I am a big fan of the Ford C1 platform. Prior to my C30, I owned an 04 Mazda 3s; I loved it. But as much as I did, it pales in comparison to the C30. It is more comfortable and more solid with a more powerful and responsive engine. Other than the wind noise coming from the side mirrors, the cockpit is quiet-isolating the road noise and allowing the driver to hear that throaty growl when the foot presses to the floor. The automatic transmission is smooth- though I've only used the manual shift feature once. The only problem here is that 227 hp driving front wheels can sometimes make the tires slip- with heavy acceleration like pulling out into traffic. The GTI doesn't have this issue.
The engine is exceptional, as is the balance between the ride and the handling. The R-design is sportier, but I found the ride on the 18' wheels too choppy. I love the simple, industrial design: uncluttered and clean. I think it's called lagam in Swedish: Everything you need and nothing you don't.
Move the power to the back wheels or mount stickier tires to the front. The slippage I mentioned above can be a bit disconcerting.