Comparison Test: 2007 Mini Cooper S vs. 2008 Volvo C30

2007 Mini Cooper Hatchback

(1.6L 4-cyl. Turbo 6-speed Manual)
  • 2007 Mini Cooper S vs. 2008 Volvo C30 Comparison Test Video

    Watch the 2007 Mini Cooper S vs. 2008 Volvo C30 Comparison Test Video on Edmunds' Inside Line | September 25, 2009

1 Video , 20 Photos

Redefining the Premium Hatchback

  • Comparison Test
  • Second Opinions
  • Top 5 Features
  • Data and Charts
  • Final Rankings and Scoring Explanation
  • 2007 Mini Cooper Specs and Performance
  • 2008 Volvo C30 Specs and Performance

Volkswagen fans might not agree, but the Mini Cooper is America's first premium hatchback. It might be the size of a grown-up go-kart, but the Mini has enough style to get pretty people out of their BMWs and enough cool features to make tech geeks drool.

Now there's another premium hatchback playing the same game — the 2008 Volvo C30. Like the Mini, it has retro styling to get your attention and all the latest features, but underneath the throwback bodywork is an S40 sedan without the rear doors. It's bigger than the Mini, so the C30 is a more practical package, but it has enough power to make it quick.

To see if the civilized C30 has a chance against the recently redesigned 2007 Mini Cooper S, we put them together head to head. We did all our usual track testing and back-to-back comparisons, and then plugged all that data into our scoring spreadsheet to determine the winner.

There is one small problem, though, because the spreadsheet keeps spitting out the same two numbers. Yes, after all the track-testing, road-tripping, errand-running, feature-counting and cost-comparing, the Mini and the C30 land in a virtual dead heat — 79.1 percent to 79.2 percent, a tie in our book. Here's why.

Starting on Equal Footing
Neither the Mini nor the Volvo has an advantage in the features department. Although both cars have options lists that can land you in BMW territory when it comes to a bottom-line price, these particular ones are relatively modestly equipped.

For the Mini side of the equation, we brought the Cooper S that we recently acquired as a long-term test car. It has the Sport package that adds 17-inch wheels, xenon headlights and stability control, plus stand-alone options like sport suspension, a limited-slip differential, heated seats and a center armrest. These extras add roughly $4,000 to the base price for a total of $25,220.

For the Volvo, we chose the more expensive Version 2.0 over the base model. It comes standard with features like a sport suspension, 18-inch wheels and tires and a 650-watt Dynaudio sound system, among others. The only extra-cost additions are foglights, cruise control, special paint and an extra charge for ordering the special paint. The grand total is a still-reasonable $26,745.

Nothing Settled on the Drag Strip
Judging by the engine specs, it looks like the Volvo C30 should toast the Cooper S in straight-line performance. With its 227-horsepower, turbocharged 2.5-liter five-cylinder, the C30 has a sizable power advantage over the Mini's 172-hp, turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder. The Volvo also delivers 236 pound-feet of torque at 1,500 rpm, while the Mini peaks at just 177 lb-ft at 1,600 rpm. Both cars come standard with a six-speed manual transmission.

What the Mini lacks in power, it makes up in size. From nose to tail, the Mini is nearly 20 inches shorter. It's also roughly 4 inches narrower and sits about 1.5 inches lower on a shorter wheelbase. Not surprising then, that the Cooper S has an as-tested curb weight of 2,623 pounds, some 575 pounds less than the C30.

Then there's the Mini's overboost feature. It cranks up the turbo for short bursts to increase torque as high as 192 lb-ft. This output, combined with a limited-slip differential, helps our Mini turn a 6.9-second 0-60-mph time — just 0.3 slower than the Volvo. At the quarter-mile, our Mini surpasses the C30's performance, as the Cooper S records a 15.0-second pass at 93.9 mph versus the Volvo's 15.1-second effort at 94.3 mph.

One Stops Shorter, the Other Slaloms Faster
Neither of these hatchbacks enjoys a clear advantage when it comes to braking or handling. The Mini is slightly better on the brakes with a solid pedal feel and a 115-foot stop from 60 mph. The Volvo isn't far behind with a 117-foot stop, but its soft pedal makes the distance feel longer.

