Volvo's C30 and V50 get a new lease of life with a 2-litre engine that is mated to a twin-clutch transmission
Powertrain perfection

A MID-LIFE upgrade for some car models usually involves the same thing some mature women look for - one or two cosmetic changes. But in Volvo's case, its C30 compact hatch and V50 estate didn't visit a 'plastic surgeon'; they went to the 'cardiologist' instead. 

When the Volvo C30 was introduced here two years ago, and the S40/V50 sedan/estate line about five years back, they had relatively large 2.4 and 2.5-litre five-cylinder engines, both of which were turbocharged. 

It may have taken some time but the Swedish carmaker has finally provided them with a more appropriate displacement for the local market - 2.0 litres. But more interestingly, this new naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine is mated to the latest in gearbox technology - a twin-clutch transmission. 

Powershift is Volvo's name for its new six-speed transmission based on the same principle as other manufacturers' double-clutch systems, such as Volkswagen's DSG and Porsche's PDK. 

This brilliant system can be used in both automatic and manual modes but it is essentially made up of two manual gearboxes with two wet clutches. As one gear is being disengaged, the next gear is already in position, thus providing for an uninterrupted transmission of power and minimal loss of torque. 

Compared with the conventional automatic transmission using a torque converter, the twin-clutch Powershift has faster and crisper gear changes. 

In the two-litre versions of the C30 and S40/V50 (the 2.4 and T5 versions are still available), this means that the more direct changes help to mitigate the smaller engine displacement somewhat. The acceleration of the 2.0 may not be as spirited as the 2.4 or as explosive as the top-of-the-line T5, but it is still perfectly acceptable. 

Powershift is especially entertaining when shifting manually. Slot the gear lever into manual mode for rapid changes that heighten the V50's taut handling and make the five-speed automatic seem almost lazy in comparison. 

There's no doubt that the more enthusiastic nature of Powershift has refreshed the C30, S40 and V50, especially in the case of the last one. This compact wagon may be five years old but the new transmission has given it a new lease of life and made it desirable again. 

More importantly, Powershift offers another advantage - fuel economy. Volvo says the smoother Powershift cuts fuel consumption by 8 per cent in the C30, S40 and V50. It is also a Volvo first for Singapore - we are the first country in the world to get an auto box for the 2.0 engine. 

The new powertrain also means more attractive pricing for the new entry-level versions. The 2.0 versions of the C30, S40 and V50 are between $8,500 and $23,000 less than their more powerful variants. 

Authorised distributor SM Motors expects the demand for the 2.0 to be strong because of the new engine's road tax and fuel consumption implications. It says orders for the S40 and C30 have been especially encouraging because of the attractive pricing.

SPECS

Volvo C30 2.0

Engine 1,999cc inline-4

Transmission 6-speed Powershift twin clutch transmission

Max power 145 hp @ 6,000 rpm

Max torque 185 Nm @ 4,500 rpm

0-100 kmh 9.7 secs

Top speed 205 kmh

Price $91,888 (with COE)

Volvo V50 2.0

Engine 1,999cc inline-4

Transmission 6-speed Powershift twin clutch transmission

Max power 145 hp @ 6,000 rpm

Max torque 185 Nm @ 4,500 rpm

0-100 kmh 9.9 secs

Top speed 205 kmh

Price $104,500 (with COE)

Distributor SM Motors 6473-1488