Full 2008 Volvo C30 Review
What's New for 2008
The 2008 Volvo C30 hatchback is an all-new model.
The 2008 Volvo C30 may seem like a drastic departure for the Swedish automaker famous for its sedans and wagons shaped like big blocks of Västerbotten cheese, but in reality, it's not without significant family ties.
True enough, there hasn't been a two-door Volvo hatchback sold in North America since the 1800ES coupe of the 1970s, but there's a missing link in the C30's design evolution. The Volvo 480 was a car intended for American roads but was ultimately never brought here, instead being sold solely in Europe from 1986-'95.
Like the 1800ES and 480, the Volvo C30 is a small two-door coupe that features a large glass hatch that provides a unique look and abundant rear visibility. Like the 480, the C30 also sports four bucket seats, front-wheel drive, a turbocharged engine and handling that, while sporty, doesn't quite meet hot-hatch standards. Unlike the vaguely Japanese-looking 480, the C30 bears some family resemblance to Volvo's current crop of sedans and wagons -- specifically, from the front and inside where it's almost identical to the S40 and V50, with which it shares a platform. With its funky hatch and snazzy interior options, though, the C30 definitely scores higher on the "cool" meter than its siblings.
Compared to sport hatchbacks like the Volkswagen GTI and Mini Cooper S, the 2008 Volvo C30 leaves much to be desired in the fun-to-drive category. So while the C30's not quite a hot hatch, it is certainly as much of a hip hatch with its unique styling, interesting interior trappings and customizable features. Plus, the C30 will certainly appeal to those looking for Volvo safety at an affordable price (provided one goes easy on the options). That said, its numerous ā la carte options can raise the price toward the $30-grand plateau, close to larger, more luxurious offerings.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2008 Volvo C30 is a two-door hatchback that seats four people. It is available in two software-inspired trim levels. Standard equipment on Version 1.0 includes 17-inch wheels, a 50/50-split rear seat, full power accessories, tilt/telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel and a CD audio system. Version 2.0 adds 18-inch wheels, a sport body kit, a Dynaudio 10-speaker surround-sound audio system and aluminum dash inlays.
The options list for both versions is incredibly long, but adding one or more of these choices includes a $300 "customization" charge. Options of note include cruise control, bi-xenon headlights, headlight washers, a blind-spot warning system, power-retractable side mirrors, sunroof, park distance control, auto-dimming rearview mirror, power front seats, heated seats, keyless ignition and a navigation system. A sport-tuned suspension, which Volvo calls Dynamic Chassis, is also available. Unlike other Volvos, there is a large selection of "custom" exterior colors and interior color/upholstery/trim choices.
The limited-edition 2.0 R-Design model adds unique 18-inch wheels, a body kit, rear spoiler, satellite radio, sport pedals, sport shifter, blue-faced instruments and other special interior trim pieces.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2008 C30 has only one engine choice, a turbocharged 2.5-liter five-cylinder that makes 227 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual is standard, while a five-speed automatic is optional. Acceleration is quick, and the 0-60-mph sprint should be accomplished in the mid-6-second range, which is on par with the Volkswagen GTI. Fuel economy is estimated to be 19 city and 28 highway with the manual transmission, while the automatic should return only 1 mpg worse on the highway.
Despite being the baby in Volvo's family, the 2008 C30 doesn't skimp on safety features. Antilock brakes, stability control, traction control, front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and a whiplash protection system are all standard equipment. In addition to Volvo's Blind Spot Information System (BLIS), laminated side glass is available as an option.
Interior Design and Special Features
Volvo made no effort to squeeze a fifth passenger into the C30, opting instead for two rear bucket seats. Although legroom is lacking, the supportive rear captain's chairs are comfy and there's even enough headroom for 6-footers. From the front seats forward, the Volvo C30 is identical to the S40 sedan, save for snazzier two-tone color schemes and differing trim. The same slim, "waterfall" center stack provides brilliantly simple ergonomics and looks pretty cool, too. The driving position is spot-on for almost any body type, with long seats and telescoping wheel travel. Rearward visibility is excellent thanks to the all-glass hatch. Plus, Volvo offers some of the comfiest and most supportive seats around, although this sporty model could use some more aggressive bolstering. The C30's cargo area can hold 12.9 cubic feet with the 50/50-split rear seatbacks up, and 20.2 cubes when both are lowered.
As with its interior, the 2008 Volvo C30 is dynamically very much an S40 coupe. Its suspension has been tuned to be firmer, but this is still a car designed with comfort and everyday drivability in mind -- and in these areas, the C30 shines. It's still a fun car to drive, but its steering, clutch, shifter and suspension are just a little too comfort-tuned compared to the Mini Cooper S and Volkswagen GTI. Think of the C30 as a temperate hatch, not a hot one.