Volvo C30 Review

by Neunelf

The last time a Volvo was sexy, so was (Sir) Roger Moore. Just as The Saint titillated the fairer sex, Simon Templar’s Volvo P1800 had heel-and-toe types salivating. Shortly thereafter Moore was persuaded to abandon his Swedish whip for an Aston. By the time the English actor got into Bond-age, Volvo had turned deeply dull. Sexy was scrapped, safety celebrated. Stylistically, Gothenburg’s designs adhered to a Ty Webbian template: “Be the box. Be the box.” While Volvos slowly evolved away from the rectangular gestalt, they never quite shucked middle-aged mindfulness. The new C30 aims to change all that.

Available in Canada since the second quarter, hitting U.S. soil in October, Volvo’s “hot hatch” (yes really) is looking to cash in on the aging, fast and slightly miffed yet financially comfortable ex-tuner crowd. Alternatively, the C30’s yet another starting point for badge snobs looking for that first rung on the European luxury ladder. To entice both groups, the Swedish sampling’s got style.

Faced head on, the short overhangs and snubbed prow could easily belong to any Volvo. Correct! From the grill to the windshield, the C30’s built on the same architecture as the S40 and V50. Follow the reverse-doorstop roofline to mid ships, and there’s funk in that trunk. The taillights hug the C’s C-pillars in all three dimensions, accenting the hatch’s rear haunches in the best-yet interpretation of the corporate countenance.

The C30’s “P” inspired trapezoidal hatch-glass is pistonhead catnip. Leave home without the optional cargo cover though, and Bloomies’ Big Brown Bag will have a similar effect on the smash-and-grab crowd.

Just don’t order a C30 in “passion red.” With fenders found wanting of paint, my base T5 tester was more “Swedish berry” than Halle Berry. Anyone who doesn’t spend the extra Krona and check the Metallic Paint box on the order sheet might as well get a bumper sticker saying “Cheap Djävel on Board.” While you’re at it, sign-up for the dual tone body kit and 17” Zaurak rims. When you see a C30 thus kitted in Titanium Grey metallic with Java metallic trim, it’s time to call a Vet; this puppy looks sick.

Inside, it seems the Swedish vegetarians have turned their gaze to the automobile industry. Not to worry; Volvo’s T-Tec seating surfaces is an ideal alternative, guaranteed to keep Norse grasslands groomed. The infamous waterfall dash is cheap chic personified, while the switchgear’s tactility will keep even non-OCD sufferers busy for hours. A handy 12-volt adapter decorates the centre-stack, but a lack of defined cup holders hinders Scandinavian satiation.

Volvo’s trick dangling DIN radio unit is wannabe Bang & Olufsen done right. The standard audio package’s sonic performance is adequate, but in a world of LCD I.C.E., the O.G. (original Gameboy) graphics are ghastly. Thankfully, the C30’s supportive seats and thick-rimmed helm restore a large measure of street cred.

The packaging is a bit compromised. Upright, the rear seats are spacious enough for two high-heeled Swedish bikini team members, but leave just enough luggage space for their official uniforms and a couple of thirsty towels. Fold the 55/45 rears and that “Ramvik” coffee table and “Roskilde” rug your living room has been lacking are yours for the taking.

Volvo’s force-fed five-banger is in da' house. A mini mill cranking-out 218hp may be nothing special in this category, but 236ft.-lbs. of torque from basement to penthouse is. Put the pedal to the metal (how Volvo is that?) and 20 continuously variable valves chatter away, flinging the C30 to sixty in less than seven seconds. In-gear satisfaction is only a foot flex away.

Unfortunately, the cog swapping part of the program lacks a suitable dénouement. In traffic, the C30’s clutch play is smooth and predictable. Light a fire under the hot hatch, give it the beans, and stick travel… stops… time. Even worse, ultimate engagement is decidedly spongy.

The suspension isn't. MacPhersons up front and a multilink in back keeps city schlepping as placid as Aquavit on ice, while anti-roll bars and rigid body construction ensure all that torque isn’t squandered. Hang on to the helm and anything over 7/10’s is as safe as houses. Corners are controlled and understeer doled out in sensible quantities. The Sport Package tightens things up considerably. But make no mistake: even in standard trim, the Euro Focus’ C1 platform is put to good use. The Stig may not be cocking a rear wheel through Gambon, but Volvo security hasn’t watered down the Ford family fun.

Volvo is hoping to flog 20k C30’s stateside, 65k globally. The Swedish two-door is pitted against BMW’s U.S.-bound 1-Series, Audi’s A3/S3, a new WRX, Vee Dub’s GTi and the benchmark MINI. That’s tough company; it would be a daunting prospect if the C30 didn’t look so damn cool. But it does. And it is. Mission accomplished.


More by Neunelf

Join the conversation
2 of 68 comments
  • Stephan Wilkinson Stephan Wilkinson on Oct 02, 2007

    Unless you have a severe winter situation--long, steep driveway plus snow--AWD is highly overrated. I admit that I wouldn't be without it, but only because we live near the top of a small mountain in the snowbelt and do have one of those long, steep driveways (got a Volvo V50 T5 AWD for the worst days, but our Boxster on snow tires does just fine any other wintertime unless it's blizzarding). AWd is pointless has a performance-enhancer unless you're a rally-class driver and the road is empty enough that you can corner in the wet under power, since AWD is only effective under positive torque, it does nothing for you otherwise but add weight and drag and subtract fuel. I suspect a C30 with dedicated snowtires would do just fine 98 percent of the time.

  • Kurumaking Kurumaking on Oct 03, 2007

    Yes you are right Stephan about AWD being overrated in general. However for me,under certain situations,as I live and work in NH,it is going to make the difference between making it home or having have to spend the night in some motel(which has happened with driving front wheel drive car with snow tires).

  • Lorenzo Are there any naturally aspirated engines available?
  • Jeff There was a time that all the major auto makers advertised there full size V-8 engine cars to be quieter than a Rolls Royce. Ford had ads up thru the early 80s showing the Ford LTD and the Mercury Grand Marquis being quieter than a Rolls Royce with a smoother ride. An ad for a the Grand Marquis showed how quiet and smooth riding it was demonstrating that even a rabbi could do a circumcision on a baby boy in the back of a Grand Marquis. Most cars in the 60s, 70s, and much of the 80s were marketed for their quiet interiors and smooth rides. Now we have to add noise to a vehicle to give the illusion of powerful and fast. If I ever were to own an EV I would want it quiet.
  • Lorenzo Six percent here, ten percent there, and pretty soon you've got a dead brand.
  • ToolGuy Tungsten trim? I am holding out for the Depleted Uranium trim.
  • Proud2BUnion Mr. Allen Wrench needs tungsten to live!