Through the slalom, the Mini has everything going for it: a smaller size, quicker steering, upgraded 17-inch wheels with 205/45R17 Dunlop SP Sport tires plus the optional sport suspension. It comes through with a blistering 68.5-mph run, a fast speed for any car in any class.

Then the Volvo threads through the same set of cones at 69.1 mph. Sure, the body rolls more and more steering input is required, but the speed speaks for itself. It's easy to push the C30 hard thanks to loads of grip from the standard 215/45R18 Pirelli P Zero Rosso tires. It also has a stable, well-sorted chassis (derived from the Mazda 3) and accurate steering. The C30 held its own on the skid pad, too, with a 0.85g versus the Mini's 0.87g.

It's a Different Story on the Highway
So the Volvo is bigger and more powerful, yet no faster in a straight line; the Mini is smaller and feels more nimble, but its slalom speeds are slower. Two good performances, but neither car has a clear advantage, so we left the drag strip for some real roads.

After some highway miles, the C30 takes a slight edge on our scoring sheet. Between the soft seats, the expansive field of view and the simplicity of its controls, the Volvo feels immediately familiar. There's nothing to figure out with the C30. It has simple, clear gauges right in front of you, a twist-and-turn ignition key and pictograph-identified climate controls.

The suspension that helps deliver the C30's surprising slalom times isn't the least bit stiff, either. On the highway, the C30 feels isolated from the pavement, with none of the road noise you would expect from its aggressive tires. Turbo whine is virtually nonexistent so the engine is quiet, too.

There's nothing vague about the Mini. It gets right to the point by clearly communicating the texture of the road surface through the steering wheel. The switch to electric steering certainly hasn't dulled the Cooper's reflexes, although the car does feel slightly less twitchy over rough pavement. And unlike the first Cooper S that rode too harshly when equipped with the optional run-flat tires and sport suspension, the latest Cooper S has the right bushings to keep hard impacts in check without compromising road feel.

While it may not be as comfortable as the C30, the Mini is still accommodating. You sit far more upright in the Cooper S and the windshield is a little low if you're tall, but overall the view is good and the seats are supportive.

It takes more time to get used to the Cooper S, though, as Mini insists on being different when it should be simple. There's no key, just a fob that you insert into the dash before hitting the start button. The centrally located speedometer still annoys us and the radio controls are poorly placed.

The Mini Takes Over
On more entertaining roads, the advantage swings the other way and the Mini is the clear winner. The immediacy of its steering, its lack of body roll and the predictable levels of cornering grip allow you to push hard into any corner with complete confidence. The cornering transitions of its lightweight chassis are quick and the brakes always feel strong. You simply don't fear what this car will do, and even if you push too hard the stability control system intrudes only briefly.

There are some problems, like the Sport button that doesn't seem to do much. The shift linkage isn't perfect either, but it has straight throws and solid gates, so you can whip through the gears quickly without being delicate.

Power from the turbocharged 1.6-liter engine is remarkable. It might only have 4 horsepower more than its predecessor, but it feels stronger and revs smoother. Mileage isn't bad either, as the Mini averaged 26.4 mpg during the test.

Go straight from the Mini to the C30 over the same roads and the Volvo feels like a rolling bean bag. All the controls — the steering, the shift lever and the brake pedal — feel isolated and imprecise. You can still have fun, as the capability is there, but everything feels geared toward less stressful cruising.

There's also loads of understeer, and when you power out of corners, the front tires wind up in a ball of torque steer. Longer, sweeping corners suit the C30 much better. With the accurate steering and plentiful grip, the C30 will hustle through fast turns, but it never has the eagerness of the Mini.

Daily Grind Goes to the Volvo
As fun as it is to thrash the Mini and the Volvo at the track and in the mountains, they'll spend more, if not all, of their time as daily drivers. For such chores, the Volvo is a far more agreeable hatchback.

