What's New for 2012
Volvo revised its trim level strategy for the 2012 Volvo C30, adding Premier Plus and Platinum options to both the C30 T5 and C30 T5-R models. Other updates include audio streaming for Bluetooth, a standard security alarm and the replacement of the halogen-type daytime running lights with LEDs.
The 2012 Volvo C30 tends to stimulate more right-brain passion than left-side indulgence with its Euro-chic styling and sassy attitude. While it offers an available sport-tuned suspension and is motivated by an energetic turbocharged engine, this Swede doesn't grab you by the throat with the same fury as others in the hot-hatch segment, like the Subaru Impreza WRX.
Don't get us wrong -- the Volvo C30 drives nicely and has more dynamic capabilities than most drivers will care to exploit. But the result is more like automotive art than pure performance. While giving up a bit of sportiness to the competition, the C30 excels in delivering superior sophistication, refinement and, of course, styling. Check out the hatchback's oversized glass, Volvo's trademark vertical taillights and the front fascia that resembles Volvo's XC60 crossover. Compared to most other hatchbacks, the C30 is a cut above.
Volvo hasn't sacrificed comfort for performance, even in the sport-tuned R-Design model. The result is refreshing in this segment: a capable two-door 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. Nevertheless, you might also want to compare the 2012 Ford Focus hatchback in top-level trim as well as the Mini Cooper.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2012 Volvo C30 is a four-seat, two-door hatchback offered in two models: the base T5 and the sportier T5 R-Design. Each model can be upgraded with either the new Premier Plus or Platinum trim level that basically groups popular options into packages for easier ordering.
The T5 includes 17-inch alloy wheels, height-adjustable seats, a trip computer, cruise control, 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 and USB input.
The Premier Plus trim adds a power glass sunroof, power front seats, LED daytime lights and aluminum inlays for the dash. The new Platinum trim includes the Premier Plus upgrades along with driver seat memory, a navigation system and a premium 10-speaker surround-sound audio system with satellite radio.
The T5 R-Design model features mechanical upgrades to provide more performance, including 18-inch wheels, a quicker steering ratio and a sport-tuned suspension that is 30 percent stiffer. Distinctive styling cues for the R-Design include color-coordinated exterior trim, a special front grille design, leather seating, blue-faced gauges, sport pedals and metallic interior trim. The Premier Plus and Platinum trim upgrades include the same equipment as mentioned for the T5.
The C30's Climate package -- which includes heated front seats, electronic climate control, headlight washers and rain-sensing wipers -- can be added to any trim level.
Powertrains and Performance
The front-wheel-drive 2012 Volvo C30 is powered by a turbocharged 2.5-liter inline-5 that produces 227 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard, and a five-speed automatic with manual-shifting function is optional.
In our performance testing, a manual-equipped C30 reached 60 mph from a standstill in 6.4 seconds with the manual, which is average for the class. The automatic was just a bit slower at 6.9 seconds. EPA-estimated 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 2012 Volvo C30 comes standard with 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. In Edmunds brake testing, a C30 came to a stop from 60 mph in a below-average 130 feet.
In crash testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the C30 received the highest possible rating of "Good" in the frontal-offset, side and roof strength tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
The C30's front compartment channels the design of the Volvo S40 sedan, which means it has Volvo's trademark floating center stack that is sharply dressed in brushed aluminum and complemented with sophisticated controls. One noticeable downside is the confounding optional navigation system, which is at once less sophisticated than those from other manufacturers and yet requires a steep learning curve.
The front seats draw the strongest praise. They're exceptionally comfortable, though more supportive side bolsters would be helpful on a winding road. The telescoping steering wheel helps accommodate drivers of all sizes.
Volvo didn't even try to design a rear seat that could hold three passengers. Instead, the rear cabin area sports a 50/50-style bench seat with a center armrest. Seating is comfortable, but somewhat restricted in legroom for taller adults. Rearward visibility is excellent thanks to the tall and wide all-glass hatch. For all the interior comfort and refinement, the pint-sized cargo area is a disappointment. There are a paltry 13 cubic feet with the rear seatbacks up, and 20 cubes when both are lowered -- hardly impressive by hatchback standards.
The 2012 Volvo C30 is a fun car to drive, boasting ample grip in the turns and accurate steering. The R-Design model generates the most smiles with its extra rubber and quicker steering ratio. The Mini Cooper S might be more entertaining on tight roads, but the C30 has a smoother ride and a quieter cabin. The five-speed automatic transmission is responsive in either manual or auto modes, although some drivers may yearn for paddle shifters. However, the transmission makes a nice dancing partner for the turbo engine and its distinctive soundtrack. Wind and road noise are negligible, but that engine will tickle the senses.