Volvo's low-key C30 hot hatch could once subdue VW's Golf GTI

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2013 C30 Polestar Limited Edition
2013 C30 Polestar Limited Edition
Volvo Media

The Volvo C30 T5's stock turbocharged 2.5-litre 5-cylinder engine made 169kW and 320Nm.

• Swedish performance division Polestar increased power to 186kW and 370Nm with re-optimised ignition, fuel maps, and performance software.

Volvo launched the C30 range in 2006, the same time VW and Ford had their Golf 5 GTI and Focus ST225 models.

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The hot hatch game has changed monumentally in the last couple of decades.

Back in the 2000s, the hot hatch segment was the most at its most fruitful. The likes of Ford, Opel, and Mazda had their Focus ST, Astra OPC and MPS representatives, respectively, all vying for the crown of the fastest hot hatch.

Fast-forward to present day, and none of the mentioned automakers currently offer a hot hatch anymore. Now, even the likes of Hyundai has a full-blooded version in the form of the i30 N.

Back then, Volkswagen was starting to come into their own with the fifth-generation Golf GTI, and ensuing other models would later go on to become one of the best-sellers not only in South Africa, but the world.

Volvo's secret weapon

While petrolheads will fondly remember those 'heavy-hitters', there was one model from Sweden that was somewhat off the grid and boasted the credentials to go up against, and well surpass what was on offer at the time.

With Volvo entirely focused on building sustainable vehicles for the future, do you think they'll ever produce another performance hatch? Please email us, or share your thoughts in the comments section below.

People generally know Volvo for building the safest vehicles globally, with popular models like the XC SUV range and S90 sedan as some of the most notable. Safety aspect aside, they had a secret weapon brewing. The C30 first launched in 2006, around the same time VW and Ford had their Golf 5 GTI and Focus ST225 models.

In stock 1.6, 1.8, 2.0-litre and even 2.4-litre trim, the hatch is pretty meek with power ratings from 74 to 125kW, but the ante gets turned up with the T5. It featured a turbocharged 2.5-litre 5-cylinder engine (the same one used in the MK2 Focus RS) that made 169kW and 320Nm in stock trim.

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Furthermore, its Swedish performance division, Polestar, increased power to 186kW and 370Nm through increased boost and re-optimised ignition, fuel maps, and performance software. This model was sold in limited numbers and only for a year-long period from 2012 to 2013.

Thinking ahead

On paper, both C30 variants had the performance credentials to take on offerings of that time - the only thing was that many people flocked for more 'established' hot hatches, not knowing that what Volvo had was equally impressive, if not, better.

The eighth-generation Golf GTI only now has boasts 180kW, but that is because the GTI is one of VW's favourite children and spent plenty of time turning it into a complete hot hatch.

Volvo knew that SUVs would be their bread and butter for the future and instead directed resources there. They are the first significant premium brand to commit to a hybrid or full-electric powertrain for all its models. By 2025, they aim to sell one million electrified cars while launching five full-electric models between 2021 and 2025.

If Volvo wants to compete with the best out there again, it will have to be in electrified form. The brand is already capitalising on an ever-evolving motoring landscape, and who knows what the automaker might have in store for us.

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