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  • 2008 Volvo C30

    Posted on July 20th, 2008 ninarussin

    New compact hatchback may be the best Volvo ever.
    By Nina Russin

    Volvo C30

    Volvo C30

    With the C30, Volvo has hit one out of the park. The automaker’s first compact hatchback combines the performance of a tuner car with European styling and world-class safety. It’s affordable to buy and with 23 mile-per-gallon fuel economy, affordable to drive as well.

    The C30 has a large rear glass, creating a wide load-in space with a low lift-over height. A small person like myself can easily toss a bicycle in back. A lever on the outside of each rear seatback folds it flat to create a long, flat cargo floor.

    Volvo’s first custom build program allows buyers to choose from a 440 paint and trim combinations. The $300 program fee adds an iPod input in the center console, and access to factory options not included in the standard build program.

    A box that thinks out of the box

    Hatchbacks are the wallflowers of the automotive world. Despite their popularity in the tuner culture, three-door cars still carry the stigma of ‘econobox.’

    The C30 is a box that doesn’t look like a box. It has wide shoulders, big wheels, a swoopy front grille with wrap-around headlamps, and a bullet-shaped profile.

    Inside, it feels like a sports car: four bucket seats, lots of glass area, high-tech instrument panel, and aluminum pedals. But unlike a sports car, the C30 holds the stuff we active types need to carry.

    If the Sunday trail run turns ugly, there’s a standard first aid kit in the cargo area. Under the cargo floor, extra storage bins around the spare tire keep valuables and spare tools concealed.

    Zero-to-sixty in six seconds

    Horsepower makes a car look good on paper: torque makes it fun to drive. The inline five-cylinder engine in the C30 reaches peak torque, 236 foot-pounds, at 1800 rpm.

    Both grades come standard with a six speed manual transmission, or an optional automatic. Zero-to-sixty acceleration with the manual is 6.2 seconds.

    Though manual transmissions have their drawbacks traffic, the gearbox in the C30 is easy to live with. The clutch pedal is as light as any passenger car I’ve driven. Shifting is crisp and precise, with no noticeable gear lash. All of the gears have extremely wide range, to minimize shifting on crowded freeways.

    The C30 is slightly wider and shorter than the S40 sedan that it shares components with. It’s 300 pounds lighter, enhancing overall performance and gas mileage.

    The front-wheel drive chassis feels well balanced. I noticed little tendency to push in the corners. A fully independent suspension tuned for sport is standard on both grades, as is variable assist, rack-annd-pinion steering.

    The upscale grade tested comes with eighteen-inch wheels and summer tires. Seventeen-inch rims are standard on the base model. Though temperatures in the southwest never get cold enough to require winter tires, buyers in northern states will want to buy a second set of rims and snow tires. The summer tires get too hard to produce adequate traction when temperatures dip below freezing.

    Four-wheel disc brakes with four-channel antilock braking are standard on all models. Discs stop the car better on wet surfaces, and are much easier to service. Though I didn’t have a chance to drive the car in the rain, I found braking to be firm and linear

    Visibility is good all the way around the car, with no obvious blind spots. Volvo’s rear park assist and blind spot information systems are available as options through the custom build program.

    Scandinavian interior

    Volvo excels at creating stylish, ergonomic interiors. The standard cloth seats in the C30 are attractive enough to be living room furniture. Although the manual seats have lack a lower lumbar adjustment, I found the lower back support more than adequate.

    Cruise control settings and redundant audio controls on the steering wheel minimize driver distraction. Audio and temperature settings on the center stack are accessible from either front seating position.

    The floating center stack, a design borrowed from the S40, creates a concealed story space for a purse or small pack. The glovebox is exceptionally deep: capable of holding magazines or small electronic devices. A covered bin below the center armrest contains a MP3 plug-in.

    A Dolby surround-sound system is standard on the upscale grade, including a free six-month subscription to Sirius satellite radio.

    Two cupholders in the floor console are big enough for water bottles. There are two, twelve-volt power points: in the floor console, and behind the center console. Both doors contain map pockets with molded bottle holders.

    The three-door configuration makes second-row seats harder to access: front seats slide forward to widen the through-space. The car’s short wheelbase translates to limited legroom
    for second-row passengers. I had to push the front seats forward to find a comfortable position. Head, hip and shoulder room should be adequate for most adults.

    Spacious cargo area

    Considering the car’s size, the cargo space is remarkably spacious. There’s enough room behind the second-row seats for groceries and other small items. It’s not necessary to remove the headrests when folding the seats flat: the C30 is bicycle-friendly. Four tie down loops secure large cargo.

    Standard safety

    The C30 incorporates safety features from Volvo’s XC90 sport-utility vehicle, and the S40 sedan. The transverse engine is six inches from the front bulkhead, to protect passengers in a frontal collision. Crash boxes at the front bumper protect the body from damage during a low-speed impact.

    The front of the car is designed to minimize pedestrian and cyclist injuries, in the event of a collision. An energy-absorbing structure ahead of the front bumper minimizes leg injuries. The hood and front fenders are designed to deform, to minimize head injuries for accident victims outside the car.

    The peripheral edges of the car absorb most of the crash energy, protecting passengers on the inside. Engineers used three grades of high-strength steel to direct crash forces around and below and cockpit.

    In a rear-end collision, seatbacks and headrests move with the body, to minimize the possibility of whiplash. Seatbacks are reinforced to withstand high loads from unsecured items in the cargo area.

    Volvo’s intelligent driver system minimizes distraction when traffic requires his full attention. Sensors monitor steering wheel movements and acceleration, automatically delaying warning lamps and other peripheral information.

    Other standard safety features include front, side and side curtain airbags, automatic tailgate wiper, dynamic stability control and traction control.

    The optional blind spot information system uses lights in the front pillars to warn drivers about vehicles in the C30’s blind spots. Rear park assist and bi-xenon headlamps are available through the custom build program.

    The new C30 is built at Volvo’s Ghent, Belgium assembly plant.

    Likes: A versatile compact hatchback that’s fun to drive, and incorporates Volvo’s world class safety technology.

    Dislikes: Standard summer tires don’t provide adequate traction in winter weather.

    Quick facts:

    Make: Volvo
    Model: C30 Version 2.0M
    Year: 2008
    Base price: $25,700
    As tested: $27,950
    Horsepower: 227 Hp @ 5000 rpm
    Torque: 236 lbs.-ft. @ 1500 rpm
    Zero-to-sixty: 6.2 seconds
    Antilock brakes: Standard
    Side curtain airbags: Standard
    First aid kit: Standard
    Bicycle friendly: Yes
    Off-road: No
    Towing: No
    Fuel economy: 19/28 mpg city/highway
    Comments: Base price does not include a $745 destination charge.

     

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