All that softness we felt in the mountains translates into pure relaxation around town. The shift lever feels weightless as long as you're not trying to jam it into gear and the steering is equally light at low speeds.

You can also fit four real people in the Volvo with cargo room to spare, and once the rear seats are folded down there are just over 20 cubic feet of usable space. Basic stuff like storage bins and the cupholders are better in the C30 as well, and the stereo is one of the best you'll find at this price. Everything in the cabin looks and feels a step above the Mini, too.

You can't beat the Mini's size when it comes to parking in tight spots, but the car's overall dimensions take their toll when it comes to practicality. There's just not enough room to do much in the Mini if it involves anything more than the driver and a passenger. Rear-seat passenger room is laughable, and although folding the seats opens up more measurable space than the Volvo, it is not as usable because of the shape of the floor.

Storage space is in short supply in the Mini, and placing the cupholders right in front of the shifter lever hasn't been Mini's brightest idea. And the choice of materials isn't great either, as they all look a bit cheaper than we remember from the first Mini.

Two Very Good and Very Different Hatchbacks
On the surface, these two hatchbacks might be battling for the same customers, but once you dig deeper, it's clear they're very different cars. The Mini Cooper S is still built for the true enthusiast. It forces you to give up some comfort and convenience for a purer experience when you toss it into a corner. Nothing new to that equation, but the C30 makes that compromise a little more obvious.

The Volvo isn't the opposite of the Mini by any means. The C30 proves that it can deliver the right numbers if you push it hard enough and it's equally as stylish as the Cooper, both inside and out. Drive the C30 every day, however, and you'll realize that it's much happier at a lazy pace. If you are, too, buy the C30.

The manufacturers provided Edmunds these vehicles for the purposes of evaluation.

Inside Line Editor in Chief Scott Oldham says:
Deer Creek Road made this decision for me.

Deer Creek runs from Pacific Coast Highway up into the Santa Monica Mountains. It's one of the sweetest driving roads in north Malibu and it's one of the reasons I live in Southern California.

On Deer Creek the Mini Cooper S thrives, feeling tight and changing direction like a go-kart. But Deer Creek also reveals the Volvo to be the city dweller that it is. In the road's twists and turns, the C30 feels too large and too soft. And in just a few miles the Mini leaves it far behind.

On flatter, straighter ground, however, it's the larger Volvo that shines. Here, the Volvo is cush and comfortable while the Mini turns into a little red kidney buster with a black roof and black mirrors. If I still lived in South Jersey, where there are no turns and there are no mountains, my money would be spent at the Volvo dealer.

But I don't. I moved to SoCal to drive in the hills, and I do so every chance I get. Therefore I choose the Mini. It's still comfortable enough to drive every day, and it out-funs and out-runs the Volvo with ease. Cheaper, too.

These two premium hatchbacks have more available features than your average car in this price range. Get too greedy with the options sheet on either one of these cars, and you'll blow well past $30,000 without much trouble. With that in mind, we narrowed down our list of must-have features to just five. This list combines performance, comfort and convenience, but it's by no means completely comprehensive. Scoring is based on whether the chosen feature is standard equipment, optional or not available.

Features

Features
2007 Mini Cooper S 2008 Volvo C30
Bluetooth connectivity O O
Limited-slip differential O N/A
Steering-wheel audio controls O S
Upgraded audio O S
Xenon headlights O O


Key:
S: Standard
O: Optional
N/A: Not Available

Bluetooth connectivity: We used to think this was for tech heads only, but using the car's audio system to make phone calls is a far better option than one of the those geek collars hanging from your ear. It's an option on both vehicles, but neither of our cars had it installed.

Limited-slip differential: Putting down the power through the front wheels is far easier when both tires are sharing the work. A limited slip is by no means necessary for day-to-day driving, but if you want maximum drive out of the corners it's worth the money. You can buy one as a stand-alone option on the Mini. It's not available on the C30.

Steering-wheel audio controls: We're talking basic convenience with this feature. With the right set of steering-wheel controls, you can keep your hands on the wheel at all times and still fiddle with the radio, adjust the cruise control and answer your Bluetooth phone. It's optional on both cars, but only our C30 had a fully decked-out stereo.

