Volvo C70 T5 | Shed of the Week

Five-pot warble in a cost-effective convertible. Just make sure that folding roof works…

By Tony Middlehurst / Friday, April 9, 2021 / Loading comments

Last week poor old Shed got a pasting for not noticing that the door of the Fiat 500 he had chosen to talk about was a different colour to the rest of it. He’s now fretting about the fact that, to his gummy old eyes at least, the passenger side door of this week’s shed looks different to the rest of that side of the car. Is that right, or are his eyes playing tricks again? And does the offside rear roof section look a bit different too, or is the plum wine kicking in?

It doesn’t matter really because, hardened by many years of personal abuse, Shed is thick-skinned enough to handle any pelters that may come his way. Especially when the vehicle he’s talking about is an otherwise sound looking C70 T5 Volvo featuring the evocative five-pot warble of a 217hp 2.5-litre turbo, a swish leather interior, a clean(ish) MOT with the ink still wet and an electric roof that actually works, all for £1,275. What can possibly go wrong?

Well, the electric roof for a start. Mk1 C70s had fabric tops, but when this first-year Mk2 C70 came out in 2006, folding metal ones were all the rage. Later, they became the cause of rage when owners started to discover all the ways in which they could be annoyed by them. Rattles and squeaks. Blocked drains. Fried motors. Snagging tonneaus. Leaking hydraulic hoses, rams and pumps. Non-aligning frames. Non-dropping windows. Seals that didn’t stop water getting into the boot. Non-releasing catches that stopped you getting into the boot. A maddening bonging telling you that the roof wasn’t locked down.

More than one firm has made a healthy living out of diagnosing and rectifying those faults, rarely cheaply. Commercially speaking, the real beauty of the C70 roof was that you were never short of possible faults to investigate. Probably the best one was when the top didn’t quite make it through its full opening/closing cycle. Nothing says ‘I’m an idiot’ better than having to drive slowly down the high street on a soggy November day with your roof jammed half open. In between the back seats was an emergency cover that you could use ‘in the event of battery failure’. It was almost like they knew there were going to be problems.

The other issue with steel roofs on convertibles is that metal is almost always heavier than cloth. Carrying that burden along with extra reinforcing bars in the doors made these C70 T5s too lardy at over 1,700kg to be 217hp-quick. Geartronic autos like this one were supposedly quicker through the 0-62mph than the six-speed manuals, but you were still only talking about 8.0 seconds versus 8.2 seconds, and you did have to wait until 5,000rpm for peak power. On the positive side, your 236lb ft of torque came in at 1,500rpm, confirming the C70’s lounge lizard positioning in the Volvo range. Not the best use of a fine engine perhaps, but in fairness to Volvo they weren’t the only manufacturers who were sold this tin pup. Volkswagen (Eos), Audi (A5), BMW (3 and 4 Series), Peugeot (206CC) and others all got egg on their corporate faces thanks to these contraptions.

The seller of this C70 assures us that the roof and windows all work as the designer hoped they might have done, and they welcome any inspection too, although they do quickly add that no warranty is offered or implied. Which you may think is fair enough: it’s a cheap car, after all. The MOT is good for a year, the only notes on the certificate being some non-driver’s view windscreen damage, a non-excessive oil leak and a worn rear tyre. Chicken feed, really.

You do need to be careful though. These C70s were Volvos, so they had Geartonic automatic transmissions, not the world’s best. Because they were based on the V50 they could have some of that car’s specific faults – like washer pumps leaking onto the loom, too-easily overfilled sumps, and electrical issues with (among other things) the anti-skid and sound systems – on top of its own ones. Then there was all the other stuff that any car could have, like broken springs and suspension issues that could lead to uneven tyre wear. 2008-on C70s had better reliability, but this is a 2006 car. 

From a comfort perspective, you’d want the 17in wheels that came on the SE (which this car is advertised as) rather than the 18s that were standard on the SE Lux. Even the SE had leather seats, but remember this is a close relative of the V50, not the V70, so don’t expect big-bottomed luxury. The flying centre console brought over from the V50 is a matter of personal preference, but the C70’s curtain airbags that deployed from the door tops even when the roof was down (here’s proof), deliberately or otherwise, were a clever touch. The ROPS mini rollover bars were nice to have too. The official combined fuel consumption was 31mpg, and you might get that if you chased the torque rather than the power.

There it is then, a brave choice maybe, but if all is good, a potentially sweet little top-down cruiser on a sunny – or, if you’re unlucky, rainy – day.

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