Archive for VW Scirocco

Volvo C30 – 2006-2012

Posted in Desirable machines, News, Rust in peace with tags , , , on 17/10/2012 by Alexander

Everyone loves to root for the underdog, except when it comes to cars. Ask anyone in the street and they’ll prefer a hugely popular 3-series or C-Class over a less successful, more discrete yet equally competent and reliable non-German alternative. I won’t go into why this is so (it’s badge snobbery, plain and simple), but if it were my money, I’d always, always pick the plucky, unsung outsider over the Teutonic option mass opinion always favours. 5-series, E-Class or A6? Give me a Citroen C6 any day. VW CC or A5 Sportback? Volvo S60 for me, please. A3 or Scirocco? Volvo C30, hands-down.

And it would seem the funky compact Scandinavian has reached the end of the line, as production will be ceasing in December. I’ve always loved the exterior styling, the glass tailgate, the gorgeous minimalist Swedish interior and the range of engines, which ranged from frugal (1.6 litre diesel) to fricking-well fast (the T5!).

But alas, the C30’s production run had issues that hampered its sales performance. First, it was terribly overpriced in its market segment, where it had to contend with the very popular Audi A3 and later, the VW Scirocco. Even though its most sold version, the 1.6 diesel, had a more powerful yet smaller engine than the A3’s 1.9Tdi, the Volvo brand image and a high price drove its main potential customers, i.e., badge conscious young rich brats, into the arms of the four-ringed Golf, I’m sorry, A3. The post-2010 facelifted C30 DRIVe was drastically cheaper than its previous equivalent, but it showed that the C30 could’ve and should’ve been cheaper from the start. Another big factor in the C30’s lack of success was the profound uncertainty that surrounded Volvo’s future when Ford said it wanted to sell off the Swedish brand, and its subsequent sale to Chinese company Geely. It’s hard to sell a certain car when its manufacturer’s viability is in question, as well as being sold to then-unknown foreign owners from a country without much of a reputation for car-manufacturing. Consequently, big chunk of the C30’s production run was during this time of crisis.

I’m very sad to see the C30 go, since it was a car I really wanted to buy back in 2006 when it came out, and if the hiatus between it and the Volvo 480 is indication, will probably mark the last time Volvo will be competing in this segment of the market for a long, long time.


A question of coupés (1)

Posted in Car conception, Crap cars, Desirable machines, General opinions with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 26/01/2011 by Alexander

I’ve been itching to write an entry on coupés for yonks, but I had to make a caveat first. So much so, that this single entry is dedicated to just that: what defines a car as a coupé?

Now, the origins of the term as applied to road vehicles is ancient, dating from horse-drawn carriages, and, like so many other terms (like driving, dashboard and chassis), as you can see for yourselves in the Wikipedia article. But what I’m interested in here is how the term is applied to modern cars, and how I’ll apply the term in this here blog.

To start off, there are certain cars that are called coupé, but actually aren’t really.

  • Two-door hatchbacks (e.g., Fiat Puntos and Audi A3s) – The term ‘two-door hatchback’ says it all. Just because certain greasy-haired thugs like to drive around in them far too fast than they think they can handle and have words like “Sport” and  “GTi” glued onto the back,  that doesn’t confer them the necessary style they need to be considered more than quick city cars.
  • VW Scirocco – Let’s be honest, it’s more of a stunted van than anything else. If anything, I’d say it’s more than the above two-door hatchback designation than a proper coupé.
  • Volvo C30 – Yes, it has a lot of style and is derived from a four-door saloon (S40), but again, it’s closer to the above examples.
  • Porsches, Ferraris and other cars of high-performance ilk – A coupé is all about style and beauty. If what’s under the bonnet and how fast does it go around the Nurburgring is more important than this, it’s a sports car or supercar or whatever.
  • Aston Martins – A grey area. They’re equipped with powerful V8s and V12s, and are meant to go very fast. But they’re not as sharp around tracks as most of their big-engined brethren, and ooze style from every metaphorical pore. Tough one.
  • Japanese sports cars – Take the Mazda MX-6 or the second-generation Nissan 200SX. Or the Datsun Z, for that matter. Are they sports cars or just sport style? Like the Astons, a grey area.  But I’d nudge them towards the sports car section.
  • “Faux-coupés” – I made this term up myself. Just now. With this term, I mean utter automotive crap like the Ford Puma, the Opel/Vauxhall Tigra or the awful Toyota Paseo. No style and no substance.

