.com/8Ph6eWZ.jpg?1[/img]

      Plastic fantastic.
      [img]http://i.imgur.com/DGZTE1h.jpg?1[/img]

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    4. I've been a big fan of the C30/S40/V50 interiors since they came out as well. I've seen the wood console in person and I like it, in a modernist Scandinavian furniture design type of way.

      Our buddy Alex (who bought the '83 242 from us) has C30 seats in his car now, and they offer a great mix of support and comfort, and they look at home even in a 30 year old Volvo.

      We have another Volvo kook friend who installed V50 seats (front AND rear) and is installing the entire V50 center console in a 245 (wagon). It's not finished yet but I'm very curious about how that turns out, considering I have a 245 project in the wings as well, and would love a more modern interface.

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    5. I would love to see pictures of that, CFlo, if you get a chance! That's very cool. If there's one thing I don't like about older Volvos, it's the dash and console. Just about everything else I can live with. But that's actually a deal breaker for me.

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    6. I'll see if he's interested in a DT writeup on his car when it's finished, but that will be a while. This guy makes custom guitars for a living so I'm sure a bit of center console woodworking is well within his wheelhouse. Whew!

      Here are the V50 seats in his freshly primed 245 shell:

      [img]http://i.imgur.com/KWeCMx9m.jpg[/img]

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    7. Finished project? Never heard of such thing. Please explain.

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  5. I had considered purchasing a new one for the wife when I had the 1800ES. They would have made nice stable mates. Wow, I sure had sticker shock when I vissited the dealer.
    The price point is really not competitive in the marketplace and sales volumes confirmed that.

    The entire Volvo line suffers from the same ailment. No longer is Volvo anything special.
    All manufactures can "do safety" today and anything else Volvo can offer at lower price points.

    When Geely starts importing Volvo's from China they had better lower the price substantially or they will quickly die in all markets except China.

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    1. I can't argue too much with your assessment of the situation, Rene. But I think the answer lies within what you said - Geely's Volvo must compete on a luxury level and target emerging international markets, like China. Based on what I've been reading, I believe they understand that. Consider the second gen XC90.

      [img]http://i.imgur.com/oWpCcwt.jpg?1[/img]

      [img]http://i.imgur.com/HvqJK3O.jpg?1[/img]

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    2. The new XC90, in terms of looks/refinement, seems to be a game changer. It puts the very good offerings from VAG to shame.

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    3. I hope you're right, Jon. It would be a shame to see Volvo disappear. It will be interesting to see what they decide to do next. At under 30K vehicles sold YTD, they're just below MINI and Land Rover; terrible (but better than Scion, somewhat surprisingly). A third of those sales are XC60s and the V60 is sadly a sales dud. I sure as heck wouldn't want to be in their clogs!

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    4. That sucks because the V60/XC60 is a great looking car! On the used market they can be had for a much less than new; in some cases the lower $20Ks.

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    5. The problem with Volvo is that they want to go upmarket at upmarket pricing. That will only work in the home market of China with a little bit of patriotism mixed in.
      They do not have the branding and pricing power that Audi, BMW, and Mercedes possess.

      Cadillac recently tried upmarket pricing while they did not command any pricing power. Cadillac failed and recently started dropping prices.

      Volvo and Cadillac for that matter need to build their reputation as Lexus did by starting out at a favorable price point.

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    6. Precisely why they appeal to me.

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  6. Though very different cars in many ways, folks in the market for an off-center hatchback shouldn't despair; there's always the Hyundai Veloster.

    [img]http://i.imgur.com/8VyLTl6.jpg?1[/img]

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    1. A face only its mother could love.

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    2. I cannot argue with that assessment.

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  7. Thanks for this interview! This has really helped solidify my decision to buy one of these. Others on my list are the GTI and Focus ST. Neither of these have the visual appeal of the C30.
    @K2- I love the IP on these as well. Volvo, IIRC, made the waterfall center stack pieces and door pulls out of bent plywood veneer. It looked fantastic but I haven't ever seen one ever.
    There is a Polestar version for sale at CarMax in Arizona. Its the Rebel Blue which I love. It reminds me of the E46 M3 Laguna Seca blue.