Upgraded audio: If you're going for a premium hatchback, you should have more than your average stereo system. Both of these cars offer excellent sound systems if you're willing to spend a little extra. Volvo's system comes standard with the 2.0 trim level, while the Mini's optional 10-speaker setup is a $550 stand-alone option.

Xenon headlamps: They do more than just look cool; they work better than your average halogens and generate a clearer, more defined light pattern that we prefer.

Dimensions
Engine & Transmission Specifications
Warranty Information
Performance Information


Dimensions

Exterior Dimensions & Capacities
2007 Mini Cooper S 2008 Volvo C30
Length, in. 146.2 167.4
Width, in. 66.3 70.2
Height, in. 55.4 57.0
Wheelbase, in. 97.1 103.9
Curb Weight, lbs. 2623 3198
Turning Circle, ft. 35.1 34.9
Interior Dimensions
2007 Mini Cooper S 2008 Volvo C30
Front headroom, in. 38.8 38.2
Rear headroom, in. 37.6 36.4
Front shoulder room, in. 50.3 53.6
Rear shoulder room, in. 44.7 47
Front legroom, in. 41.4 42.3
Rear legroom, in. 29.9 33.9

Engine & Transmission Specifications

Engine & Transmission
2007 Mini Cooper S 2008 Volvo C30
Displacement,
liters
1.6 2.5
Engine Type Inline-4 Inline-5
Horsepower (SAE) @ rpm 172 @ 5,500 227 @ 5,000
Max. Torque, lb-ft @ rpm 177 @ 1,600 236 @ 1,500
Transmission 6-speed manual 6-speed manual
EPA Fuel Economy City, mpg 29.0 19.0
EPA Fuel Economy Hwy, mpg 36.0 28.0
Observed Fuel Economy combined, mpg 26.4 22.8

Warranty

Warranty Information
2007 Mini Cooper S 2008 Volvo C30
Basic Warranty 4 years/50,000 miles 4 years/50,000 miles
Powertrain 4 years/50,000 miles 4 years/50,000 miles
Roadside Assistance 3 years/36,000 miles 4 years/Unlimited
Corrosion Protection 12 years/Unlimited miles 12 years/Unlimited miles

Performance

Performance Information
2007 Mini Cooper S 2008 Volvo C30
0-60 mph acceleration, sec. 6.9 6.6
Quarter-mile acceleration, sec. 15.0 15.1
Quarter-mile speed, mph 93.9 94.5
60-0-mph braking, feet 115 117
Lateral Acceleration, g 0.87 0.85
600-ft slalom, mph 68.5 69.1

Final Rankings

Final Rankings
Item Weight 2008 Volvo C30 2007 Mini Cooper S
Personal Rating 2.5% 50.0% 100.0%
Recommended Rating 2.5% 100.0% 50.0%
Evaluation Score 25% 79.2% 78.7%
Feature Content 25% 53.3% 46.7%
Performance 25% 97.3% 96.0%
Price 20% 90.2% 100.0%
Total Score 100.0% 79.2% 79.1%
Final Ranking 1 (tie) 1 (tie)
$27,700 $25,220

Personal Rating (2.5%): Purely subjective. After the test, each participating editor was asked to rank the vehicles in order of preference based on which he or she would buy if money were no object.

Recommended Rating (2.5%): After the test, each participating editor was asked to rank the vehicles in order of preference based on which he or she thought would be best for the average consumer shopping in the premium hatchback segment.

Editors' 23-Point Evaluation (25%): Each participating editor scored every vehicle based on a comprehensive 23-point evaluation. The evaluation covered everything from exterior design to cupholders. A score from 1 to 10 was possible in each category, and the scores listed are averages based on all test participants' evaluations.

Feature Content (25%): For this category, the editors picked the top five features they thought would be most beneficial to the consumer shopping for a premium hatchback. For each vehicle, the score was based on the number of actual features it had versus the total possible (five). Standard and optional equipment were taken into consideration.

