2008 Volvo C30

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The Car Connection
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Martin Padgett Martin Padgett Editorial Director
May 29, 2008

Buying tip

For 2008, Volvo isn't planning on bringing too many C30s to the United States, so this hatchback may be hard to get a deal on earlier in 2008. Don't worry, though--the 2009 model year is just around the corner, and just when the 2009s are arriving is the right time to buy a 2008.

features & specs

2-Door Coupe Automatic R-Design
2-Door Coupe Automatic R-Design w/Snrf
2-Door Coupe Automatic Version 1.0
19 city / 27 hwy
19 city / 27 hwy
19 city / 27 hwy

The 2008 Volvo C30 is a satisfying, high-quality hatchback that connects "small" and "premium" in all the right ways.

TheCarConnection.com's resident car enthusiasts researched the new 2008 Volvo C30 to write this conclusive review. Experts from TheCarConnection.com also drove the Volvo C30 in Europe and the United States, and have included their insights to give you a definitive opinion on this practical and sporty car. This review also compares the 2008 Volvo C30 with other vehicles in its class to give you the best advice even when other reviews present conflicting opinions.

For Volvo, 2008 marks the Swedish manufacturer's first modern foray into the world of premium compacts with the 2008 C30. Volvo's start is solid, and it's a wedgy, hot-looking hatch with a unique rear end and lots of personality--the opposite of what TheCarConnection.com's team usually finds from Volvo products.

The 2008 Volvo C30 rides on a truncated Volvo S40 sedan chassis (shortened by eight inches), and includes the S40's proven 2.5-liter turbocharged five-cylinder in-line engine that produces a healthy 227 horsepower. There is 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 members of TheCarConnection.com team perceived.

In typical Volvo form, safety equipment is abundant, with side curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes, and stability control standard. Volvo's lane-departure warning system is optional.

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This equipment is housed in a small package that looks anything but cheap. The nose looks like a current S40 or V50, but it's the unique hatch glass and the broad shoulders of the rear fenders that give the car its distinctive stance. Inside, much is shared with the S40, including the floating center stack where the radio and climate system controls are located. They take a little getting used to--not unlike reading directions on a shelving unit from IKEA. The rear seats are a snug, but adults won't complain if the ride is short.

The new BMW 1-Series stands out as this group's only rear-wheel-drive entry. As you might expect, the BMW is dynamically superior to the Volvo, but it is a different and more expensive animal.

The two most relevant competitors to the 2008 Volvo C30 are the MINI Cooper and Volkswagen GTI. Both are two-door hatchbacks that have sporty yet practical personalities. The Cooper is the extrovert of the group (it always seems to be yelling, "Look at me, I'm cute!"). Setting its style aside, the turbocharged Cooper S will run circles around the C30 in terms of outright performance. The GTI is certainly more Germanic in character, and it handily outperforms the C30 dynamically and in straight-line acceleration. However, living with the GTI means you also have to like its derivative Volkswagen Rabbit styling, which is less distinctive and appealing than the 2008 Volvo C30.


2008 Volvo C30


The 2008 Volvo C30 brings newfound coolness to the Swedish carmaker.

The 2008 Volvo C30 receives rave reviews from automobile magazines and consumer car Web sites for its contemporary styling.

The 2008 Volvo C30 inherits its styling cues from the S40 sedan. Automobile.com notes that "unlike the S40, the C30's front fenders swell slightly at the wheels, and the rear shoulder is deeper than on any other Volvo." The hindquarters give shape to the C30; Volvo bestows the hatchback with its own identity courtesy of the unique S-curve of the fenders and glass. "The taillights trace that shoulder shape, framing a very cool glass hatchback." The wheelbase is identical to the sedan, but the Volvo designers chopped off 8.8 inches from the back.

Car and Driver compares the 2008 Volvo C30 to "an S40 sedan made over with a butt tuck...and all-new clothes." In addition to shaving off about 200 pounds, "chopping off the tail has the visual effect of exaggerating the front overhang, amplifying the wedge shape created by the beltline rising as it seeps toward the tail."

Edmunds reports that although the "front end is instantly recognizable" with contemporary Volvo styling, "the unusual hatchback draws inspiration from the classic 1800ES of the 1970s." Motor Trend agrees the C30's front end resembles that of the S40 and V50, while the rear end has Volvo's cult-classic wagonette's signature all over it, calling the C30 the "wild child of the Volvo family."

According to Kelley Blue Book, the 2008 Volvo C30 is available in two trim levels; "the 1.0 model pairs 205/50 tires with 17-inch aluminum wheels," while the 2.0 gets 215/45 tires, larger 18-inch wheels, and a body kit with fender flares, side skirts, and front and rear spoilers.

Inside the C30, Volvo borrows the elegant theme from the S40 and V50 as well. “The signature thin, 'floating' center console from the S40/V50 has been incorporated into the C30's interior design,” ForbesAutos notes. Motor Trend nods in favor of the “S40-esque cockpit adorned with Volvo's now ubiquitous T-Tec upholstery and floating center console, familiar effects that mesh nicely with the leather-wrapped sport steering wheel and shift knob.” Edmunds says, “The distinctive floating console is present and correct, although it can now be specified with an aluminum surf pattern or even with glossy white finish inspired by iPod."

