2009 Volvo C30 Review

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Trevor Wild Trevor Wild Author
February 3, 2009

The 2009 Volvo C30 connects "small" and "premium" in most of the right ways in an attractive, high-quality hatchback.

TheCarConnection.com's editors drove the Volvo C30 to help you decide which reviews to trust and where opinions differ. We provide you with the best information, impressions, and details. The European car experts at TheCarConnection.com also studied other road tests of the 2009 Volvo C30 to put together this conclusive review.

The Volvo C30 is the opposite of what TheCarConnection.com's team usually finds from Volvo products. The C30 is an attractive hatch with a unique, retro-styled rear end and lots of personality. Introduced last year, the C30 is the Swedish manufacturer's first modern foray into the world of premium compacts.

The nose of the C30 resembles 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.

The 2009 Volvo C30 is, in some respects, a truncated two-door-hatchback variant of the S40 sedan and V50 wagon, meaning you'll find a similar driving personality. The C30 utilizes Volvo's proven 2.5-liter turbocharged five-cylinder engine, here turbocharged and producing a healthy 227 horsepower.

Review continues below

Handling is solid and secure, but the C30 drives "bigger" than it is. In the opinion of members of TheCarConnection.com team, Volvo tends to engineer the edginess out of its suspensions. The wheelbase, a long 104 inches, is shared with the S40 and V50—which results in a good ride and surprisingly stable, relaxed high-speed cruising. In following, the C30 has a heft that make it feel more secure but less nimble than some small cars; the suspension is quite firm, though, resulting in jarring jolts over potholes and some boominess on coarse surfaces.

The C30 is a small package that looks anything but cheap. It shares its interior with the S40, including the floating center stack where the radio and climate system controls are located. The base sound system has 160 watts and is HD Radio compatible. Front seats are comfortable, but tall drivers might find themselves surprisingly short on space, as the sunroof cuts precious headroom. The rear seats—configured more as two separate contoured positions with scaled-down proportions—are snug, and adults will complain even if they can wedge in.

Volvo's lane-departure warning system is optional, but in typical Volvo fashion safety equipment is abundant, with side curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes, and stability control standard.

Although the C30 comes with a wide range of standard features, its options list is extensive, though it doesn't include all the features you'd expect. For instance, cruise control, Sirius Satellite Radio, and a Bluetooth calling interface—items now required by many buyers—are optional. Other options include a navigation system, high-end Dynaudio sound, HID headlamps, various wheel designs, and trims such as Nordic Light Oak.

For 2009 Volvo created a new R-Design model. Prompted by positive customer response for the limited edition C30 R-Design package introduced late in the 2008 model year, the C30 R-Design will be the top model in the range for 2009. Standard features include a special front grille with matte silver surround and R-Design logo, a sport steering wheel, sport pedals, and R-Design watch dial instrument cluster.

9

2009 Volvo C30

Styling

Volvo enters the realm of cool with the 2009 Volvo C30.

The contemporary styling of the Volvo C30 has drawn rave reviews from nearly all automobile magazines and consumer car Web sites.

Car and Driver compares the 2009 Volvo C30 to "an S40 sedan made over with a butt tuck...and all-new clothes." In addition to shaving off about 200 pounds, "chopping off the tail has the visual effect of exaggerating the front overhang, amplifying the wedge shape created by the beltline rising as it seeps toward the tail."

Automobile.com notes that "unlike the S40, the C30's front fenders swell slightly at the wheels, and the rear shoulder is deeper than on any other Volvo." The hindquarters give shape to the C30; Volvo bestows the hatchback with its own identity courtesy of the unique S-curve of the fenders and glass. "The taillights trace that shoulder shape, framing a very cool glass hatchback." The wheelbase is identical to the sedan, but the Volvo designers chopped off 8.8 inches from the back.

Calling the C30 the "wild child of the Volvo family," Motor Trend says the C30's front end resembles that of the S40 and V50, while the rear end has Volvo's cult-classic wagonette's signature all over it. Edmunds reports that although the "front end is instantly recognizable" with contemporary Volvo styling, "the unusual hatchback draws inspiration from the classic 1800ES of the 1970s."

