Volvo C70 D3 150PS Geartronic SE Lux Solstice road test review by Oliver Hammond

Another week, another convertible car on test. This time, it was the turn of a sexy Swede with enough spec’ to worry most of its rivals, along with a supposedly economical diesel engine, mated to an automatic gearbox. Sounds like a great recipe for effortless roof-down cruising…

Volvo C70 D3 150PS Geartronic SE Lux Solstice road test review by Oliver Hammond - Ashley Cheshire photo

Exterior

Discerning motorists with good taste couldn’t help but admire the original Volvo C70’s sexy, svelte styling, sumptuous interior and sensational sound system. Full marks to Peter Horbury and his team. Its profile was boosted by appearing in The Saint with Val Kilmer. The C70 coupe and convertible went on to find a loyal fan base. Then from 2006 and beyond, when Volvo’s designs were becoming even more daring, modern and downright irresistible with cars such as the C30, V60 and XC60, the newly-designed C70 with its folding hardtop roof ticked all the boxes for many people. In 2010 the C70 was given a facelift to keep it in line with the evolving and ever-more-distinctive face of the rest of the range. To me, the latest C70 looks fabulous, especially from the side, the back and the rear three quarters. It took me a little longer to get used to its nipped and tucked face but I have now warmed to it and have to agree that it does look sharper. The whole car looks very elegant indeed and its design is well balanced to appeal to both sporty and conservative buyers in equal measure. The latest styling has very effectively preserved the spirit of the original model, whilst ensuring the C70 is able to roll up its sleeves and compete with the hardtop cabriolet BMW 3 Series and also premium wannabes like the Peugeot 308CC and Volkswagen Eos, which is often said to be the one to beat.

I was actually testing the SE Lux Solstice special edition model, which sits at the top of the current C70 D3 pecking order, above the SE Lux Nav models. The Solstice edition gives you splendid 18” Morpheus alloys, very soft leather seats, keyless drive, metallic paint, Volvo’s BLIS blind spot safety system, heated front seats and an electrically adjustable passenger seat, Premium Sound audio, sat nav with two annual map updates included and front parking sensors.

Volvo C70 D3 150PS Geartronic SE Lux Solstice road test review by Oliver Hammond - roof folding photo

Not everyone who saw the C70 realised that it wasn’t just a coupe, so were pleasantly surprised when I folded the roof back. Incidentally, it does so with grace and mechanical impressiveness and takes less than 30 seconds. The C70 looks just as beautiful with the roof down as it does with it up. Perhaps the only slight dampener is the old-fashioned black aerial sticking out at the back.

Interior & Practicality

Having driven a fair few Volvos lately, I can categorically say that they make beautiful interiors. For a start, the black leather seats with white contrast stitching in this C70 were sumptuously soft, to the point where I admit I stroked them quite a lot during my week with the car! Officially, they come as part of the Solstice version of the C70 and are called “Sovereign Hide Soft Leather Upholstery” – very apt.

Volvo C70 D3 150PS Geartronic SE Lux Solstice road test review by Oliver Hammond - Ashley Cheshire photo centre dash photo

The steering wheel is chunky and very tactile, the short gear shifter is robust and ergonomic too, as are each and every one of the other controls and switchgear. Jeremy Clarkson once raved about the Range Rover’s use of large, simple buttons which can be operated whilst wearing gloves – and the C70’s buttons and controls are very much of the same ilk. I prefer form over fancy aesthetics in this case, so well done Volvo for sticking to their minimalist interiors.

The black soft-touch dashboard looked a bit boring but it’s going to last, that’s for sure. The instrument dials have been jazzed up a bit with Aluminium watch-dial surrounds and lovely back-lighting. And the now-very-familiar floating centre console is present in the C70, never failing to impress Volvo virgins with its cool, unique design. It also means you can use the recess behind it for extra storage. Talking of which, the C70’s cabin played host to an impressive array of useful compartments, from the large cubby under the centre armrest, the abundance of cupholders and the decent glovebox (not half taken up by the airbag, like it was in the last (French) convertible I drove), to the hidden storage bins in the front and rear doors, which I thought were a really nice, surprising bonus touch to discover.

Volvo C70 D3 150PS Geartronic SE Lux Solstice road test review by Oliver Hammond - Ashley Cheshire photo storage photo

Boot space with the roof up is best described as adequate, as there are quite a few roof-related obstructions present to hinder a more pleasant experience. For example, you need to fold back a plastic cover in order to carry taller items, and space at the sides is restricted by hinges and the like. The wind deflector and spare tyre also took up valuable space. But to my surprise, despite it being far from the perfect boot, my wife and I managed to fit all our weekly shopping in, although we were a bit nervous about the surfaces on which we’d placed some of the bags. Fold the roof down and a heck of a lot of the boot space is taken up. To increase the otherwise letterbox-shaped space available, you can press a big yellow button which cleverly raises the folded roof a tad, to improve access. On the whole, the C70 boot is definitely best for occasional use. Think average-size soft holdall bags, not suitcases.

