Full 2009 Volvo C30 Review
What's New for 2009
The 2009 Volvo C30 drops the software-inspired 1.0 and 2.0 trim level names in favor of the new T5 and T5 R-Design monikers. New features include a long list of exterior and interior styling tweaks, changes to options packages and enhanced navigation operation.
Until last year, Volvo had been absent from the American hatchback coupe market for more than three decades -- its last example being the 1800ES from the 1970s. Since then, this Swedish automaker has focused largely on building family-focused sedans. But that changed last year when Volvo introduced the C30. This stylish two-door hatchback borrows classic styling cues from the 1800ES, such as the large trapezoidal glass hatch. It also retains contemporary Volvo traits like the boxy nose and grille.
The C30's underpinnings are contemporary as well, as they come from Volvo's S40 small sedan. The C30 rides on the same wheelbase but is about 9 inches shorter overall. Under the hood is Volvo's top engine from the S40 line, a turbocharged 2.5-liter inline-5 that cranks out a healthy 227 horsepower. Inside, the C30's dash is also familiar, though the overall look is more distinctive and the backseat has positions for only two passengers.
As a "hot" hatchback, Volvo's C30 puts up a fair fight. In our testing, the C30 accelerated as hard as the popular Mini Cooper S. But the differences between these cars really don't make themselves apparent until one hits the open road. On twisting canyon roads, each car will satisfy the vast majority of drivers, but the Cooper S has the edge over the C30 in nimbleness and sheer driving excitement.
However, the 2009 Volvo C30 has the advantage as an everyday commuter, with its softer ride, roomier interior and more convenient storage. Style also factors prominently in the C30's appeal, as the hipster interior treatments and customizable features should attract those seeking a bit more individuality and panache. With Volvo's reputation for safety and the C30's affordability (providing options are taken in moderation), Volvo's newest hatchback is a worthy alternative to the dime-a-dozen Mini Coopers and Volkswagen GTIs.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 Volvo C30 is a four-seat, two-door hatchback that is offered in two trim levels. The base T5 includes 17-inch alloy wheels, a 50/50-split rear seat, full power accessories, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel with audio controls and an eight-speaker CD audio system with an auxiliary audio jack. The T5 R-Design trim level adds 18-inch wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, specific exterior accents, cruise control, a 10-speaker surround-sound audio system, satellite radio, aluminum dash inlays and a watch-dial-inspired instrument panel. Many, but not all of these features are available as options for the base T5.
Options for either trim level are seemingly endless, and adding one or more of these choices includes a one-time $300 customization charge. Notable options include bi-xenon headlights, headlight washers, a hard-drive-based navigation system with real-time traffic, Bluetooth, a blind-spot warning system, power-retractable side mirrors, a sunroof, park distance control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, leather upholstery, power front seats, heated seats and keyless ignition. Unlike other Volvos, there is a large selection of custom exterior colors, interior trim choices and wheel designs.
Powertrains and Performance
Regardless of which 2009 Volvo C30 is chosen, power is delivered by a turbocharged 2.5-liter inline five-cylinder engine that produces 227 hp and 236 pound-feet of torque. Power is sent to the front wheels through either a standard six-speed manual transmission or an available five-speed automatic.
In our testing, a manual-equipped C30 dashed to 60 mph in a respectable 6.4 seconds. Fuel economy registers an EPA-estimated 19 mpg city/28 mpg highway and 23 mpg in combined driving.
The 2009 Volvo C30 carries on the company's reputation for passenger protection with a long list of standard safety equipment that includes antilock disc brakes (with brake assist), stability control, traction control, front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and front seats with whiplash protection. Volvo's Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) is optional.
Interior Design and Special Features
The view from the front seats is nearly identical to the S40 sedan's, except for stylish two-tone color schemes and different trim. The sleek "waterfall" center stack provides elegantly simple ergonomics with a floating appearance that is just downright cool. Finding an optimal driving position is easy for any body type, thanks to the C30's super-comfortable seats and telescoping steering wheel, though the lack of seat bolstering will become apparent when the C30 is driven hard on a curvy road.
Rather than attempt to shoehorn a fifth passenger into the C30, Volvo instead chose two rear bucket seats. Rear seating is comfortable with plenty of adult-sized headroom, even though legroom may be a bit cramped for taller folks. Rearward visibility is excellent thanks to the tall and wide all-glass hatch. The cargo area can accommodate 13 cubic feet with the 50/50-split rear seatbacks up and 20 cubes when both are lowered.
With a firmer suspension and grippier tires than those of the S40, the 2009 Volvo C30 hatchback manages to deliver a bit of fun behind the wheel. It's not as nimble or engaging as a Mini Cooper S, but the C30's smoother ride quality and quieter cabin make it much more suitable for daily use. The turbocharged five-cylinder has strong bottom-end torque, though its actual acceleration times are hampered by the car's somewhat portly curb weight. Think of the Volvo C30 as a "cool hatch" rather than a hot hatch.