It's sobering how close Volvo and Saab came to joining Mercury, Pontiac, Saturn, Hummer, Plymouth, Isuzu, Daewoo and Oldsmobile on the growing list of recently shuttered brands.
At the last minute, General Motors sold Saab to Spyker, a tiny Dutch sports-car manufacturer. And Ford sold Volvo to Geely, China's largest privately owned automaker.
I hope the latter's the case, as I've seen little evidence that any Chinese manufacturer is ready to do business in the U.S. under its own brand, with its own cars. The best thing Geely can do is watch Volvo and learn. But Sweden is among the most expensive places to build a car and China is among the cheapest. So, if I worked at the Volvo plant in, say, Uddevalla, Sweden, where this test car was assembled, I'd be worried.
Fortunately, politics and posturing did not affect the 2010 Volvo C70, a model I had not driven in several years — time enough to forget how much I like it. The C70 is a four-seat convertible with a retractable hardtop that lowers into the trunk at the touch of a button. Certainly there's something charming about traditional cloth tops, but these retractable hardtops are the best of both worlds — the safety and structural integrity of a coupe and the ability to go topless.
It doesn't hurt that, since its introduction in 1996, the C70 has been the vehicle that led Volvo away from its "boxy but good" reputation for industrial styling.
Inside, the C70 is showing its age a bit. Instruments and controls look a little dated, and the optional, smallish navigation system pops up out of the dash top like an afterthought. Front seats are a bit flat, with less adjustment than I like, but they're certainly adequate. Rear seat room will satisfy two short passengers, especially if those riding upfront are short, too.
Handling is not quite at sports-car levels, but it's very good, and the ride is smooth and surprisingly quiet with the top up. Trunk space is 12.8 cubic feet with the top up, less than half that with it stowed.
The 2010 C70 starts at $39,950, and with options, most of which I could happily do without, the test car listed for $46,550. There will be some styling updates for 2011 — no notable mechanical changes — so I would expect a discount off a 2010's sticker.
This is a good car. Volvo in general, and the C70 in particular, deserve a future. I hope Geely sees it that way.
Test Drive: 2010 Volvo C70 review