Summer may be the usual time for convertibles, but the stylish, capable Volvo C70 is a car for all seasons.
With a three-piece, steel hardtop, the 2012 C70 looks good, rides well and offers a secure, pleasant driving environment year round. In fact, when the roof was up and in place on the C70 test car, passers-by didn't realize this Volvo was a convertible at all.
Best of all, the Swedish-built C70 is a recommended buy of Consumer Reports, with reliability listed as above average.
It has numerous safety features, too. While federal government crash tests have not included the C70, the 2012 car has three types of air bags for front-seat passengers -- frontal, side-seat and head curtain air bags. Dynamic stability traction control, automatic height-adjusting front shoulder belts, anti-whiplash front head restraints and a rollover protection system also are standard, while a blind spot monitor system and rear park assist are options.
The 2012 C70 also has a lower starting retail price than other luxury convertibles. Specifically, manufacturer's suggested retail price, including destination charge, is $41,325 for a base, two-door C70 with 227-horsepower, turbocharged, five-cylinder engine and Geartronic automatic transmission with Auto Stick, shift-it-yourself function. The shifting does not require use of a manual clutch pedal.
Competitors include the 2012 Audi A5 Cabriolet that has a starting retail price of $43,475 with 211-horsepower, turbocharged four cylinder and continuously variable transmission. And the 2012 BMW 328i Convertible has a starting retail price of $48,495 with 230-horsepower, six-cylinder engine and manual transmission.
Note that the C70 for 2012 includes a new Inscription package that adds a higher-powered, turbocharged, five-cylinder engine producing 250 horsepower and more torque than the standard C70 engine. This powerplant was in the C70 test car, and boosted the base price, before other options, to $45,225.
The C70 is an oft-overlooked Volvo model in a showroom of more family-oriented vehicles. But C70 sales in the United States in the last calendar year shot up to 10,672 from fewer than 4,000 the year before. Maybe buyers see the C70 as it was marketed at its 2006 debut -- as a sexy Volvo.
Instead of a lightweight fabric roof, the C70's top is smooth metal and exceptional at keeping outside sounds from the interior. Instead of folding down when not in use, the metal roof stacks its three pieces, one atop the other, into part of the trunk.
Though Volvo has had a complicated path of late -- it was originally a Sweden-based company, then was bought by Ford Motor Co. and then jettisoned in 2010 to the Chinese firm Geely Holding Group -- the 2012 C70 tester felt very much like a Volvo of the past decade.
It had Volvo's trademark strong turbo power, safety equipment and inscrutable radio controls on the center stack of the dashboard. Also, the leather front bucket seats were comfortable, fatigue-free resting spots for which Volvo is known. These attractive seats and the minimalist-appearing interior design help set the interior of the C70 apart from competitors.
While there were plenty of features in the C70, many aren't openly displayed or gussied up with shiny silver bits. Rather, C70 controls are rather unadorned. Analog gauges almost seem understated compared with larger, glitzier gauges in other cars.
Just 3 inches longer, from bumper to bumper, than a Honda Civic sedan, the two-door, 2012 C70 is a maneuverable 15 feet long. Steering is light, and the suspension is midway between firm and soft. There's enough softness so passengers notice weight transfer on mountain curves, but riding on broken pavement is not a harsh experience.
Front-seat riders in the C70 have good legroom of 42.3 inches, which is more than the 41.2 in the front seat of the Audi A5 Cabrio. Front-seat headroom in the C70 is a commendable 38.2 inches with the roof on, compared with the Audi's 40 inches.
The two back seats are a bit tight but still usable.
The C70 beats both the Audi and BMW 328i Convertible in trunk space, with 12.8 cubic feet available when the roof is up and 6 cubic feet when the roof is down.
C70 engines have traditional turbo lag when a driver wants to accelerate, especially in quick, demanding circumstances.
At times, the test car's uplevel 2.5-liter, double overhead cam, 250-horsepower five cylinder created torque steer, which is an unnerving pulling of the wheels to one side or the other at startup from a stop. Hang on to the steering wheel.
Torque in this uplevel Inscription engine peaks at 273 foot-pounds starting at a very low 1,500 rpm. This is 37 more pound feet than the torque in the base C70 engine.
City/highway combined mileage was just barely 19 miles per gallon compared with the government's estimate of 21 mpg.
One concern: The navigation screen that rose from a slot atop the dashboard was controlled by a handheld remote control. The test car's remote allowed the driver to input destination addresses and other info while driving. It was a dangerous distraction.
2012 Volvo C70 Inscription
BASE PRICE: $40,450 for base T5 model; $44,350 for Inscription model.
PRICE AS TESTED: $51,570.
TYPE: Front-engine, front-wheel-drive, four-passenger, subcompact, hardtop convertible.
ENGINE: 2.5-liter, dual overhead cam, turbocharged, intercooled five cylinder with CVVT.
MILEAGE: 18 mpg (city), 28 mpg (highway).
TOP SPEED: NA.
LENGTH: 180.4 inches.
WHEELBASE: 103.9 inches.
CURB WEIGHT: 3,837 pounds.
BUILT AT: Sweden.
OPTIONS: Platinum package (includes Volvo premium sound, navigation system, key-free ignition, rear park assist, compass, Homelink garage/gate opener) $3,600; climate package (includes heated front seats, humidity sensor, rain sensor) $1,000; blind spot information system $700; Black Sapphire metallic exterior paint $550; wind blocker $495.
DESTINATION CHARGE: $875.