- Very attractive design
- Good handling and maneuverability
- Strong acceleration
- Odd driving position
- Tiny 2+2 backseat
- Disappointing cargo space
The 2010 Volvo C30 offers a look and feel that's unlike any other hatchback, but it sacrifices plenty of practicality to do so.
In just a decade or so, Volvo has made an about-face with respect to design, going from boxy and chiseled to sleek and rakish. One of the current models that most demonstrates that change is the Volvo C30, an attractive hatch with a unique, retro-styled rear end and lots of personality.
The 2010 Volvo C30 is, in some respects, a truncated two-door-hatchback variant of the S40 sedan and V50 wagon. The similarities to those other models really only hold from the front. In back, the neat, familiar Volvo look yields to a broad-shouldered, rakish silhouette, with a unique, blacked-out glass hatch. Large, flashy alloy wheels and lipped wheel wells with dark lower-body and window trim help give the whole design seem more like a fastback coupe from the side.
The C30 utilizes Volvo's proven 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine, here turbocharged and producing a healthy 227 horsepower, along with a more important 236 pound-feet of torque beginning at just 1,800 rpm. The turbo engine actually does very well with the automatic; the standard six-speed manual is also pleasant but a bit notchy. Because the C30 sends a lot of power to the front wheels, it can be a bit challenged for traction when accelerating hard on bumpy surfaces at low speed, but overall the C30 handles in a solid and secure way. 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. It’s also quite economical—as high as 21 mpg city, 30 highway with the automatic.
Sophisticated and unlike most other small cars inside as well, the C30 manages to wow with its interior design. There's a "floating" center stack, a thin panel where radio and climate system controls are located, allowing an open space with storage just behind. The base sound system is quite good, with 160 watts and HD Radio compatibility, but the high-end Dynaudio system is better than you'll find in any other small hatchback. Front seats have an attractive two-tone look, with contrast stitching, and there are soft-touch areas for the elbows. However, the interior is tight; 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. The cargo space is a bit disappointing, too, with a narrow opening through the glass hatch and a high cargo floor. Such is the sacrifice for fashion.
Despite the racier image of the C30, Volvo's reputation for top-notch safety doesn't dip in any way. In typical Volvo fashion, safety equipment is abundant, with side curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes, and stability control standard; Volvo's lane-departure warning system is optional. Although the federal government hasn't crash-tested the C30, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has given the C30 its top "good" rating in each of its tests, along with its Top Safety Pick designation, which few small cars have typically earned.
The Volvo C30 lineup was reconfigured last year, with the addition of a style-centric R-Design model. For 2010, the C30 gets more standard features, but the custom-build program that enables various extra features and add-ons has been discontinued. For 2010, a number of features that had been optional previously are now standard; a trip computer, cruise control, and a Bluetooth hands-free calling interface are all currently included on the base C30 T5, while the C30 R-Design gets newly standard fog lamps. The C30 R-Design model offers a more aggressive look, with different front and rear aerodynamic work, along with all sorts of sporty cues, but it's also something of a real sport package, boasting dynamic chassis control and upgraded wheels with Pirelli P Zero Rosso tires. Other options on the C30 lineup include a moonroof, leather upholstery, a navigation system with real-time traffic, a climate package, and a preferred package with active HID headlamps.