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    1. Hiya Jon! Glad to hear this article was of some service to you. To be honest, I've only seen the wood console trim in person once. And to be doubly honest, I thought it looked a bit...cheap. The wood has a fairly deep grain but it's not shiny like I suppose I've been conditioned to expect. Instead, it's like somebody actually fitted it with real wood...I know, surprising huh?!? Ultimately, it will be up to you to decide whether or not you like it. Don't let what I think influence you either way.

      I took a quick look on the interwebber grille and I see that the pieces are easily available. So you could always change it out if you wanted!

      If you end up purchasing one, please come back to DT and update us on your C30 experience.

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  8. Great interview. My experience with the 2007 V50 for 145k miles is good, and they are pretty much the same car. No rotor probs if you buy Volvo rotors... My first brakes were at 90k miles. Just last weekend the air conditioning went irradic and read it is the compressor clutch and common at this age. The C30 seems to sell as a cult car but I see it as practical if you need something different in the small car world. I would never own a mini.

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    1. Thanks, Tom! There's a good tip for you potential Volvo owners out there, courtesy of Tom...buy OEM rotors. Why wouldn't you own a MINI, may I ask?

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    2. Too many mechanical problems....I am not tolerant of down time, especially when the builder knows of the potential problems. Also, if I am going to have something that small, it should have super human MPG. I understand the marketing, but it is silly to me. At the Pittsburg Vintage they took over a huge section and to me if you have seen 1 you have seen them all (new generation ones that is).
      Sorry, just an old fart here I guess.

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    3. Tom- I'm with you; I can't tolerate down time especially when its the same problem that spans generations. BMWs seem to be bad about this, ie cooling systems, VANOS, etc. That's why I got rid of my Audi A4 after 18 months; it seemed like I had joint custody of the car; split between the dealership visits and my ownership.

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  9. Jon: Audi is the worst for me. I think you could only have one for as long as the bumper to,bumper warranty lasted, and the a new loaner delivered and picked up like Lexus does.

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  10. Many DTers know that the C30 is built on the P1 platform, also known as the Ford C1 and Mazda BK. If not, DT just expanded your knowledge a little bit! So, what are some alternatives that share a platform with the C30? Let's see a few examples!

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  11. @K2M- Had an 06 Mazda3 which I bought after my abysmal A4. Talk about a complete 180 in terms of reliability. Over the 8 years of ownership I had less than half of the warranty issues than all the issues in the first year with my A4. Granted materials were not good but I did enjoy the car very much.
    BTW- That ST looks tasty!

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    Replies
    1. Agreed! Much hoonery to be had in that ST. Interesting jump, from an A4 to a Mazda3. What made you decide to do that?

      The VW-Audi siren song is a strong one, until that b!tch pulls you into the deepest waters of doom.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SmLDxiI_dgs

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    2. I got tired of the poor reliability and the huge car payment for joint custody. The 3 showed up and I was hooked by its design and great reviews. Having supplier pricing helped too. It was a 3S GT 5-speed sedan with no options; a rare car in my neck of the woods.

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    3. Very cool, Jon! I like that you looked beyond the badge at the actual car. What are you driving now?

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  12. Yes and the early Buick V-6 was 198 and 225 ci some of them where Aluminum if i am not totally on a Bad Trip

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    1. ~ You are correct --- Thanks

      The Fireball V6 is derived from the 215 V8.
      Makes sense that there are aluminum Fireball V6 motors. Have not seen one.

      Delete
  13. I need to check out the Mazda 5 here...got 3 of them n the family and it's hard to find a low mile early one that gets the good mpg and sport feeling.

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  14. This is probably way too late, but I wanted to point out one typo that I made. My C30 gets 20/30 MPG, not 20/40. Sadly. It's a great car, and such a diamond in the rough. I'd recommend one to anyone who's family situation allows a little hatch. (It does have relatively comfortable seating for 4 adults though.)

    Thanks to K2 for engaging with me for this interview!

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