Coupés are, very basically, style-mobiles. They’re meant to cruise along and make heads turn. It doesn’t matter what’s propelling it, whether it’s a V6 or a 1.6-litre diesel, it’s what  beholders behold that counts. It’s the type of car the driver will slow down to look at him/herself when passing by shop windows, and does it very often for a long time. Having one is like being married to an extremely hot woman. You’ll forgive all the flaws and setbacks every time you just gaze upon the splendour of their looks.

Usually they’re based on a saloon model, and are just prettier, two-door versions of the same car. And the insanity of the thing is that they’re usually more expensive and less practical than their four-door counterparts, yet people still want them. Why? Because, as I’ve tried to press home in the previous paragraph, they look so good. Ask someone and they’ll probably deny it, but driving a good-looking car is incomparable, and I’d venture to say anyone would agree it beats driving a faster yet uglier car.

So that clears that up. Next time I can get on with it and write about specific coupés.

VW Scirocco

Posted in General opinions with tags , , , , on 19/03/2010 by Alexander

When Volkswagen announced they were bringing back the Scirocco, I have little doubt that it brought a a smile to the faces of most car enthusiasts. Personally, I’ve always had VW’s coupés in high regard. I’ve always thought the original Scirocco to be very cool, and the Corrado was something that, as a teen in the early 90’s while the Corrado was still in production, I imagined myself driving one day. So news of the Scirocco’s return bode well indeed. And the first pictures of it certainly led me to believe the auto world was in for a cracking car. The styling cues were in line with VW’s current trend, which I personally find very satisfying. The aesthetic choices regarding both the Golf and the Polo are spot on, and the same brand DNA shows through on the Scirocco. The Scirocco takes the styling a step further away from the mundane with its strong, outward shoulders, something that accentuates the sportiness of the coupé-shape. The shoulderline itself is also very contemporary, following the current zeitgeist, which all cars seem to have nowadays.

If there’s anything I’ve always liked about Volkswagens, it’s the interiors. They’re always so well-made, and so good-looking, and simply just such nice places to be. I get the same impression from the Scirocco, from both the photographs and peeking in the windows of ones parked in the street. But – and here’s the first but – VW seems to think it’s a good idea to add chrome framing around bits of the interior. Mind you, this is a sin nearly all car manufacturers are guilty of, as the logic seems to be that the more chromed bits you have on a car, whether it’s on the inside or outside, the more upmarket it seems. How bits of plastic painted with mirror-like reflecting paint and randomly glued on a car makes it seem better is beyond me. Another VW, the fantastic Passat CC, is also a victim of this practice, and this gives the interior a much more chintzy, nouveau-riche feel than it deserves.

My biggest disappointment regarding the Scirocco is that it’s one of those cars that in pictures, it looked absolutely mouth-watering, while in real life, it looks… how should I put this… odd. And on trying to analyse why this should be, I come to the conclusion that the rear of the car could and should look better. That back window is just too vertical, and hinders that sweeping coupé form. It’s something that I don’t really fancy on both the Golf and the Polo, but on them, they make sense, because they’re predominantly utilitarian cars. The more vertical back window makes it easier to lug cargo into the boot, thus making the car more practical, but it’s a rule of thumb that coupés are impractical, non-family vehicles. No-one should really care about being able to get a chest of drawers in the boot, and no-one would want to if that means that car has to look like a brick.

So in the face of more-or-less direct competition, like the Volvo C30 or Renault Megane, the Scirocco doesn’t cut it. Because if you’re not buying a coupé for its looks, what else other reason is there to want it?