Nearly all consumer car Web sites give the 2008 Volvo C30 praise for its refined five-cylinder engine with virtually zero turbo lag, smooth and linear brakes, and sure-footed handling.
According to Car and Driver, "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" that's common among less sophisticated turbocharged engines. The 225-hp five-cylinder engine is a "light-pressure turbo setup, just 0.53 atmosphere at full boost."
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.
ConsumerGuideAuto has not tested the manual-transmission C30, but they claim the five-speed automatic version "is peppy in all situations, with smooth crisp shifts and little turbo lag." With the 2.0-package C30, Volvo’s tuning "makes for an always-firm ride with abrupt vertical motions over sharp bumps." The C30 grips the road well and feels balanced, "though fast turns can induce noseplow." The steering feels precise, and the brakes are strong and responsive.
Edmunds notes 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. 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."
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.
TheCarConnection.com agrees with the majority of Web sites. With the C30, Volvo’s in-line 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.