Sunday, September 9, 2012

Swan Song for a Sexy Swede

Drop a silky-smooth shrieky Swedish turbocharged inline five onto a Ford Focus chassis and swaddle it in crushable Scandinavian art and you get a Volvo C30: a hot hatch priced like a GTI that always ran with a different crowd.

A quick coupe that played the no muss, no fuss sophisticate to the bare-knuckled parking cone terrors from other makers, preferring to waft down motorways effortlessly and carve curves with a breath of body roll before tightening up and slingshotting through. An automotive Venus de Milo that made public art wherever it was parked, a location which was increasingly "unsold on the dealership lot" -- hence all the past tense here -- artwork increasingly curated and maintained by guys who chain smoke and wear penny loafers and Hawaiian shirts to work.

It's hard to tell whether the broad-shouldered body sculpting that demanded middle-rear-seat-robbing capacity killed this three-door coupe or corporate safety culture that demanded the inboard location of just two rear seats for occupant protection instead of trying to squeeze three like everybody else. Choose the excuse from either marketing department or just admit it was hard to get in back there. Or admit that this small Euro hatchback capable of the same track numbers as the original Porsche Boxster might have been more successful had it been marketed to the two-seater crowd, which never expects much in the way of cargo space and would be grateful for the two extra hard-to-get-to seats if also ungrateful for the fixed roof overhead.

History will conduct the autopsy: Aztek or Ghia.

As your unhumble car czar votes the latter, get one while you can if you don't need five seats. Just ignore the balloons and free popcorn and check the ashtrays before you drive off.