2013 Volvo C30 R-DesignPosted on February 6th, 2013
Polestar gives three-door hatchback extra boost
By Nina Russin
The Volvo C30 is a Swedish hotrod. It might not look like a hotrod to American eyes: no bulging hood scoop, toothy grille or rims the size of sewer pipes. Nevertheless, it goes like spit and is a hoot to drive. When I first drove Volvo’s three-door hatchback five years ago, I was so impressed with the car that my husband and I bought one. To this day, we have no regrets.
Last spring, Volvo unveiled a performance update, courtesy of its racing affiliate, Polestar. The Polestar ECU download increases horsepower to 250, while maintaining the factory warranty and emissions compliance.
Volvo’s R-Design package includes special rims, a body kit, grille, upholstery, instrument cluster, steering wheel, aluminum pedals and polished exhaust pipes.
The options definitely give the C30 more road presence, and the chops to back it up. The Polestar-enhanced C30 is a limited edition model. Volvo only produced 250 for global distribution.
Base price for the C30 is $27,850, excluding the $895 destination charge. The test car has two additional options: a platinum package that adds navigation, premium sound system, keyless start, satellite radio, power moonroof, power driver’s seat with memory, daytime running lamps, Xenon headlamps and a digital compass ($5000); and a climate package that includes heated front seats, automatic climate control and interior air filtration ($800). Final MSRP is $35,545.
Compact hatchback is big on versatility
One of the things I like best about the C30 is its surprising versatility, considering the car’s small footprint. The C30 rides on a 103.9-inch wheelbase, yet is capable of holding up to four adults comfortably. Despite having only two side doors, the rear seats are reasonably easy to get in and out of.
The cargo area doesn’t look like much, but it holds quite a bit. We’ve stuffed the weekly groceries and a weekend’s worth of luggage in ours. Because of its short wheelbase, the C30 won’t hold a bicycle inside, so buyers who need to carry their bikes would need to add a rear-mounted hitch.
Power comes from a 2.5-liter turbocharged five-cylinder engine and six-speed manual transmission. The engine reaches peak torque as low as 1500 rpm. Zero-to-sixty acceleration is in the six-second range.
Test drive in Phoenix
This week, I drove the 2013 C30 R-Design with Polestar around my hometown of Phoenix. Routes included both highway and surface streets, with some rush hour traffic and the usual influx of tourists this town sees in the winter.
Because the C30’s curb weight is just over 3200 pounds, the 2.5-liter engine is plenty to produce a good power-to-weight ratio. The turbocharger enhances airflow through the engine and makes peak torque available just off throttle.
The Polestar enhancement is most noticeable at wide-open throttle. I could definitely feel the horsepower enhancement at the wheels. However, to be quite honest, the C30 out of the box is probably enough power for most drivers.
The six-speed manual transmission is easy to live with, with a light clutch pedal and short-throw shift lever. It is one of the few manual gearboxes I don’t mind getting stuck in traffic with.
Visibility around the car’s perimeter is exceptionally good. The C30 has a large rear glass: a rarity in these days of narrow greenhouses. The three-door design allows for excellent visibility to the sides as well. I had no problems monitoring traffic in adjacent lanes on the highway.
The suspension is a four-wheel independent design, consisting of MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link setup in the back. Much has been made of the C30’s relatively high MSRP when compared to other three-door hatchbacks. While the $27,850 base sticker price puts the C30 out of range for some buyers, those who can afford the car benefit from features such as the fully-independent suspension, which the competition doesn’t offer.
The same applies to the car’s large disc brakes, which stop the car faster and straighter than products with front discs and rear drums. Discs are self-drying: a big advantage in rain and snow. They are also easier to service than drums, which can build up large rust ridges that make it hard to get to the brake shoes.
Inside, the C30 feels like a much bigger car than it actually is. My husband, who is six feet tall, has no problems feeling comfortable behind the wheel. The floating center stack creates a space for storing a purse or small pack in front, without taking up room in the center console bin or on the floor.
Convenience and HVAC controls on the center stack are easy to reach from either front seating position and intuitive to operate. The knobs are large, so they are easy to operate with gloves on.
The platinum option package on the test car includes keyless start, which enables the driver to start the car without removing the key fob from his pocket. The automatic climate control that comes with the package saves the driver from fiddling with temperature and fan controls.
Front seats slide forward and fold out of the way to create good access and egress to the second-row seats. As a five-foot-six tall adult, I find the second-row seats comfortable.
Standard safety features on the C30 include front, side and side curtain airbags, whiplash resistant front seats, tire pressure monitoring, daytime running lamps and an intelligent driver information system that warns the driver about service intervals and mechanical problems.
Volvo builds the C30 at its Ghent, Belgium assembly plant.
Like: A sporty three-door hatchback with a versatile cargo area and good fuel economy. R-Design styling makes the C30 stand out in a crowd.
Model: C30 R-Design
Base price: $27,850
As tested: 35,545
Horsepower: 250 Hp @ 5000 rpm
Torque: 273 lbs.-ft. @ 1500 rpm
Zero-to-sixty: 6.2 seconds
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: No
Fuel economy: 21/29 mpg city/highway
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