Performance Testing (25%): Each vehicle was subjected to a set of performance tests that measure acceleration, braking, average speed through a 600-foot slalom course and lateral acceleration (measured in g) on a 200-foot skid pad. Scores were calculated by giving the best-performing vehicle in each category 100 percent. The other vehicle was awarded points based on how close it came to the top vehicle's score.

Price (20%): Another simple percentage calculation, this one is based on the least expensive vehicle in the comparison test. Using the "as-tested" prices of the actual evaluation vehicles, the less expensive vehicle received a score of 100, with the remaining vehicle receiving a lesser score proportional to the price difference.

Vehicle
Model year2007
MakeMini
ModelCooper
StyleS 2dr Hatchback (1.6L 4cyl Turbo 6M)
Base MSRP$21,850
As-tested MSRP$25,220
Drivetrain
Drive typefront wheel drive
Engine typeinline-4
Displacement (cc/cu-in)1600cc (98cu-in)
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)172 @ 5,500
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm)177 @ 1,600
Transmission type6-speed Manual
Chassis
Suspension, frontMacPherson strut
Suspension, rearMultilink
Steering typeElectric speed-proportional power steering
Tire brandDunlop SP Sport
Tire modelPerformance
Tire size, front205/45R17
Tire size, rear205/45R17
Brakes, frontFront ventilated disc - rear disc
Track Test Results
0-45 mph (sec.)4.6
0-60 mph (sec.)6.9
0-75 mph (sec.)9.7
1/4-mile (sec. @ mph)93.9
Braking, 30-0 mph (ft.)29
60-0 mph (ft.)115
Slalom, 6 x 100 ft. (mph)68.5
Skid pad, 200-ft. diameter (lateral g)0.87
Sound level @ idle (dB)45.3
@ Full throttle (dB)78.5
@ 70 mph cruise (dB)71.4
Test Driver Ratings & Comments
Acceleration commentsThe Mini's small, turbocharged engine makes getting it off the line effectively difficult. Get too excited and you'll spin the tires all the way through 1st gear. We found the best technique was to feed in the clutch very quickly from about 5,000 rpm. This produces marginal wheelspin followed by grip as the engine slows down. Then it's a matter of getting through 1st gear without wheelspin.
Braking ratingExcellent
Braking commentsThe Mini's brake pedal has all the same qualities we love about BMW brakes -- solid feel and response, good modulation ability and lack of fade.
Handling ratingExcellent
Handling commentsThe Mini's balance around the skid pad is good, but considering its short wheelbase and sticky tires it could be better. Through the slalom it lacks the stability of longer wheelbase cars but it's clear that tuning has been executed to favor understeer and stability. Still, the Mini's responses are fast and sharp which makes it a thrill to drive.
Testing Conditions
Elevation (ft.)421
Temperature (F)N/A
Wind (mph, direction)N/A
Fuel Consumption
EPA fuel economy (mpg)29 City / 36 Highway
Edmunds observed (mpg)26.4
Fuel tank capacity (U.S. gal.)13.2
Dimensions & Capacities
Curb weight, mfr. claim (lbs.)2668
Length (in.)146.2
Width (in.)66.3
Height (in.)55.4
Wheelbase (in.)97.1
Legroom, front (in.)41.4
Legroom, rear (in.)29.9
Headroom, front (in.)38.8
Headroom, rear (in.)37.6
Seating capacity4
Cargo volume (cu-ft)5.7
Max. cargo volume, seats folded (cu-ft)N/A
Warranty
Bumper-to-bumper4 years / 50,000 miles
Powertrain4 years / 50,000 miles
Corrosion12 years / Unlimited miles
Roadside assistance4 years / 50,000 miles
Free scheduled maintenance3 years / 36,000 miles
Safety
Front airbagsStandard
Side airbagsStandard dual front
Head airbagsStandard front and rear
Antilock brakes4-wheel ABS
Electronic brake enhancementsbraking assist, electronic brakeforce distribution
Traction controlStandard
Stability controlOptional
Rollover protectionN/A
