The Volvo C30
The words “upscale” and “small hatchback” are not usually paired together in one car with any great success in North America. Perhaps the one perennially strong exception to this would be the VW GTI. Backed by a sturdy turbocharged engine and distinctive styling, the 2009 Volvo C30 attempts to appeal to those willing to pay a premium for those two things.
The base T5 includes 17-inch alloy wheels, a 50/50-split rear seat, full power accessories, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel with audio controls and an eight-speaker CD audio system with an auxiliary audio jack. The T5 R-Design trim level adds 18-inch wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, specific exterior accents, cruise control, a 10-speaker surround-sound audio system, satellite radio, aluminum dash inlays and a watch-dial-inspired instrument panel. Other options include bi-xenon headlights, headlight washers, a hard-drive-based navigation system with real-time traffic, Bluetooth, a blind-spot warning system, power-retractable side mirrors, a sunroof, park distance control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, leather upholstery, power front seats, heated seats and keyless ignition and a large selection of custom exterior colors, interior trim choices and wheel designs.
Although minor, the same criticisms that were raised last year are still present in this year’s model. The first is the comparatively small cargo area. Even by hatchback standards the 13 cubic feet with the seat up and 20 cubic feet with both lowered feels tight. Related to that is the back seat which sports two bucket seats over a bench layout, thereby at least giving the impression of a small interior cavity. In the C30’s defense, one could argue that attempting to shoehorn a third person into the rear seats of any hatchback is more of a pipedream.
On the upside, (and on the outside), the C30 pulls off the Volvo “look” well and without looking like a cheap econo-box simply with Swedish badging. While the interior is tidy, it isn’t as polished as the GTI, perhaps on the sterile side and without the various technical accoutrements one would expect of a high-end hatch. Pricing for the C30 begins at $23,800 for the T5 and just under $26,000 for the R-Design. Those numbers look great in comparison to the GTI which starts at $23,230. But assuming even a modest amount of options are added, the Volvo quickly becomes a more expensive choice.
Volvo C30 Interior
Perhaps comparing it to the most famous hatchback of all time is unfair. In actuality the C30 is really a great car that does lots of things right and most importantly adheres to the tried and true Volvo way of doing things. Especially, for those that value Volvo’s reputation for safety and reliability the C30 scores well with consumers and critics by offering the prerequisite standard safety equipment that includes antilock disc brakes (with brake assist), stability control, traction control, front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and front seats with whiplash protection. Volvo’s Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) is optional.
It is not as much of a pocket rocket as the Mini or GTI, but it is still fun to drive and is perhaps the most mature hatchback on the market.
Muscular Volvo C30
The front-wheel drive C30 remains largely unchanged for 2009, which is not necessarily a bad thing. In both the T5 and R-Design trim levels, a turbocharged 2.5-liter inline five-cylinder engine is used to produce 227 horses and 236 pound-feet of torque with either a standard six-speed manual five-speed automatic. Respectably the C30 achieves a 0-60 mph time of 6.4 seconds with a manual transmission while maintaining an EPA estimated 19 mpg city and 28 mpg in highway driving.