Volvo C70 Convertible (1999 - 2006) review

BY ANDY ENRIGHT

Introduction

The Volvo C70 Convertible is a car that has virtually slipped from the popular radar. Part of the reason is that it's been with us for so long, launched as it was way back in 1999. Even then, it was a development of the C70 Coupe, a car that had been in circulation for a good while longer. Despite this, it has sold steadily and been a quiet success story for the Swedish company. Instrumental in reminding customers that a Volvo could have curves and look glamorous, the C70 Convertible makes a sensible used buy as long as you keep your eyes open.

Models

Models Covered: (2dr convertible, 2.0, 2.3, 2.4 petrol [GT, Collection])

History

Although spy shots of the C70 were circulating way back in 1994, the C70 coupe was officially launched in the UK in June 1997. This proved popular and it was surprising that it took another couple of years for its soft top sibling to materialise. Volvo perhaps missed the boat a little in this respect, as the initial hue and cry had died down and pre-launch buzz for the E46 BMW 3 Series Convertible managed to depress the market for C70 Convertibles still further. Volvo were patient enough to play the long game with the C70 Convertible and alongside the 240bhp T5 version and 193bhp 2.4T models, Volvo subsequently slotted in a budget 2.0-litre 163bhp entry-level convertible model in December 1999. GT versions arrived in 2000 and a plush Collection limited edition was launched in May 2004 with exclusive alloy wheels and a leather trimmed interior. Just 300 examples made these shores. The first generation C70 Convertible was always scheduled to be replaced by an all-new C70 with a folding hard top in the second half of 2006.

What You Get

The Convertibles are very agreeable transport. For a start, like its Coupe stablemate, the styling looks great, with uncluttered lines thanks to a hood that slips neatly beneath a metal tonneau cover. British Designer Peter Horbury jokes that it's the best looking topless Swede since Sixties movie star Anita Ekberg: most will agree. Volvo claims that the electrically folding roof is one of the most technologically advanced available. It's operated via a single dashboard button: no hooks, no attachments, no broken fingernails or grazed knuckles. Just a silent transformation that occupies just thirty seconds. With the hood up, the only problem is a lack of visibility through the rather small rear window. Better to fold it down at every opportunity, a process which conceals the soft-top and its glass electrically heated rear window out of sight behind the rear seat. The roof is available in four different colours to match the chosen body colour and an optional wind deflector (well worth specifying) can also be fitted behind the front seats. The wind deflector isn't the cleverest looking thing, but it's undoubtedly effective. There's also an 'intelligent' climate control system and a sophisticated 10-speaker stereo to keep you cool when it's hot and hot when it's cool. All models now come with leather upholstery, cruise control and interior wood inserts.

What You Pay

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What to Look For

Whilst the C70 shares its mechanicals with that old workhorse of the nineties Volvo range, the 850, it's unlikely that you'll need to check them for towing stress or load bay damage caused by antique Ottoman chests. The C70 will have led a far more pampered life, although the front tyres and shock absorbers on all models, but especially the T5, are worth inspecting. Also check that the hoods are in good operating condition as they employ a large number of electric motors which are easily damaged by anybody attempting to lower the hood manually. Sounds idiotic but it happens, especially if the car has been used by a number of drivers. The basic mechanicals of the car are sound, but try to get one with a decent main dealer service record. The only other prime area of concern regards residuals, affected by news of the replacement model.

Replacement Parts

(approx based on a 1999 2.3 T5 Convertible) Spares for the C70 are on the whole fairly reasonably priced. A clutch assembly is £150, whilst a new exhaust system is around £260. Front brake pads won't see much change from £70 for a pair, whilst rears weigh in at a more lightweight £38. You'll be looking at £140 for a radiator and the best part of £150 for a starter motor. A headlamp unit is £160 for the complete kit or around £40 for a replacement lens.

On the Road

This car actually benefits from considerable British influence - and not only from the design team. The original project was master-minded by Tom Walkinshaw Racing and if they'd had similar success with his Arrows F1 team, they may now have been challenging for a podium position. TWR, you may remember, were also the team that took the boxy Volvo 850 and turned it into a race-winning force in the British Touring Car Championship. The Kidlington-based operation specialises in chassis engineering; drive the C70 and it shows. The enthusiastic driver will find plenty to entertain, without any of the temperament that's exciting on your favourite twisty country lane but irritating just about everywhere else. Turn-in is crisp; only the ride quality could be slightly better. To be fair, since the C70 Coupe is more a Grand Tourer than a sportscar, it would be unreasonable to expect anything different from its soft-top stablemate. Lazy steering and a manual gearbox that doesn't like to be hurried discourage really over-enthusiastic use - though there's very little body-shake over uneven surfaces. No, this car is at its best in cruising mode. The 2.4-litre model with automatic transmission would probably be an ideal choice.

Overall

A Volvo C70 convertible is a good choice for those who might otherwise look at soft-top Mercedes CLK, Audi Cabriolet or Saab 9-3 Convertible. The 2.4T cars are the most impressive, combining a fair amount of power with a sweet, tractable and reasonably fuel-efficient engine. Don't think the T5 models will keep up with BMW M3s or Audi S4s on twisty roads, but instead buy one if you want to over big distances quickly. As long as you can live with the image of the C70 Convertible as a car driven by ladies of a certain age, there's no reason why you shouldn't find one an enjoyable and reliable choice.