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First Drive

Road Test: Volvo C30 Polestar Concept 3dr

Published: 21 May 2010

There are a number of Very Fast Hot Hatches around at the moment. The 350bhp Focus RS500 has just landed. We're getting our hands on the 395bhp Cosworth Impreza very, very soon. And don't forget about the Golf R.

But this might just be the fastest of the bunch.

This is the Volvo C30 Polestar Concept, a 400bhp, all-wheel-drive mini-monster built by Volvo's official Swedish race outfit. And TopGear has just driven it round Volvo's Gothenburg test track...

It is fast. Worryingly fast. One of the very quickest small things we've ever driven. Polestar says the C30 recorded a 0-62mph time of 4.6 seconds... and that was going easy on the transmission. They reckon a full-bore test would see it go close to four seconds flat. It'll lap Volvo's test track quicker than an Evo X... and within a few seconds of Volvo's C30 touring car.

The Polestar C30 uses the 2.5-litre turbo five-pot already found in the T5 (and the Focus ST and RS), but heavily revised and fitted with a larger turbocharger to achieve that 400bhp output. There's less turbo lag than in, say, the Evo FQ400, and once the engine gets spinning past 4,000rpm, things get all warpy and ballistic. Oh, and it sounds like half an old F1 engine. Deafening. Brilliant.

Torque steer? Not a bit of it. The C30 borrows Volvo's tried-and-tested four-wheel-drive system, but Polestar has worked over the differential to give the car a much more rear-wheel-drive flavour. There's masses of grip, but the C30 can be coaxed into gentle oversteer if you stamp on the brakes on the way into a corner. Cue heroic crossed-up exit.

The C30 never feels like it'll deposit you in a barrier, but it's a hell of a lot more involving than, say, that Golf R. In truth, the aggressive diff and brake set-up would probably be deemed a bit lairy for everyday use, but on a twisty road, it's one of the most entertaining cars we've driven in years.

It doesn't look half bad, either. Those ‘eyebrows' over the front arches and kick-up front winglets have been inspired by the C30 touring car, and there's a double spoiler at the rear for added downforce. The cabin isn't quite so successful - there's more suede in here than a Britpop revival night - but the stitchy race seats are lovely, lovely things.

Despite being a concept, the Polestar C30 feels properly bolted together, surviving a day of mechanical test track abuse in the hands of TopGear and Robert Dahlgren, Volvo's touring car ace.

So will it get built? Good question. Polestar already offers a handful of modest engine enhancements for Volvo road cars, but wants to become Volvo's Renaultsport - a performance sub-brand producing proper hot versions in-house.

Whether there's enough demand for fast Volvos to make this a reality remains to be seen, but the bosses at both Polestar and Volvo are keen to find out, with the UK identified as the market most likely to go for a hardcore C30 hot hatch.

Cross those fingers. This could be the start of something excellent.

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