Convertibles. Some say they are the 'Marmite' of the car world. Some say they are pointless in Britain; with an average of 370 days of rain in any year. Some people think that getting the top down is an experience of driving perfection. Me? Well I've never had one, and thought I'd love to find out the crack. I opted for the Volvo C70, because I knew there would be a great engine in it and I've seen the Swedes do flat-pack wardrobes, and was interested to see how a roof could face the same treatment...
One of my largest gripes with convertibles is with the 'soft-top' varieties. I'm not saying they're bad, but they just don't have a high quality look to them. Whilst a Bentley Continental convertible could easily set you back £170,000 it still looks like somebody has put up a tent to cover the driver. What I like about the C70 was the number of times I was questioned when I told people it was a convertible. "Is it?" they would ask, and I like that.
On the outside the C70 looks sleek and executive with the roof up. One reason for this is the length of the car. Because the boot has to house the roof it's rather large, and looking side-on you really do notice this. There is the "C-series" nose as found on both the C30 and C70, and this is sleek, curvy and rather handsome. The rear end of the C70 is more more executive looking; with twin tail pipes and a shark-fin aerial. You get nice alloy wheels and big chunky door handles giving you confidence as to a sturdy build.
The executive aurora continues inside. Open those chunky doors and you are greeted to a very nice cabin indeed. The leather for the seats would not look out of place on the aforementioned Bentley, and the door/dashboard plastics are nice as well. I particularly like the 'floating' centre console with its storage space behind, and its premium layout; simple and functional. The steering wheel is chunky, made of the finest leather too, and sits in your hands nicely. All the controls are in a logical place and do exactly what you would expect them to, and you don't get bored of the sat-nav which pops out of the dash in a wonderful, electric James-Bond-esque fashion.
Handling/Performance - 10/10
Anybody who follows reviews here at Simply Motor will know what I am about to say, and may even have tired of hearing it by now; the diesel engine in this Volvo is sublime. I say that often enough now that people who talk to me needn't even ask how my Volvo's are in terms of the engine.
The C70 I tested had the 2.0-litre D3 engine in it. This means 150PS and 350Nm and this was transferred to the wheels via a 6-speed 'geartronic' (automatic to me and you) transmission. That was plenty in this car and I was never left wanting more. 0-62mph takes 10.9 seconds and the top speed is 127mph. Whilst it isn't mindblowingly fast, it is more than adequate to make the C70 feel fast. The Volvo geartronic gearboxes are good ones, and on planting your right food the C70 surges down the road and up through the gears effortlessly.
With the top down the performance feels more than enough. You get a lovely warble from the 5-pot diesel and a tiny ripple of wind in your hair. The Volvo diesel engines (as I have always said) make a noise unlike any other diesel I have come across, and on a convertible you can really appreciate this to the full extent.
Considering that the C70 is a convertible and thus not as structurally sound as a car with a roof, you certainly won't notice much of a difference through the bends. The big, grippy tyres and sharp steering mean you turn in, and the diesel torque pulls you out the other side. It's that simple. No drama. The C70 makes a great cruiser purely because of the lack of drama. You can waft along effortlessly at 7mph or 70 and not have a care in the world.
Economy - 7/10
The price you pay for opting to have the perfect-for-cruising gearbox is that the emissions are a tad higher. Whereas the manual is 154 g/km (no overly green car itself) the auto clock in at 169g/km CO2 meaning that 12-months road tax will cost you £195. In all honesty you probably won't care but Volvo have some diesel units now which, thanks to start/stop technology, can offer you 150PS for £30 a year. We shall see if the C70 gets some similar treatment in the next year or so. As for actual fuel economy, well the quoted combined figure of 44.1mpg isn't too bad really, but the modern world leaves us forever demanding more miles for fewer gallons, and there may be more efficient options out there in this class.
Practicality - 8/10
One of the biggest plus points of having a metal folding roof is the added practicality. The whole car just feels more solid and usable every day. With the roof up, this car is a no-thrills motorway cruiser that does this job perfectly. However at the flick of a switch it becomes a different kind of cruiser; one that requires a nice road and some classical rock (in my opinion anyway). And I wish to talk for a moment about the flicking of that switch. If you have never seen the c70 fold away its roof I would urge you to see it. It's extremely clever and I never got bored of watching it, or even showing it off to anyone that would watch.
As for other factors, the C70 has plenty of space inside with room for four adults in four proper seats. There is a large boot with the roof up, and a manageable one with it down (although you will struggle to load/unload with it down). Visibility is great all around (and especially so with the roof down) and you can park this car easily thanks to front and rear parking sensors. There's even Volvo's Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) which works a treat and doesn't obscure vision.
As I mentioned a moment ago, the C70 is relatively no-thrills with the roof up. All of this score goes to the moment you put that roof down. It just makes you want to go for a drive with no destination, no time limit, no rush, and no purpose. That for me is what makes a car fun; it makes you want to drive. With so many commuters in the world it's great to have a car that can do this Monday to Friday and then offer you pure thrills on a weekend. However, the reason this isn't a perfect 10 is because of just that. The fun comes when you take the roof down, and here in England you may not get an awful lot of time to do that. This is another plus point for the hard top though, because here you want a normal car most of the time (and a rag-top just ever feels quite there) and the drop-top for a minority. The C70 will meet these needs well.
So how do I sum up then? Well I guess that's rather easy. In a country where it's sunny/warm a lot of the time, the C70 would be a perfect 50 because it's so good as a convertible. However in England it's not sunny/warm a lot of the time, and so it's harder for the C70 to shine. It saves itself because it makes a great motorway cruiser and all round car, so that you can be more than happy with it even if you never get to take the roof down. Then when the sun finally does show itself you can have a blast in the same car. I really liked the C70, but then again I'm yet to find a Volvo I don't like. Some may call it bias, but they truly make great cars. Forget the "old man" image and go drive one, they can easily rival the Germans...
Total Score - 42/50