The conventional handbrake let the interior of the C70 down somewhat, with its positioning, naff feeling and the mere fact other Volvos and makes typically have electronic parking brakes fitted nowadays. The seatbelts are positioned quite a long way back, as you would expect from such a coupe-style car, and rear occupants often found themselves having to unsnag the belts and pull them along their runners, to free up their access to the back seats. But the mind-blowing Dolby Pro Logic II Premium Sound system more than made up for it. Volvo stereos have always been revered and true to form, this one suffered from no distortion at all when I cranked a seriously bassy song up to full volume.

Volvo C70 D3 150PS Geartronic SE Lux Solstice road test review by Oliver Hammond - Ashley Cheshire photo boot space practical photo

The sat nav screen automatically erects itself when the ignition is turned on and although the display looks a bit dated, the actual system works really well and allows full postcode input. It can be operated either by the remote control or the buttons behind the steering wheel, and the male voice sounds very much like Benedict Cumberpatch, which may sway some female sales! It’s a tremendously safe car, too, with the usual raft of Volvo safety acronyms, including BLIS which displays an orange light every time a car enters your blind spot, ROPS, the roll-over protection system and the inflatable air curtains along the sides, to name but a few.

On the road

Open the long, heavy door via keyless entry, tug it shut, nestle down into the superbly comfortable driver’s seat, slot the key into the dash, turn it, and the D3 engine fires into life quite subtly for a diesel, I must say. Especially once it’s had the chance to warm up, my goodness it’s a smooth operator. The engine noise remains relatively subdued at any speed and the cabin is a remarkably relaxing place to be.

Volvo C70 D3 150PS Geartronic SE Lux Solstice road test review by Oliver Hammond - photo Embsay Skipton photo

Pootle around town and the C70 is as comfy as driving around in your favourite armchair with your beloved slippers on. Bury your foot into the carpet and there’s a bit of turbo lag before the car kicks down, and no, the D3 engine doesn’t come with any fireworks and isn’t the feistiest diesel unit out there – but the smooth power delivery is seriously impressive, and you couldn’t justifiably call it a slouch. It’s the perfect engine for balancing munching away motorway miles with dawdling around town or heading out on a windy A-road route. It’s even possible to have a modest amount of fun, giving it the beans on straight country lanes, or powering out of junctions on sharp lock. Volvo’s latest diesel engines sound slightly off-beat and this is a good thing, as the D3 still sounds great at times, especially when compared to gruff French and VAG diesel engines. Third and fourth gears were nice and punchy, allowing for some confident overtaking moves. I’m a power freak but even I could quite happily enter into a long and happy relationship with this 150PS D3 engine, ignoring the D4 option above it in the range.

The whole aura about the C70 is absolutely wonderful, especially if you love wafting as opposed to hurtling. The ride is majestically soft most of the time, matching the moderately-mannered engine. Roof up, the car dispatched potholes and bad surfaces with ease, only becoming unsettled by standing water. Driving with the roof down, some scuttle shake was evident on poor surfaces and at speed, but no more so than in other hardtop convertibles I’ve driven lately. The steering might be too light and a bit woolly for some, but I felt it matched the car’s overall demeanour and personality. The gearbox proved silkily smooth, too, working with the car’s other components to deliver a blissfully relaxing ride. Unlike another hardtop convertible I drove recently, the C70 actually felt like a convertible from the driver’s seat, as the windscreen didn’t arch right over my head.

Volvo C70 D3 150PS Geartronic SE Lux Solstice road test review by Oliver Hammond - Ashley Cheshire BLIS photo

Volvo quote average fuel consumption of 44.1mpg for the D3 with the automatic gearbox, but having driven the car relatively economically during its stay with me, I only managed an average of 37mpg – not disastrous when compared to the official figure, but it did make me wonder if one of the rival makes would be better if I had a consistently long daily commute. CO2 emissions of 169g/km looked a lot at first glance and indeed they are slightly higher than the BMW 320d with an automatic transmission, which produces 149g/km. The 2-litre diesel BMW is also more powerful than the C70, but the list price is quite a bit more than the Volvo. A 2-litre diesel Volkswagen Eos with a 6-speed DSG automatic gearbox also emits less CO2 (139g/km) than the Volvo C70 D3 150PS, but it’s got slightly less power. The 150PS D3 Geartronic (automatic) Solstice is in VED tax band H, costing £275 for the first year then £195 per year after that. The 60-litre fuel tank in the diesel C70 is curiously 2 litres smaller than the T5 petrol model’s. If you’re a business driver, you’ll be keen to know that BIK for the model I tested is 24%.

