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PERFORMANCE | 8 out of 10
smooth crisp shifts and little turbo lag
safe, predictable and blessed with plenty of grip
The C30 is the sharpest tool in Volvo's shed
Consensus among car enthusiast Web sites for the 2009 Volvo C30 is praise for its sure-footed handling, linear brakes, and refined five-cylinder engine with virtually zero turbo lag.
The 225-hp five-cylinder engine is a "light-pressure turbo setup, just 0.53 atmosphere at full boost,” reports Car and Driver, adding that "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" common among less sophisticated turbocharged engines. 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.
The C30 grips the road well and feels balanced, "though fast turns can induce nose plow," says Consumer Guide. The steering feels precise, and the brakes are strong and responsive.
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,” says Edmunds, noting 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.
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.
With the C30, Volvo’s inline-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. However, we agree with the majority of Web sites regarding the C30’s performance.
The 2009 Volvo C30 has satisfying performance, without the sharp edges of all-out sport coupes.