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With the discontinuation of Volvo's S40 and V50 compact models, the C30 continues on as something of an outlier in Volvo's U.S. lineup. While the S60 and XC60 manage to woo the traditional Volvo family crowd with a solid set of family-friendly credentials and a roomier package, the racy-looking C30 offers something quite different. Part sporty coupe, part chiseled hatchback, the 2013 C30 makes an appeal to a more performance-minded and style-conscious crowd, arguably, but it only manages to hit the mark with the latter group--and falls surprisingly short on practicality.
The Volvo C30 was one of the most stylish small cars on the market when it was first introduced many 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.
Three-door hatchbacks with any sort of performance bent are typically geared toward serious younger enthusiasts and tuner types, but the C30 tends to be something different. While the look is racy, the combination of the C30's stylish interior, well-isolated road feel, and handling that opts out of the ragged edge, the C30 is surprisingly not the kind of car that wants to be flung through corners. Instead, it's a fast touring coupe, or a comfortable commuter--and one with a responsive side that won't let you down if you approach it from that direction. The turbocharged 227-horsepower five-cylinder engine provides a steady flow of linear power, with its peak torque of 236 pound-feet achieved at a remarkably low 1,800 rpm. The automatic transmission is a surprisingly willing companion, as it keeps the engine on its boost and works well with your right foot; a somewhat notchy six-speed manual transmission is your other option, and that's fine, too.
There aren't a lot of other positives to share about the interior, once you get beyond the style points. While front-seat space is generally good, headroom is surprisingly tight with the sunroof; and the two carved-out bucket seats in back aren't really sized for full-scale human adults. Cargo space is disappointingly limited, with a high cargo floor and a narrow opening through the glass hatch--pretty much assuring that you'll block off some of your rearward visibility just in a typical grocery run. Ride comfort is no more than adequate, either; the suspension is on the firm side (although soft when pressed); and the C30's interior can get boomy over coarse highway surfaces.
Volvo has been making the R-Design models the top trims in all of its model ranges, with a sporty edge plus extra comforts and distinctive materials and trims, and here it's the way to get a C30 if you're willing to pay some thousands more. R-Design models get an aero package at the front and rear, Pirelli high-performance tires on unique alloy wheels, a retuned sport suspension, xenon High-Intensity Discharge headlamps, and a standard navigation system that includes live real-time traffic data. Premier Plus and Platinum models get the most R-Design extras, as well as power driver and front passenger seats, keyless drive, and LED running lamps.
All C30 models also gain fully synthetic motor oil for 2013, which increases service intervals out to one year or 10,000 miles.