The interior of the C30 borrows from the S40 and V50. “The signature thin, 'floating' center console from the S40/V50 has been incorporated into the C30's interior design,” ForbesAutos notes. Motor Trend nods in favor of the “S40-esque cockpit adorned with Volvo's now ubiquitous T-Tec upholstery and floating center console, familiar effects that mesh nicely with the leather-wrapped sport steering wheel and shift knob.” Edmunds says, “The distinctive floating console is present and correct, although it can now be specified with an aluminum surf pattern or even with glossy white finish inspired by iPod."

TheCarConnection.com contends that Volvo's compact two-door model is a solid offering, and it's a wedgy, hot-looking hatch with a unique rear end and lots of personality. The interior treatment is particularly handsome.

8

2009 Volvo C30

Performance

The 2009 Volvo C30 has satisfying performance, without the sharp edges of all-out sport coupes.

Consensus among car enthusiast Web sites for the 2009 Volvo C30 is praise for its sure-footed handling, linear brakes, and refined five-cylinder engine with virtually zero turbo lag.

The 225-hp five-cylinder engine is a "light-pressure turbo setup, just 0.53 atmosphere at full boost,” reports Car and Driver, adding that "much of the C30's joy comes from its coordinated responses." The brakes are "wonderfully linear," and the throttle is free of "jump-jerky hyperactivity" common among less sophisticated turbocharged engines. The power doesn't come on abruptly, and "there seems to be nobody home when you toe into it in fifth and sixth gear at polite speeds." The power ramps up quickly, however, in the lower gears when you put the pedal to the metal, and getting from 0-60 mph takes a mere 6.7 seconds.

The C30 grips the road well and feels balanced, "though fast turns can induce nose plow," says Consumer Guide. The steering feels precise, and the brakes are strong and responsive.

The tune is more sporting and the ride quality is noticeably firmer, "but the difference can be overstated." Not a sportscar—although it is "capable in the manner of Audi's A3"—the C30 Volvo is "safe, predictable and blessed with plenty of grip,” says Edmunds, noting that "the turbo is only lightly stressed so lag is never a problem," and the engine has a "distinctive five-cylinder hum." It’s a family trait with the C30; Volvo’s hatch shares its underpinnings with the S40 sedan.

Motor Trend believes that "the C30 is the sharpest tool in Volvo's shed." While "not as engaging as the more tactile GTI," the C30 has 18 more horses under the hood and 29 more pound-feet of torque that's realized at 1,500 rpm, so in the C30 Volvo chalks up 0-60 mph times that are slightly quicker than the GTI and quarter-mile times that are right there with its German competitor. "While the C30 could use a raspier exhaust note," it doesn't suffer from turbo lag, balky shifter, or flimsy structure.

With the C30, Volvo’s inline-five has virtually 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 TheCarConnection.com’s editors experienced in their recent test drives. However, we agree with the majority of Web sites regarding the C30’s performance.

8

2009 Volvo C30

Comfort & Quality

The 2009 Volvo C30 is a well-crafted automobile with a plush interior that's roomy in front.

The 2009 C30 is spacious and comfortable enough for most reviewers to pleasantly spend time inside the Volvo.

Car and Driver calls the 2009 Volvo C30 an "easy-wearing runabout for two" with space for two more passengers in the back as long as "their inseam doesn't stretch more than 30 inches." The front bucket seats are firmly bolstered, which may "prompt complaints from the broad beamers among us." Shorter people might find that it seems like an unusually long reach to access the shoulder belt, especially with the seat adjusted forward. Apart from that quirk in the C30, Volvo’s two-door hatch is "a handy little mobile unit, about two inches longer than the VW Rabbit, so it's easy to park."

Observations on the C30's seating run the gamut, indicating that the C30 might fit some, while leaving others uncomfortable. Consumer Guide notes that in front there's "ample headroom and legroom," and the seats "are firm yet comfortable and nicely bolstered for spirited cornering." TheCarConnection.com editors add that the available sunroof reduces headroom significantly.

Automobile says, “The bucket-style back seats are actually roomy enough to comfortably seat a six-footer”—an observation that TheCarConnection.com's editors haven't found true. Other reviewers note that legroom can be cramped in the backseats—especially if the front seats are set all the way back. According to Edmunds, the C30 Volvo provides more interior room than the Audi TT, but adults will find the rear seats "adequate for short journeys," and a pair of six-footers will "struggle to sit in tandem."

