2012 Volvo C30

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Review: 2008 Volvo C30

This 2008 review is representative of model years 2008 to 2013.
By Perry Stern of MSN Autos
Rating: 7

Bottom Line:

Volvo heads in a new direction with this fun-to-drive sport hatch.
Pros:
  • Smooth Power
  • Stand-Out Styling
  • Comfortable Seats
Cons:
  • Cramped Rear Seat
  • Handling doesn’t match the looks

Volvo: hip. Volvo: cool. Volvo: sporty. Ten years ago these associations would have been Volvo: boxy, Volvo: staid and Volvo: maturity. Of course there has always been the foundation of safety on which the company has built its reputation, and that hasn't changed and shouldn't change. But lately Volvo has been trying hard to be hip, cool and sporty, and those swingin' Swedes seem to be pulling it off.

To be sure, this sea of change hasn't happened overnight. In the past few years, Volvo has produced a number of high-performance family cars such as the bright-yellow 1995 850 T-5R and the current S60/ V70R. Now the Swedish car company is attempting to attract a younger crowd to the brand with the sporty C30.

Consumer research told Volvo designers and engineers that in order to reach the target consumer group of 28-38 year olds, they needed to produce a car that highlighted these five items: 1) exterior design; 2) performance; 3) sporty interior; 4) great sound system; and 5) high-tech features. The result of their work is the all-new C30.

Small Outside, Big Inside
The C30 is the smallest car offered by Volvo, available only as a sporty 2-door hatchback. This is both a move in a new direction and a return to the company's roots—the C30 carries a number of styling cues from the 2-door hatchback Sportwagon that Volvo sold in the 1970s.

But the classic Sportwagon wasn't the only influence for C30 designers. Back in 2001 the MSN Autos team had the opportunity to drive an all-new Volvo concept car in a secluded parking lot near Seattle's waterfront. Called the Safety Car Concept (SCC), this stylish little orange 2-door hatchback was not only a mobile test bed for advanced Volvo safety equipment, it represented a new styling direction for the Swedish car company.

Several other Volvo concept cars with similar styling have come and gone, but ultimately six years later we were behind the wheel of the progeny of that original sporty concept.

The exterior styling of the new C30 has obvious ties to the rest of the Volvo lineup, but designers chose to emphasize lines that give the new hatchback bolder front-end styling. Lines flow from the headlights to the taillights, and the roof line peaks over the driver, sloping down in the rear to meet the taillights. Large 17-inch alloy wheels, emphasized fender flares and the raised hood add to a powerful image.

However, the most notable design element is the rear. The entire hatch is glass, bordered on either side by large rear taillights. The glass hatch is the closest design tie to the classic Volvo Sportwagon. Dual chrome exhaust outlets complete the sporty image.

Inside, seating is designed for four; however, company research indicated that the target audience seldom used the rear seat for passengers. Even so, Volvo designed the rear seats to be able to handle 6-foot-tall passengers in relative comfort. We were surprised not only at how roomy the rear seat was, the large doors and front seat slide far out of the way, which makes getting in and out quite easy.

With only two seats in the rear, designers were able to move them both toward the middle of the car. This, combined with the large windows, eliminates any sense of claustrophobia. In addition, there is space between the rear seats that make it possible for the C30 to handle longer cargo like a snowboard or skis without sacrificing rear seating positions.

As we've seen with other Volvos, front seats are some of the most comfortable available. The center stack is a design that has become a Volvo tradition—very thin and curved, like a piece of furniture from Ikea.

To meet the needs of the proposed demographic, the C30 had to be available with an impressive audio system. The standard stereo on the base-level C30 is a 160-watt system with 6 speakers, but the top-end system—standard on the 2.0—is an impressive Alpine 650-watt system with 10 Dynaudio speakers and Dolby Pro-Logic II Surround Sound. Both systems feature an auxiliary jack for an MP3 player.

More Than Good Looks
Only 6,000 to 8,000 C30s are expected to be exported to North America, so obviously Volvo is not looking to make the new coupe a high-volume car. Given this relatively small number of imports, a critical decision to be made was the number of powertrain choices the Swedish automaker was going to give American buyers of the C30.

