- Handsome, substantial style
- Solid build quality
- Torquey acceleration
- Handling too staid?
- Smallish rear seat
- Radio and HVAC controls
The 2008 Volvo C30 is a satisfying, high-quality hatchback that connects "small" and "premium" in all the right ways.
For Volvo, 2008 marks the Swedish manufacturer's first modern foray into the world of premium compacts with the 2008 C30. Volvo's start is solid, and it's a wedgy, hot-looking hatch with a unique rear end and lots of personality--the opposite of what TheCarConnection.com's team usually finds from Volvo products.
The 2008 Volvo C30 rides on a truncated Volvo S40 sedan chassis (shortened by eight inches), and includes the S40's proven 2.5-liter turbocharged five-cylinder in-line engine that produces a healthy 227 horsepower. There is no turbo lag, and the engine always feels at ease delivering its power. Handling is solid and secure, but the C30 drives "bigger" than it is. Volvo tends to engineer the edginess out of its suspensions, and this seems to be what members of TheCarConnection.com team perceived.
In typical Volvo form, safety equipment is abundant, with side curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes, and stability control standard. Volvo's lane-departure warning system is optional.
This equipment is housed in a small package that looks anything but cheap. The nose looks like a current S40 or V50, but it's the unique hatch glass and the broad shoulders of the rear fenders that give the car its distinctive stance. Inside, much is shared with the S40, including the floating center stack where the radio and climate system controls are located. They take a little getting used to--not unlike reading directions on a shelving unit from IKEA. The rear seats are a snug, but adults won't complain if the ride is short.
The new BMW 1-Series stands out as this group's only rear-wheel-drive entry. As you might expect, the BMW is dynamically superior to the Volvo, but it is a different and more expensive animal.
The two most relevant competitors to the 2008 Volvo C30 are the MINI Cooper and Volkswagen GTI. Both are two-door hatchbacks that have sporty yet practical personalities. The Cooper is the extrovert of the group (it always seems to be yelling, "Look at me, I'm cute!"). Setting its style aside, the turbocharged Cooper S will run circles around the C30 in terms of outright performance. The GTI is certainly more Germanic in character, and it handily outperforms the C30 dynamically and in straight-line acceleration. However, living with the GTI means you also have to like its derivative Volkswagen Rabbit styling, which is less distinctive and appealing than the 2008 Volvo C30.