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The Volvo C30 may seem like a drastic departure for the Swedish automaker famous for sedans and wagons shaped like big blocks of cheddar, but in reality, it's not without significant family ties. Two-door hatchbacks are certainly not what people think of when Volvo enters a conversation, and true enough, the company hasn't sold one in North America since the 1800ES coupe of the 1970s. But there's a missing link in the C30's design evolution, a car intended for American roads but ultimately never brought over here: the Volvo 480. Sold in Europe from 1986-'95, this hatchback reveals a bit more of the family genes.
Like the 1800ES and 480, the Volvo C30 is a small two-door coupe with a large glass hatchback that provides a distinctive look and abundant rear visibility. Like the 480, the C30 features four bucket seats, front-wheel drive, a turbocharged engine and handling that's sporty but not quite at hot-hatch standards. We're glad that Volvo has once again deemed us worthy of its spunky entry-level coupe.
Current Volvo C30
The Volvo C30 is a compact four-seat, two-door hatchback that's offered in two trims: base T5 and sportier T5 R-Design.
Standard equipment highlights for the T5 include 17-inch alloy wheels, 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. Stepping up to the T5 R-Design adds 18-inch wheels, a quicker steering ratio, a sport-tuned suspension, color-coordinated exterior trim, a unique grille, leather seating and blue-faced gauges. Each trim can be upgraded with the Premier Plus or Platinum option packages, which add features such as LED daytime lights, a power sunroof, power seats, driver seat memory, a navigation system and a premium 10-speaker audio system.
Mechanically, the Volvo C30 bears some relation to the recently discontinued S40 sedan and V50 wagon. Its suspension has been tuned to be firmer, but otherwise this is still a car designed with comfort and everyday drivability in mind. Think of it as a warm hatch, not a hot one. Nevertheless, the C30's standard turbocharged five-cylinder engine makes a healthy 227 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard, with a five-speed automatic optional. With the manual gearbox, the sprint to 60 mph takes just 6.6 seconds.
In reviews, our editors have commented favorably on the C30's spunky yet refined nature. It's sporty enough to satisfy most drivers, yet it retains a comfortable ride. We like the nifty "floating" center stack, too. We think the C30's low base price and lengthy options list should enable it to meet the needs of a variety of different buyers. Whether you're looking for Volvo safety at a budget price or a hip hatch, the C30 fills the bill. However, the numerous luxury options can elevate the C30 above 30-grand territory, and we're not sure it warrants that price.
Used Volvo C30 Models
The Volvo C30 debuted for the 2008 model year with different trim levels than the current car -- Version 1.0 and Version 2.0 -- but much the same available equipment. Two years later, cruise control and Bluetooth became standard and the previously available customization program essentially lived on through numerous options. Notably, the first year's navigation system was not as advanced as the hard-drive-based unit that came thereafter. Visually, the C30 hasn't changed much since, with the most prominent change taking place for 2011 when the grille and headlights were revised and enlarged to resemble other models in the Volvo lineup. Other than lacking Bluetooth audio streaming, a standard security alarm and LED running lights, these later C30s are similar to the current car.