As a compact three-door hatchback, you'd expect the 2012 Volvo C30 to be fairly green. But its fuel efficiency is disappointing, with EPA gas-mileage ratings of just 21 mpg city and 29 (manual) or 30 (automatic) mpg highway. Those figures are closer to what you'd get in a mid-size four-door sedan, and rank on the low end of the compact scale in a year when more than one compact sedan achieves 40 mpg on the highway.
The EPA's ratings are realistic, according to our test drives; we saw a real-world 23 mpg during a particularly cold winter road test. And you may not be comparing to economy-oriented compacts, either, but to sportier hatchbacks like the Mazda3 or the Volkswagen GTI. If that's the case, the C30 looks somewhat better--but still nowhere near the top of the fuel efficiency list. And with Mazda having launched its new, more economical SkyActiv Mazda3 this year, the competition is getting steadily tougher for the littlest Volvo.