"Some of the testers disliked the 2009 Volvo C30's all-glass hatch, which leaves cargo plainly visible from the outside—and no cargo cover is available," warns Consumer Guide Auto. Trunk capacity is modest, and golfers will have problems stowing their clubs, although the rear seats fold down to increase cargo space.

"Folding the seatbacks increases cargo capacity from 12.9 to 20.2 cubic feet," reports Kelley Blue Book. But the 2009 Volvo C30's small and oddly shaped glass hatch restricts loading and unloading. Motor Trend estimates the cargo space to be smaller (8.2 cubic feet) with the seats folded up and larger (30.9 cubic feet) with the seats folded down.

The cabin overall is definitively upscale with high-quality materials and all controls within easy reach. Ride quality might be a little too harsh for some tastes. With the R-Design's stockier wheels and tires, Volvo’s tuning "makes for an always-firm ride with abrupt vertical motions over sharp bumps," says Consumer Guide.

After spending some quality time with the 2009 Volvo C30, TheCarConnection.com’s editors find its cabin roomy for two passengers and a good amount of cargo—provided you've no desire to keep that cargo private. And it's a package that looks anything but cheap.

9

2009 Volvo C30

Safety

The 2009 Volvo C30 is small, but not lacking in security.

The 2009 Volvo C30 is equipped with the latest safety equipment—a declaration that's not surprising given the Swedish automaker's history of making safety a top priority.

Consumer Guide reports that the Volvo C30 includes anti-lock four-wheel brakes, antiskid system, daytime running lights, and Volvo's IDIS (Intelligent Driver Information System), which delays certain functions, such as a phone call when the driver is engaged in a more complicated maneuver (heavy braking, turning, and so on). A rear obstacle detection system is also available as an option. Volvo's lane-departure warning system is optional.

Motor Trend notes that "in addition to the standard bevy of front, side and side-curtain airbags, the C30 protects with seatbelt pretensioners for all four seats, a whiplash protection system, a side-impact protection system, and dynamic stability traction control." Although the feds haven't yet crash tested the C30, Volvo claims that in its own crash testing, "the C30 performs as well as the S40, a vehicle Volvo touts as being as safe as its large sedans," Motor Trend adds.

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2009 Volvo C30

Features

Volvo could do better to configure the 2009 Volvo C30 with popular features, but if you have the extra money, it can be customized like a tuner car.

TheCarConnection.com experts are impressed with the optional features available on the 2009 Volvo C30, but several of them—such as Bluetooth, satellite radio, and cruise control—should be on the standard-equipment list.

The 2009 Volvo C30 is available in two trim levels: the T5 and T5 R-Design (replacing the 1.0 and 2.0 respectively). The T5 features a new Preferred Package that includes power driver's seat, front fog lights, trip computer, leather parking brake cover, Keyless Drive, and Dynaudio sound system. The R-Design is the luxury model, and it's recognizable by its many special items, such as upholstery with embossed logo, watch dial instrument cluster, grille with matte silver surround, a sport steering wheel, and sport pedals.

The T5 version comes with 205/50R all-weather Michelins mounted on 17-inch alloy wheels and a softer suspension that won't have you reaching for a kidney belt on pothole-riddled roads. "You'll get sure-footed reflexes paired with no-complaints ride smoothness, at least on the acne-free blacktops," says Car and Driver. The T5 R-Design has higher-rate springs, shocks, and sway bars, plus stiffer 215/45 tires mounted on 18-inch hoops. Expect a stiff, more jarring ride, but those who like to feel the road will opt for this package.

According to Kelley Blue Book, the Volvo C30 has standard air conditioning with cabin pollen filter, tilt and telescoping steering column, a driver information system, keyless remote entry, and anti-theft immobilizer system all standard issue. The T5's 160-watt/six-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio package is replaced in the R-Design by a 650-watt/10-speaker setup that includes a six-month subscription to Sirius Satellite Radio. Both audio systems feature an auxiliary input jack. The R-Design also gets unique bodywork, chassis, and interior trim enhancements. A navigation system is optional, as is a Dynaudio sound system.

As Car and Driver says, "Volvo offers a long list of ways to make your C30 more expensive, including a custom-build program in which you ante $300 for a special menu that allows you to pay still more for a la carte items."

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8.2
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Styling 9.0
Performance 8.0
Comfort & Quality 8.0
Safety 9.0
Features 7.0
Fuel Economy N/A
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