2010 Volvo C30 Road Test Review

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As the "premium compact" market began to grow, it became clear that Volvo needed a product to capture the hearts and lead feet of young, hip drivers who are looking for the Next Cool Thing. To that end, slicing the back half off of an S40 sedan and replacing it with a breadbox-like hatchback seemed like just the right thing to do. Introduced in 2007, the Volvo C30 is the Swedish answer to premium compacts like the MINI Cooper S and Audi A3. 

The last time Volvo did a slick two-door hatchback (in North America anyway) was in the 1960s, with the cool P1800ES. The styling makes it clear that the C30 hasn't forgotten that groundbreaker, even if most Canadians are unaware that Volvo ever built a cool little sports car. For 2010, the C30's been updated with new front end styling and a stronger emphasis on its sporting capabilities.

The C30's got a much more aggressive face, with a bolder version of the Volvo family grille and strong split-bumper elements up front. Fog lights are housed in secondary grilles that emphasize headlight shape and carry into the familiar "shoulder" line down the side of the car. Out back, a wide, all-glass hatch and long rear greenhouse are styling cues taken directly from the P1800ES, and the arched taillamps seem to smile. The C30 has a wide, low stance and a roof silhouette that tapers toward the rear to give an impression of forward motion. The R-Design model adds monochromatic styling, a body kit and roof spoiler, and satin-finish silver mirrors. Big eighteen-inch five-spoke wheels are also part of the R-Design upgrade. 

The driving position is sporty, reclined and comfortable. This compact car features room for four adults inside. The rear seats are scooped out slightly, like bucket seats, and are inset toward the centre of the car to improve elbowroom and allow for side-panel storage. Head and legroom are generous; if you're expecting MINI Cooper-like interior dimensions you'll be pleasantly surprised. The hot interior ticket is the Leksand T-Tec two-tone interior, which combines stain-resistant fabric with lighter colours to create an airy cabin. The C30 shares the S40's flat-panel floating center console, and in fact many of its available amenities are shared with larger Volvos, including a 650-watt premium sound system, HD radio, navigation system and heated seats. 

Power is provided by a 2.5-litre turbocharged five-cylinder that's shared with other Volvo products and produces 227 horsepower. Turbo lag is minimal, and the five-cylinder's generous torque means that mid-range acceleration is satisfying and freeway travel is relaxed. A choice of six-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmissions is offered, and all C30 models are front-wheel drive. Unlike many small cars, the C30 is a good road-tripper, at least for two. It's not so bad pulling away from the stoplight, either: Volvo claims a 6.8-second zero to 100km/h time and a 250 km/h (149 mph) top speed.

MacPherson struts are used in the front, with a multi-link rear suspension and a wide stance for cornering stability, and a Dynamic Sport Suspension option has been improved for drivers who want to keep up with the Volkswagen GTI and other "hot hatches." Stiffer monotube shocks are on hand to reduce body roll, and faster, more precise steering has been effected with improved bushings and a quicker steering rack. The ride is a great deal firmer with the sport suspension, though never punishing. The C30's only vice is a tendency to produce audible tire noise over harsh pavement gaps. Safety equipment like Volvo's Blind Spot Information System and Rear Parking Assist are available. 

The C30 is small yet sophisticated, a car that says, "I'm young, but I'm not dumb."  It is a practical three-door hatchback enhanced by a serious dose of styling, and makes it an excellent choice for first-time buyers. With a starting price of $33,995, the C30's priced to attract the attention of premium compact buyers as well. A fully loaded C30 T5 R-Design stickers for $39,995, which remains more affordable than any of its direct premium competitors when completely optioned out.

©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Hatchback, Volvo, 2010, C30, $30,000 - $39,999,

Organizations: Volvo

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