BY ANDY ENRIGHT
Even though the original C70 was launched way back in 1997, it's still something of a novelty for many to see a sleek and curvaceous Volvo product. The post '06 C70 remains one of the best looking coupe-convertible cars around, its lines doing a good job disguising the long boot that's required to house the roof in cars like this. In fact, it's tough to believe that the C70 rides on Ford's C1 platform, the chassis that it bases the Focus range on. As a used buy, it makes a lot of sense as the only real point counting against the C70 is that its price from new is stretching the limit of what a car of this size and provenance should ask.
Some cars were never particularly good yet somehow wormed their way into the national affection. Just such a car was the MK1 Volvo C70. The first spy shots were seen in 1994 and they were enough to get letters of intent flooding into Volvo dealers. It was good looking and solidly screwed together and this, along with the other Volvo corporate values, were enough for most customers. The fact that it wasn't particularly great to drive was beside the point. Sales were strong and the car lasted right through to 2006.
Its successor is, by any objective measure, a massively superior proposition. Melding the coupe and convertible versions of the old C70 into one car, the 2006 C70 features a folding hard top roof and a sharp chassis. It has also singularly failed to capture the imagination of the market in the way its less able predecessor did. Perhaps this is as a function of improved competitors or the fact that savvy car buyers realised that there wasn't a vast amount of difference between the C70 and the Ford Focus CC in their basic architecture. Nevertheless, the Volvo remains a well respected product. Perhaps aware of the premium pricing issue, Volvo took steps to reduce the C70's perceived cost by introducing keenly-priced 2.0-litre diesel variants in autumn 2007. In late 2009, the car was facelifted with more stylish headlamps, reshaped front wings, in-vogue LED tail lamps, a redesigned instrument panel and plusher fabrics.
What You Get
Unveiled at the 2005 Frankfurt Show, this C70 retains the sleek good looks of its predecessor, but augments the offering with a folding hard top and improved driving manners. With the hood in place, you probably wouldn't guess that the C70 is capable of flipping its lid. The rear deck isn't overly long (the usual giveaway) and the roofline is smooth and beautifully integrated with the rest of the bodywork. The old C70 coupe used to sell within five seconds of customers clapping eyes on it and this generation model has proved similarly successful.
After all, many of the basic ingredients are much the same. The stance and proportioning are similar, it'll still sit four adults in comfort and it still adheres to Volvo's impeccably high safety standards. Volvo developed this C70 to offer new standards of preventive and protective safety in the convertible market, the car including an advanced body structure, greater torsional rigidity and several innovations that make it unique among open-top cars.
An example of this is the door-mounted Inflatable Curtain (IC), part of the C70's integrated Side Impact Protection System (SIPS). As the IC cannot be fitted in the roof, as with the rest of the Volvo range, it has been innovatively fitted in the door to inflate upwards instead of downwards. Volvo's safety engineers have also fine-tuned the IC to be extra stiff, so it can stay upright and help protect the head more effectively. In addition, the curtain then deflates more slowly to provide additional protection if the car rolls over. Also adding to the safety of the car is a torsionally rigid body. Improving the driving experience is another benefit of a stiff chassis and the C70 is stiffer than its predecessor by between 10 and 15 per cent.
What to Look For
The big ticket item to check with the C70 is the hood mechanism. It's one of the more reliable actions of its type but you'll need to make sure everything is working fine and that the boot cassette engages properly in its mount. The underlying mechanicals are tried and tested parts and shouldn't give cause for concern. The interiors are also more hard wearing than most. Check for bumping bumps and scrapes as some C70 customers don't have the best spatial awareness.
(approx based on a 2006 C70 T5) Expect to pay around £175 for a clutch assembly, while front brake pads won't see much change from £70 for a pair, with rears weighing in at a more lightweight £38. You'll be looking at £180 for a radiator and the best part of £200 for a starter motor.
On the Road
In the UK, this C70 was offered from launch with two in-line, five-cylinder petrol engines - the range-topping, turbocharged T5 producing 226bhp and torque of 320Nm, plus a normally aspirated, 2.4-litre unit producing 170bhp. In addition, there's a five-cylinder, 180bhp D5 diesel engine, plus the later addition of a four cylinder 136bhp 2.0D unit. At its introduction, Volvo claimed the C70 to be the only four-seater premium convertible with a folding steel roof and as such, the Swedes believed that they'd stolen an important march on any perceived competition.
The most impressive engine is the D5 common-rail turbo diesel. The 178bhp output indicates strong performance and the 0-60mph sprint of 8.8s is very rapid for a vehicle of the C70's bulk but it's the engine's hefty torque output that defines its on-road character. A muscular 350Nm is generated between 1,750 and 3,250Nm and this endows the car with strong and instantly available acceleration across a wide range of engine speeds. It also helps the D5 work nicely with its 5-speed Geartronic automatic transmission. The gearbox doesn't have to work hard to keep the engine on the boil and it all adds to the tranquil atmosphere inside the C70. The car produces a 38.7mpg combined fuel economy figure and CO2 emissions are pegged at 193g/km. If you don't need all that power, have a lower budget and want to improve emissions, a four cylinder 136bhp 2.0D diesel version is on offer.
The Volvo is no slouch but it's not a particularly rewarding car to drive fast. The pleasure with the C70 is to be gleaned from folding that roof down and going for a leisurely cruise on a sunny day. The throttle response is quite lethargic and the steering isn't particularly rapid but wind-buffeting is minimal when the roof is stowed and engine noise is far from intrusive. It also corners keenly when committed.
The Volvo C70 does a very good job for the sort of customer it's targeted at. These buyers will likely be older, with kids who have left home and would like a feel-good car that doesn't impose tiresome sacrifices. On those counts it's a winner all the way and used examples make access that little bit easier. The D5 diesel is the pick of the bunch but given that many C70s cover very modest mileages, the 2.4-litre petrol models are the most plentiful.