The ultimate decision was to make only one engine available, but after driving the car we'd have to say those Volvo engineers chose the right one. Every C30 in America is powered by Volvo's 2.5-liter turbocharged 5-cylinder engine. Power output is 227 horses, but more noticeable is 236 lb-ft of torque available at a low 1800 rpm.

Quick acceleration combined with a flat torque curve help create extremely smooth launches from a standstill. With power coming on so effortlessly, the clutch engaging exactly where expected and the quietness of the C30, departing the hotel felt like we were gliding away. However, if you really accelerate hard, you can break the wheels free when shifting to second gear.

Two transmissions are available: a standard 6-speed manual or an optional 5-speed automatic. The manual is easy to shift quickly with a short throw between gears. The automatic is also quite impressive with its quick and seamless shifting, even when accelerating hard.

We did have the opportunity to take the C30 on some rather twisty roads and were a little disappointed. With its turbocharged engine, the C30 gets moving fast quite quickly, but we had to slow down more than expected to make the turns. Not that the C30 handles badly, it's just important to point out that while it has the power of a sports car, the handling may not be able to keep up with the power.

Safety (of course)
Safety may not have been one of the top items on the list from the consumer research results, but this is a Volvo, so safety is an important aspect of the C30. Not surprisingly, some of the safety features that were experimental on the SCC back in 2001 are now available on the C30.

One of the most noteworthy advanced features is the Blind Spot Information System (BLIS). Using cameras mounted on the bottoms of the outside mirrors, BLIS alerts the driver via a small orange light on the A-pillar if there is a vehicle in the C30's blind spot. We found that BLIS works quite well, and the system was missed when moving to a different vehicle.

Other safety features include large brakes—ventilated discs in front—equipped with ABS and Emergency Brake Assistance (EBA), which provides automatic full braking during a panic stop. All C30s are also equipped with stability and traction control.

Volvo's new Intelligent Driver Information System (IDIS) is also standard on the C30. IDIS monitors such driver inputs as steering wheel movements, the accelerator pedal, turn signals and braking and prevents distracting warning lights from appearing when the driver is busy if the information is not essential.

Safety in the C30 goes beyond the electronics—the vehicle structure itself is designed to with safety in mind. Four different grades of steel are used throughout the C30 to manage the energy in a collision. This was a tougher challenge for the C30 as there is less space to create a crumple zone.

This was especially true for the rear of the car. The C30 shares a platform with the S40 sedan, but it is 8.5 inches shorter, and most of this size reduction came out of the rear.

Volvo designed the rear of the car to deform in a downward/inward movement in the event of a crash, which allows the spare tire to rotate upward in a controlled manner, in effect directing the energy of the impact away from the rear passengers. The rear seats and backrests were built to withstand the force of unsecured luggage in an emergency stop.

Of course, all C30s are equipped with front airbags, side airbags, side-curtain airbags, as well as SIPS and WHIPS (Side Impact Protection System and Whiplash Protection Seating System).

Pricing and Availability
Two different versions of the C30 will be sold in the U.S.—the 1.0 and 2.0. However, both versions come well equipped, with all the safety equipment being standard (except BLIS, which is optional), as well as the turbocharged T5 engine and the 6-speed manual transmission.

The 1.0 also features power windows and locks, 17-inch alloy wheels, chrome exhaust tips and keyless entry. Base price for Version 1.0 is $22,700 (not including destination charge of $695).

Version 2.0 adds the Alpine audio system, 18-inch alloy wheels, a larger roof spoiler, larger exhaust outlets and a sport body kit. This adds $3,000 to the price of Version 1.0.

Volvo is also offering custom build program for the first time, making it possible to equip the C30 with a number of individual options (not part of a package) such as bi-xenon headlights, fog lights, a trip computer, power front seats, electronic climate control and a DVD-based navigation system (Version 2.0 only). Through this program, the C30 is available with up to 17 different exterior colors and 12 interior trim combinations, making it possible to personalize your C30 direct from the factory.

The C30 will also be introduced to America via a unique marketing plan which features a series of short internet films starring Craig Robinson from the TV show "The Office" that are featured on MSN. The series is about a driving school instructor and obviously features the new C30. The films can be seen at drivingschool.msn.com.

With countless combinations for personalization, great looks, a high-powered audio system and plenty of performance, the C30 puts Volvo well on the way to being considered cool, hip and sporty.

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BB06 - 9/1/2014 9:17:40 PM