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As part sporty coupe, part chiseled hatchback, the 2012 Volvo C30 manages to spearhead Volvo's appeal to a more performance-minded and style-conscious crowd.
No Volvo model has reached back and modernized a portion of Volvo's design heritage quite as successfully as the C30, which in some respects found inspiration from the early 1970s Volvo 1800ES 'shooting brake' sports car. The Volvo C30 was one of the most stylish small cars on the market when it was first introduced, about five years ago, and it remains that way today—a sign that it's aging well. The C30 has a design that clearly makes some packaging sacrifices for the sake of being sleek, low, and rakish, but overall the C30 looks unabashedly proud of it. Inside, the C30 has a design that'smore sophisticated and laid-back, compared to most 'hot hatches', with the now-familiar Volvo 'floating' center stack, a thin panel housing radio and climate controls, with a pass-through compartment just ahead, by the footwell.
The C30 might be a compact hatchback, but it's tuned to feel like a slightly larger, more mature coupe, with none of the eager, sometimes twitchy feel you'll fine in some alternatives like the MazdaSpeed3 or even Mini Cooper S. Power comes in a remarkably linear fashion from the proven 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine, here turbocharged and producing a healthy 227 horsepower. Its peak torque of 236 pound-feet of torque is reached at just 1,800 rpm, so it does very well with the automatic; the standard six-speed manual is also pleasant but a bit notchy.
The price of the C30's rather low roofline and rakish look is that there's a shortage of headroom; tall drivers might find themselves surprisingly short on space, as the sunroof makes it scarce. There are two rear seats—separately contoured positions—though they're snug and scaled-down and best kept for children. And the rather narrow cargo area and high floor limit luggage space, though the seats fold and the glass hatch is convenient.
Safety is a point not forgotten in the C30, even though it hints at performance—and delivers it to a degree. The 2012 C30 is an IIHS Top Safety Pick, with top 'good' ratings in all of the organization's tests, and a rear obstacle detection system, blind-spot alert system (Volvo's BLIS), and lane-departure warning system are all available. Other options include a moonroof, leather upholstery, a climate package, and a preferred package with rain-sensor wipers and headlight washers.The highlight of the lineup, at least visually, remains the style-centric R-Design model, which includes different front and rear aerodynamic work; a sport suspension; Pirelli performance tires; special 'Midir' wheel design; xenon HID headlamps with Active Bending Light; and a hard-drive-based nav system with live traffic.
For 2012, Volvo has added Bluetooth audio streaming to the sound system, added a rear armrest to all models, and revamped the option packages on both standard C30 and C30 R-Design models.
- Stylish interior design and trim
- Strong powertrain
- Stable, relaxed highway cruising
- Tight, quiet interior
- Extensive options
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- Lack of headroom
- Odd driving position
- Tiny 2+2 backseat
- Disappointing cargo space
- Pricey at the high end