In Summary

At £36,060, the 150PS Volvo D3 SE Lux Solstice isn’t cheap in general terms and costs more than the equivalent Volkswagen Eos, but offers more of a premium image and a bit more exclusivity. A similarly-specified BMW 3 Series convertible will cost in excess of £40,000 going by official prices – so like with any car, it’s all down to finding a deal to suit you at the time. I recently drove the 1.6-litre diesel hardtop convertible Peugeot 308CC and although its interior is actually very nice indeed, for me the Volvo still wins out of the two and image-wise I’d choose a C70 over both an Eos and a 3 Series. Focusing on the C70, I really took to the 150PS D3 engine option and thought it teamed up with the 6-speed Geartronic ‘box very well, so wouldn’t particularly recommend you look at the D4 engine unless you want 22 more horses. And at just £1,750 more than the lowest-spec’ C70 with the same engine, choosing the Solstice edition seems to make a whole lot of sense as you actually get over £6,000 worth of extra kit for that.

Volvo C70 D3 150PS Geartronic SE Lux Solstice road test review by Oliver Hammond - driving shot

The C70 D3 is definitely a car for cruising, come rain or shine – so if you’re after a sporty ride, perhaps the 3 Series would be better for you. If you’ve got a family or carry a lot of gubbins, the C70 is also better suited as a second or weekend car, as the boot space with the roof down is poor and access is a bit fiddly. As long as you’re aware of the kind of car it is and what its limitations are, you’ll love the C70 as it can’t help but leave you with a warm, fuzzy feeling, no matter how long or short the journey you go on. If you’re not bothered about boot space and want to get straight down to some effortless posing, not having to worry that every other Tom, Dick and Harry has the same common car, seriously consider the C70. It’s very good.

© Oliver Hammond
Motoring Writer, Road Test Reviewer & Car Consultant
 

Specification of the Volvo C70 D3 150PS Geartronic SE Lux Solstice model tested in this review

Engine: 1,984cc, Transverse – 20 valve, 5 cylinder, Common rail direct injection
Transmission: 6-speed Geartronic automatic
Max Output: 150bhp
Max Torque: 350Nm @ 1500–2750rpm
Top Speed: 127mph
0-60mph: 10.3 seconds
Combined fuel economy: 44.1mpg
Fuel tank capacity: 60 litres
CO2 Emissions: 169g/km, Euro V
Tax Band VED: H (first year £275, subsequent years £195)
Gross Weight: 2,150kg
Max Towing Weight (braked): 1,500kg
Boot capacity: 404 litres (roof up), 200 litres (roof down)
Dimensions: 4,365mm long, 1,836mm wide including mirrors, 1,639mm high

Standard Specification includes (but not limited to):

Dual Stage Driver and Passenger Airbags
Passenger Airbag Cut Off Switch
SIPS (Side Impact Protection System)
SIPS Airbags
IC (Inflatable Curtains – Door Mounted)
ROPS (Roll Over Protection System)
WHIPS (Whiplash Protection System)
ABS (Anti-lock Brake System) with EBD (Electronic Brake Distribution)
and EBA (Electronic Brake Assistance)
DSTC (Dynamic Stability and Traction Control)
4 Three Point Seat Belts
Seat Belt Pre-tensioners (Front and Rear)
ISOFIX Attachment (Rear Seats)
Anti-theft Alarm including Immobiliser, Volume Sensor and Level Sensor
Key Integrated Remote Control Central Locking including Fuel Flap
with Deadlocking System
Keyless Drive
Auto Open/Close for Windows
Tinted Windscreen
Visible VIN Plate
Day Running Lights
Headlight Levelling System
High Level LED Brake Light
Side Marker Illumination
Home Safe and Approach Lighting
IDIS (Intelligent Driver Information System)
Warning Triangle
BLIS (Blind Spot Information System)
Metallic Paint
18″ Morpheus Alloy Wheels (Silver Bright) – 235/40 R18 Tyres
Locking Wheel Nuts
Tyre Sealant Kit and Compressor
Active Bending Xenon Lights with Headlight Cleaning System
Front Fog Lights
Power Adjustable and Heated Door Mirrors
Autofolding Power Door Mirrors with Ground Lights
Colour Co-ordinated Door Mirrors
Speed Dependent Interval Wiper Function
Rain Sensor – Automatic Windscreen Wiper Activation
RHT (Retractable Hard Top)
Twin Exhaust Pipes
Rear Park Assist
Front Park Assist

Options fitted to this particular press car included:

Geartronic Automatic Transmission £1,485

Aluminium Trim, including Leather Sports Steering Wheel with Aluminium, Gear Knob with Aluminium Insert and Leather Handbrake Lever £250

Subwoofer (2 x 6.5″ Subwoofer with 2 x 130 W Amplifier) £225

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