TheCarConnection.com thinks that Volvo's start in the compact two-door market is solid, and it's a wedgy, hot-looking hatch with a unique rear end and lots of personality--the opposite of what Volvo usually offers. The interior treatment is particularly handsome—a standout in the compact class.

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2008 Volvo C30


The 2008 Volvo C30 performs with a sporty flair, though the ride could be a touch softer.

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.

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2008 Volvo C30

Comfort & Quality

In the C30, Volvo’s crafted an interior that is roomy and well-fitted.

TheCarConnection.com found that most reviewers wouldn't mind spending time in the 2008 Volvo C30--it's spacious and comfortable for its class.

Car and Driver calls the 2008 Volvo C30 an "easy-wearing runabout for two" with space for two more passengers in the back as long as "their inseam doesn't stretch more than 30 inches." The front bucket seats are firmly bolstered, which may "prompt complaints from the broad beamers among us." Shorter people might find that it seams like an unusually long reach to access the shoulder belt, especially with the seat adjusted forward. Apart from that quirk in the C30, Volvo’s two-door hatch is "a handy little mobile unit, about two inches longer than the VW Rabbit, so it's easy to park." Automobile says, “the bucket-style back seats are actually roomy enough to comfortably seat a six-footer.”

The cabin is definitively upscale with high-quality materials and all controls within easy reach. ConsumerGuideAuto notes that there's "ample headroom and legroom," and the seats "are firm yet comfortable and nicely bolstered for spirited cornering." On the other hand, legroom can be cramped in the backseats--especially if the front seats are set all the way back. "Some of the testers disliked the 2008 Volvo C30's all-glass hatch, which leaves cargo plainly visible from the outside--and no cargo cover is available."

Edmunds reports that in the C30 Volvo, there’s more room than in the Audi TT, but adults will find the rear seats "adequate for short journeys," and a pair of six-footers will "struggle to sit in tandem." Trunk capacity is modest, and golfers will have problems stowing their clubs, although the rear seats fold down to increase cargo space.

Kelley Blue Book reports that "folding the seatbacks increases cargo capacity from 12.9 to 20.2 cubic feet." But the 2008 Volvo C30's small and oddly shaped glass hatch restricts loading and unloading. Motor Trend estimates the cargo space to be smaller (8.2 cubic feet) with the seats folded up and larger (30.9 cubic feet) with the seats folded down.

TheCarConnection.com’s editors spent some quality time in the 2008 Volvo C30 and found its cabin roomy for two passengers and a good amount of cargo. It’s a small package that looks anything but cheap. The rear seats are snug, but adults won't complain if the ride is short.

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2008 Volvo C30


The 2008 Volvo C30 is loaded with standard safety features, but it has not been crash tested by the feds.

The 2008 Volvo C30 has been equipped with some cutting-edge safety equipment. As yet, though, it has not been tested by the federal government.

Motor Trend notes that "in addition to the standard bevy of front, side and side curtain airbags, the C30 protects with seatbelt pretensioners for all four seats, a whiplash protection system, a side-impact protection system, and dynamic stability traction control." Although the feds haven't yet crash tested the C30, Volvo claims that in its own crash testing, "the C30 performs as well as the S40, a vehicle Volvo touts as being as safe as its large sedans," Motor Trend adds.

ConsumerGuideAuto adds that other safety equipment includes anti-lock four-wheel brakes, antiskid system, daytime running lights, and Volvo's IDIS (Intelligent Driver Information System) that delays certain functions, such as a phone call, when the driver is engaged in a more complicated maneuver (heavy braking, turning, and so on). A rear obstacle detection system is also available as an option. Volvo's lane-departure warning system is optional.


2008 Volvo C30


The 2008 Volvo C30 is loaded with premium standard features, and it can be customized like a tuner car.

Reviews read by the TheCarConnection.com were impressed with the high-level standard and optional features available on the 2008 Volvo C30.

Car and Driver notes that in the C30, Volvo offers lots of standard gear in two trim levels. Version 1.0 comes with 205/50R all-weather Michelins mounted on 17-inch alloy wheels and a softer suspension that won't have you reaching for a kidney belt on pothole-riddled roads. "You'll get sure-footed reflexes paired with no-complaints ride smoothness, at least on the acne-free blacktops." Version 2.0 has higher-rate springs, shocks, and sway bars plus stiffer 215/45 tires mounted on 18-inch hoops. Expect a stiffer, more jarring ride, but those who like to feel the road will opt for this package.

Kelley Blue Book notes that in the C30, Volvo has standard air conditioning with cabin pollen filter, tilt and telescoping steering column, a driver information system, keyless remote entry, and anti-theft immobilizer system all standard issue. The 1.0's 160-watt/six-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio package is replaced in the 2.0 by a 650-watt/10-speaker setup that includes a six-month subscription to Sirius Satellite Radio. Both audio systems feature an auxiliary input jack. The 2.0 also gets unique bodywork, chassis, and interior trim enhancements. A navigation system is optional, as is a Dynaudio sound system.

As Car and Driver says, "Volvo offers a long list of ways to make your C30 more expensive, including a custom-build program in which you ante $300 for a special menu that allows you to pay still more for a la carte items."

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Styling 8
Performance 8
Comfort & Quality 8
Safety 9
Features 9
Fuel Economy N/A
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