2008 Volvo C30 Road Test
Volvo's hatchback has youthful vigor
Volvos nifty little C30 hatchback is a lot like a contemporary version of the unusual P1800 ES from the early 1970s. One of the key similarities is the all-glass tailgate.
The C30 is based on Volvos S40 sedan. The turbocharged, 227-horsepower five-cylinder drives the front wheels through a standard six-speed manual or an automatic transmission. The turbo gives the C30 brisk acceleration and a spunky personality that is accented by a nicely buttoned-up suspension and handsome 18-inch wheels.
The C30 is a competitor to vehicles such as the Mini Cooper S and Volkswagen GTI. Because Volvo is part of Ford Motor Co., the C30s basic underpinnings are related to the Volvo C70 convertible, Mazda3 and the European Ford Focus.
Volvo offers the C30 in two trim levels, which it calls Version 1.0 and Version 2.0. Prices start at $22,700 for Version 1.0 and $25,700 for Version 2.0. I drove a well-equipped Version 2.0 that had a sticker price of $29,350, and that seems to be pretty expensive for a car in this segment.
Aside from its handy size and urban maneuverability, the C30s strength is styling. The sleek roofline, large tires and all-glass hatchback quickly draw attention. Two young men carefully circled the car while it sat in front of a suburban shopping area. I watched from a distance as they commented to each other about the sharp looks and cool rims.
I didnt know Volvo made a small hatchback, one said to his buddy.
The fact that the C30 is not yet well known may be something that Volvo marketing will have to overcome. Today, most people think that a Volvo is a somewhat stodgy sedan, not a corner-clipping hatchback.
The turbocharged, five-cylinder engine plays an important role in giving the C30 a high-energy character. While this engine can feel a bit sluggish in bigger cars, it feels right at home in the C30. It only has to pull around 3,201 pounds, and that brightens its performance.
Volvo thinks that its customers will like to personalize their cars, and for $300 a buyer can select Custom Build. Custom Build lets each buyer select from a wide variety of interior colors and options, as well as from accessories such as a sport steering wheel, aluminum pedals or Volvos blind-spot alert system.
Comfortable, supportive seats are something for which Volvo is known, and the C30 shines. Manual or power adjustments allow the seats to be configured to fit almost anyone.
Volvo touts the C30 as a four-passenger car, and it is, as long as those that chose the back seat are small or young. The back seats are pleasantly comfortable, but legroom is tight.
Each rear seat back folds forward to create a sizable cargo space. The small glass hatch limits the size of items that will fit inside.
The instrument panel has simple gauges, and the center stack that contains the heat and audio controls is not much more than half an inch thick. Digital readouts have stairstep blocks representing temperature and fan speed, but I think using colors for the temperature settings would make adjusting them more intuitive.
The C30 is small and agile. Large tires and a sports suspension give it nice moves in traffic or on country lanes. While it doesnt have the absolute cornering grip of a sports car, it is fun to drive.
Safety items include anti-lock brakes, vehicle stability control, traction control and side-curtain airbags.
Price: The base price of the test car was $25,700. Options included Custom Build, metallic paint, automatic transmission, cruise control, fog lights, sport gearshift knob and sport steering wheel. The sticker price was $29,350.
Warranty: Four years or 50,000 miles.
Point: The C30 looks great, handles nicely and gives young buyers a Volvo that is cool and hip. The turbocharged engine is reasonably potent, the front seats are excellent and the rear hatch can hold quite a bit of stuff.
Counterpoint: The back seat is snug for adults, and a well-equipped Version 2.0 gets pretty expensive.