Emergency assistance systemNot available
NHTSA crash test, driverNot tested
NHTSA crash test, passengerNot tested
NHTSA crash test, side frontNot tested
NHTSA crash test, side rearNot tested
NHTSA rollover resistanceNot tested
Vehicle
Model year2008
MakeVolvo
ModelC30
StyleT5 Version 2.0 2dr Hatchback (2.5L 5cyl Turbo 6M)
Base MSRP$25,700
As-tested MSRP$26,745
Drivetrain
Drive typeFront-wheel drive
Engine typeinline-5
Displacement (cc/cu-in)2500cc (153cu-in)
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)227 @ 5,000
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm)236 @ 1,500
Transmission type6-speed Manual
Chassis
Suspension, frontMacPherson strut
Suspension, rearMultilink
Steering typeSpeed-proportional power steering
Tire brandPirelli
Tire modelP Zero Rosso
Tire size, front205/50R18 W
Tire size, rear205/50R18 W
Brakes, frontFront ventilated disc - rear disc
Track Test Results
0-45 mph (sec.)4.4
0-60 mph (sec.)6.6
0-75 mph (sec.)10.3
1/4-mile (sec. @ mph)15.1 @ 94.5
Braking, 30-0 mph (ft.)30
60-0 mph (ft.)117
Slalom, 6 x 100 ft. (mph)69.1
Skid pad, 200-ft. diameter (lateral g)0.85
Sound level @ idle (dB)44.5
@ Full throttle (dB)71.8
@ 70 mph cruise (dB)67.4
Test Driver Ratings & Comments
Acceleration commentsThe C30's engine is very responsive at low rpm but struggles to get to redline higher in range. Power delivery is impressive, but with limited front-drive grip getting a good launch is a challenge. We found the best technique was to rev the engine to about 4,500 rpm and feed in the clutch at a rate which would barely break the tires loose. The shifter isn't as precise as we would like, but we never missed a gear. Relative to the Mini, every control feels more vague and requires more deliberate movement.
Braking ratingGood
Braking commentsThe C30's brake pedal isn't very solid. There's ample power, but braking from high speed would be more confident with a pedal which hit a stopping point where braking began in earnest.
Handling ratingExcellent
Handling commentsOverall, the C30's steering and chassis response are impressive. There are clearly some fundamentally good (Mazda 3?) underpinnings at work here. Plus, with very sticky tires, the C30's limits are quite high. Balance favors understeer in every situation and we found it nearly impossible to get the C30 to rotate, which is both good and bad depending on the situation. The chassis is very stable through the slalom but burdens its front tires heavily around the skid pad.
Testing Conditions
Elevation (ft.)421
Temperature (F)N/A
Wind (mph, direction)N/A
Fuel Consumption
EPA fuel economy (mpg)19 City / 28 Highway
Edmunds observed (mpg)N/A
Fuel tank capacity (U.S. gal.)15.9
Dimensions & Capacities
Curb weight, mfr. claim (lbs.)2970
Length (in.)167.4
Width (in.)70.2
Height (in.)57
Wheelbase (in.)103.9
Legroom, front (in.)42.3
Legroom, rear (in.)33.9
Headroom, front (in.)38.2
Headroom, rear (in.)36.4
Seating capacity4
Cargo volume (cu-ft)12.9
Max. cargo volume, seats folded (cu-ft)20.2
Warranty
Bumper-to-bumper4 years / 50,000 miles
Powertrain4 years / 50,000 miles
Corrosion12 years / Unlimited miles
Roadside assistance4 years / Unlimited miles
Free scheduled maintenance3 years / 7,500 miles
Safety
Front airbagsStandard
Side airbagsStandard dual front
Head airbagsStandard front and rear
Antilock brakes4-wheel ABS
Electronic brake enhancementsBraking assist, electronic brakeforce distribution
Traction controlStandard
Stability controlStandard
Rollover protectionN/A
Emergency assistance systemOptional
NHTSA crash test, driverNot tested
NHTSA crash test, passengerNot tested
NHTSA crash test, side frontNot tested
NHTSA crash test, side rearNot tested
NHTSA rollover resistanceNot tested
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