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.
Drive the C30 a little too hard, and you'll find out that it's no Mazdaspeed3 chaser. The C30 occasionally scrambles side to side under hard acceleration at low speeds on bumpy or uneven pavement, and it plows hard when pushed into corners. The C30 is among the less nimble compact hatches, even when fitted with the sport suspension and performance tires of the R-Design package. Nose-heaviness, and the low-geared steering detract from any desire to throw the C30 into corners. All that said, the car delivers when pushed into action--it just doesn't encourage doing so the way other sporty hatchbacks do.
The positive side is that the C30 has its wheels positioned out toward the corners of the car, with a long wheelbase for a smaller two-door hatchback, so the C30 is a happy highway cruiser, with a stable and relaxed feel at and well beyond legal U.S. speeds.