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Face off: Volkswagen Scirocco R Line vs Volvo C30 R-Design

"Any colour as long as it's black" just doesn't cut it any more. Two off-the-beaten-track coupé/hatch offerings have just confirmed that by giving buyers even more customisation options with their own cosmetic packages.

Volvo C30 R-Design and Volkswagen Scirocco R Line
Image Credit: Christopher List/ANM

Choice. People want choice, even if they don't need it. Go to any online car configurator, and you can spend three hours just mixing and matching the interior/exterior colours.

Unfortunately most of those colours are shades of grey which tell the world just what a boring person you are.

Thankfully the Swedes happen to be an interesting bunch; one of their delicacies is basically rotten herring. Also, I've heard they have an aversion to wearing shoes — which is why their cars reflect that sort of quirkiness. Just look at the Saab 96 with the freewheeling clutch, or the two-stroke jobbies before that. The Lego-block Volvos of the same vintage don't even need a mention. It carries on today, a bit, to the sales brochure of the Volvo C30; an awesome hatch thwarted by only its slight lack of interior equipment and high price. You can have it in bright blue, red, orange, all colours which have nothing to do with grey. Volkswagen's brilliant Scirocco is even better, offering options of luminous, presumably glow-in-the-dark green and two shades of blue.

But that's not enough; we want more. And we got more, with the introduction of Volvo's R-Design package for the C30, and VW's R Line kit for the 'Rocco.


Looking good

‘R' of course always stands for ‘Racing', but VW never got the memo because the ‘R' in the R Line doesn't. There are no performance changes, no stiffer springs, anti-roll bars, exhaust butterfly flaps or even ‘go-faster' stripes. Volvo is also guilty of this.

R Line is basically a cosmetic package consisting of flaps, skirts, spoilers, wheels and badges, but it comes with an important benefit — choice. So you not only have the option to go for the kit, but you can also mix and match stock bits with R Line bits, so you can have the 17 or optional 18in Mallory wheels but no side skirts, the front spoiler but stock wheels, and so on.

Everything underneath the makeup is standard, but then again, there was never anything wrong with the Scirocco's turbocharged 2.0-litre four-pot, producing 197bhp through a six-speed DSG. And because it's 34mm lower than the C30, and over 100kg lighter, the power deficit it suffers in the hands of the Swede (turbo 2.5-litre with 227bhp) doesn't give an inch in a drag race. Both cars get to 100kph from zero in a shade over seven seconds, though the ‘Rocco will do it neatly while the Volvo will slither, struggling to contain its overwhelming torque steer.

Anyway, the looks… With the R Line pack, the ‘Rocco is even more striking than before, especially that angled front lip which visually widens, and therefore lowers the car, without any actual coilover tampering. Disappointingly VW has mostly left the cabin alone, apart from some useless shiny door sills and some ‘R' badges…

Before you even start noticing the visual updates on the C30 R-Design, you'll familiarise yourself with its powerplant. Its five-pot turbo is much more torquey than the Scirocco's engine, making it more flexible around town despite having a ratio less in its five-speed automatic gearbox. Dynamically, it can't compete, as the 'Rocco grips better and stays composed through the turns with its stiffer suspension, while the Volvo squats under acceleration (losing traction all too easy), dives too far under braking and lacks communication through its electronically-assisted, overly-light steering. As a daily driver, the Volvo is easier to live with, but falls short on every other front, including the interior. There's no sat-nav, but the sound system more than makes up for it, then disappoints again with an Eighties style info display. Super comfortable seats and great visibility (which is seriously compromised in the 'Rocco due to that gigantic C-pillar) are unfortunately not enough to oust the V-Dub off its pedestal.

At least the Swede's R-Design bodykit is more pronounced than the German's offering, featuring front and rear spoilers, lower door trim moulding and colour-coded side skirts. The 18in alloys also add a touch of pizzazz, while a tailgate spoiler sits higher and is angled further than the Scirocco's tiny roof extension. You also get chromed exhaust pipes (which can't match the whaarp of the VW) and of course the obligatory badges all around.


Volvo launched the C30 almost five years ago, and the Swedish manufacturer desperately needed a makeover to keep it going for another two or three years before a replacement is due. Which is why the R-Design package was introduced in the first place. Volkswagen on the other hand has a fresh looking Scirocco which still turns heads even in stock form, and offers the R Line purely as extra choice for customers. Already, Volvo is fighting a losing battle, before you even get to the fact that dynamically it isn't a match for the German. To look its best, the Volvo can be had with motorsport white wheels, but that's about it, you'll only aesthetically stand out. Fact is, though, the Scirocco doesn't even need any of the add-ons to turn heads.

On purely mechanical terms, it's the better car. When you consider its huge equipment list — panoramic sunroof, piano lacquered dash pieces, sat-nav, park distance control, and adaptive chassic control (in my opinion a bit of a waste of money) and xenons — it's a no brainer.

Specs & rating

  • Model: Scirocco R Line
  • Engine: 2.0-litre four-cyl turbo
  • Transmission: Six-speed DSG FWD
  • Max power: 197bhp @ 5,100rpm
  • Max torque: 280Nm @ 1,700rpm
  • Top speed: 233kph
  • 0-100kph: 7.1 sec
  • Price: Dh133,000
  • Plus: Equipment list, powertrain handling
  • Minus: Lazy throttle, visibility

Specs & rating

  • Model: C30 R-Design
  • Engine: 2.5-litre five-cyl turbo
  • Transmission: Five-speed auto FWD
  • Max power: 227bhp @ 5,000rpm
  • Max torque: 320Nm @ 1,500rpm
  • Top speed: 234kph
  • 0-100kph: 7.1sec
  • Price: Dh134,995
  • Plus: Exclusivity, sound system, comfortable ride
  • Minus: Interior, not a hot hatch, barely lukewarm