Full 2011 Volvo C30 Review
What's New for 2011
The 2011 Volvo C30 is treated to a refreshed exterior, including an all-new front end.
The 2011 Volvo C30 isn't your typical "hot hatch." Sure, it's got a powerful turbocharged engine and an available sport-tuned suspension, but this Swede is about a lot more than just speed. Don't get us wrong -- the C30 actually drives nicely and has more dynamic capabilities than most drivers will care to exploit. But with its chic interior and a classic hatchback design that evokes Volvos of yore, the C30 is also the closest thing in this segment to automotive art.
A product of the Ford era at Volvo, the C30 (like the related S40 sport sedan) shares its basic platform design with the Mazda 3 and the latest Ford Focus. That's a good thing, as we've applauded these underpinnings in virtually every application. Power comes from Volvo's familiar turbocharged five-cylinder engine, which cranks out a healthy 227 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque. The C30 ultimately gives up a bit of sportiness to the competition, but it compensates with superior sophistication and refinement.
And then there's its unique aesthetic appeal, which is particularly evident in the distinctive sloping rear end's oversized window and trademark vertical taillights. Inside you'll find the "floating" center stack familiar from the S40 and other Volvos. Debuting for 2011 is a new front fascia inspired by the XC60 crossover. We like the idea -- the C30 previously shared the S40's rather plain front end -- but we're not sure about the execution, as the C30 now appears a bit nose-heavy. Still, there's no disputing that Volvo's little hatch has maintained its distinctive looks.
Compared to hot hatches like the Mini Cooper S or Subaru WRX, the 2011 Volvo C30 is a different kettle of Swedish fish. It certainly goes fast and handles well, but Volvo has refused to sacrifice comfort for performance, even in sport-tuned R-Design trim. The result is something refreshing in this segment: a capable hatchback that remains perfectly pleasant to drive on a daily basis. Other than the Volkswagen GTI, no rival can match the C30's refinement -- and aesthetically speaking, the C30 is in a class of one.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2011 Volvo C30 is a four-seat, two-door hatchback offered in two trim levels. The base T5 includes 17-inch alloy wheels, height-adjustable seats, a trip computer, cruise control, a 50/50-split-folding rear seat, full power accessories, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel with audio controls, Bluetooth and an eight-speaker CD audio system with an auxiliary audio jack. The T5 R-Design trim level adds 18-inch wheels, foglights, a sport-tuned suspension, a quicker steering ratio, sporty exterior trim, partial leather upholstery, blue-face gauges and metallic interior trim.
The Preferred package tacks on power front seats, bi-xenon headlamps and keyless entry/ignition, as well as foglights and aluminum interior trim on the T5. The Multimedia package adds a 10-speaker Dynaudio surround-sound audio system and satellite radio. The Climate package includes heated front seats, headlamp washers, automatic climate control and rain-sensing wipers. Stand-alone options include leather upholstery, a sunroof, a blind-spot information system and a navigation system with real-time traffic.
Powertrains and Performance
The front-wheel-drive 2011 Volvo C30 is powered by a turbocharged 2.5-liter inline-5 that produces 227 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard, and a five-speed automatic is optional.
In performance testing, we hustled a manual-equipped C30 to 60 mph in a fleet 6.4 seconds. Fuel economy checks in at 21 mpg city/29 mpg highway and 24 mpg combined for the manual; the automatic has a 21/30/24 mpg rating.
The 2011 Volvo C30 comes standard with antilock disc brakes with brake assist, stability 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 C30's front compartment comes straight out of the S40 sedan, which means it has Volvo's trademark floating center stack -- a cool flat-panel bridge of buttons and displays between the dash and the center console, with extra storage space beneath. Most controls are straightforward and attractive, but the confounding optional navigation system has a steep learning curve. The front seats are exceptionally comfortable (though more side bolstering would be helpful on a curvy road), and the telescoping steering wheel accommodates drivers of all sizes.
Rather than attempt to shoehorn a fifth passenger into the C30, Volvo went with two rear bucket seats. It's actually quite comfortable back there for average-sized adults, though legroom can be cramped. 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 -- hardly impressive by hatchback standards.
The 2011 Volvo C30 has ample grip and accurate steering, particularly the R-Design model with its extra rubber and a quicker steering ratio. It's a fun car to drive. The Mini Cooper S may be more entertaining on tight roads, but the C30 has a smoother ride and a quieter cabin. The turbocharged five-cylinder delivers a confident rush of power from low rpm, and its distinctive soundtrack adds a little extra spice.