2008 Volvo C30 Review

Pros & Cons

  • Funky Swedish styling inside and out, comfortable ride, powerful turbocharged engine, excellent driving position, customizable options list.
  • Can get pricey quickly, not as sporty as other premium hatches.
Other years
List Price Estimate
$2,237 - $4,258

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Edmunds' Expert Review

It's not the sportiest car around, but the new 2008 Volvo C30 is one of few Volvos in recent memory that can be awarded the title of "cool."

Vehicle overview

The 2008 Volvo C30 may seem like a drastic departure for the Swedish automaker famous for its sedans and wagons shaped like big blocks of Västerbotten cheese, but in reality, it's not without significant family ties.

True enough, there hasn't been a two-door Volvo hatchback sold in North America since the 1800ES coupe of the 1970s, but there's a missing link in the C30's design evolution. The Volvo 480 was a car intended for American roads but was ultimately never brought here, instead being sold solely in Europe from 1986-'95.

Like the 1800ES and 480, the Volvo C30 is a small two-door coupe that features a large glass hatch that provides a unique look and abundant rear visibility. Like the 480, the C30 also sports four bucket seats, front-wheel drive, a turbocharged engine and handling that, while sporty, doesn't quite meet hot-hatch standards. Unlike the vaguely Japanese-looking 480, the C30 bears some family resemblance to Volvo's current crop of sedans and wagons -- specifically, from the front and inside where it's almost identical to the S40 and V50, with which it shares a platform. With its funky hatch and snazzy interior options, though, the C30 definitely scores higher on the "cool" meter than its siblings.

Compared to sport hatchbacks like the Volkswagen GTI and Mini Cooper S, the 2008 Volvo C30 leaves much to be desired in the fun-to-drive category. So while the C30's not quite a hot hatch, it is certainly as much of a hip hatch with its unique styling, interesting interior trappings and customizable features. Plus, the C30 will certainly appeal to those looking for Volvo safety at an affordable price (provided one goes easy on the options). That said, its numerous à la carte options can raise the price toward the $30-grand plateau, close to larger, more luxurious offerings.

2008 Volvo C30 models

The 2008 Volvo C30 is a two-door hatchback that seats four people. It is available in two software-inspired trim levels. Standard equipment on Version 1.0 includes 17-inch wheels, a 50/50-split rear seat, full power accessories, tilt/telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel and a CD audio system. Version 2.0 adds 18-inch wheels, a sport body kit, a Dynaudio 10-speaker surround-sound audio system and aluminum dash inlays.

The options list for both versions is incredibly long, but adding one or more of these choices includes a $300 "customization" charge. Options of note include cruise control, bi-xenon headlights, headlight washers, a blind-spot warning system, power-retractable side mirrors, sunroof, park distance control, auto-dimming rearview mirror, power front seats, heated seats, keyless ignition and a navigation system. A sport-tuned suspension, which Volvo calls Dynamic Chassis, is also available. Unlike other Volvos, there is a large selection of "custom" exterior colors and interior color/upholstery/trim choices.

The limited-edition 2.0 R-Design model adds unique 18-inch wheels, a body kit, rear spoiler, satellite radio, sport pedals, sport shifter, blue-faced instruments and other special interior trim pieces.

2008 Highlights

The 2008 Volvo C30 hatchback is an all-new model.

Performance & mpg

The 2008 C30 has only one engine choice, a turbocharged 2.5-liter five-cylinder that makes 227 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual is standard, while a five-speed automatic is optional. Acceleration is quick, and the 0-60-mph sprint should be accomplished in the mid-6-second range, which is on par with the Volkswagen GTI. Fuel economy is estimated to be 19 city and 28 highway with the manual transmission, while the automatic should return only 1 mpg worse on the highway.


Despite being the baby in Volvo's family, the 2008 C30 doesn't skimp on safety features. Antilock brakes, stability control, traction control, front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and a whiplash protection system are all standard equipment. In addition to Volvo's Blind Spot Information System (BLIS), laminated side glass is available as an option.


As with its interior, the 2008 Volvo C30 is dynamically very much an S40 coupe. Its suspension has been tuned to be firmer, but this is still a car designed with comfort and everyday drivability in mind -- and in these areas, the C30 shines. It's still a fun car to drive, but its steering, clutch, shifter and suspension are just a little too comfort-tuned compared to the Mini Cooper S and Volkswagen GTI. Think of the C30 as a temperate hatch, not a hot one.


Volvo made no effort to squeeze a fifth passenger into the C30, opting instead for two rear bucket seats. Although legroom is lacking, the supportive rear captain's chairs are comfy and there's even enough headroom for 6-footers. From the front seats forward, the Volvo C30 is identical to the S40 sedan, save for snazzier two-tone color schemes and differing trim. The same slim, "waterfall" center stack provides brilliantly simple ergonomics and looks pretty cool, too. The driving position is spot-on for almost any body type, with long seats and telescoping wheel travel. Rearward visibility is excellent thanks to the all-glass hatch. Plus, Volvo offers some of the comfiest and most supportive seats around, although this sporty model could use some more aggressive bolstering. The C30's cargo area can hold 12.9 cubic feet with the 50/50-split rear seatbacks up, and 20.2 cubes when both are lowered.

Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the 2008 Volvo C30.

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Most helpful consumer reviews

Roadster with practical side
T5 Version 2.0 2dr Hatchback (2.5L 5cyl Turbo 6M)
I bought C30 seven years ago used with 20K. The handsome external design expresses my style well. It is practical (overall small size, with easy back seat conversion to increased cargo volume), well balance (power and mileage), and simple inside. I used it to transport tools and materials for home improvement, to take my dog to the park, to go skiing (roof ski rack), and to go on hikes from trail heads far into the Washington state Cascade mountain roads. This car does all of this at good mileage, reliable services, and sporty feel. At 110K sold it at good re-sale price. I have had door auto lock relays replaced on warranty (it was locking door without command to do so). Windshield was replaced at 60K. Consistent and annoying problem with this car is water leaks from sun roof water drain hose putting out of frame connector. At 110K engine cam shaft seal start to leak slowly. This is not a big deal, since it is time for timing belt work and so labor cost it not that big since you are already in that area (belt replacement). Otherwise great car!
Very nice and fun ride.
I leased this car when it just came out, because I needed a small car, that was well built (or at least felt like it was), that would be fun to drive, with a decent amount of cargo space. I also considered, Audi A3 and the Volkswagen Golf. This car had better feeling materials inside then the VW. It handles very well. Suspension is in my opinion a perfect balance between harshness and handling. It's also pretty quick when you need that extra push and not too bad on gas if you're taking it easy.
Fun all around
Purchased my C30 in 2008 as a Dealer promotional model (traded in a 2004.5 S40). Now has around 70k miles and is holding up well. One issue- HVAC fan was replaced under warrenty before 15k miles. Excellent commuter vehicle with enough zip to manuvre in heavy (Chicago) traffic with confidence. Very comfortable long range cruiser (I take at least eight 8+ hour trips each year) even with three in the car. Plenty of leg room in back for 6 footers even on long trips, though taller passengers might end up feeling cramped after a few hours. Fuel economy is average (I get about 23/ 24 mpg in city and stop and go rush hour traffic, up to about 26/ 27 for long freeway cruising). FYI, auto tran.
Volvo c30
steven ,12/04/2009
Great car to drive. Incredibly safe. Very good engine in it, it was fast, got good mileage, received many comments about the car. One of the best cars I have ever driven. This car can hold alot of things for a hatchback. The car drove like a sports car. This car is worth every penny. Recently crashed mine into a cement truck going over 40mph, walked out of the crash perfectly unharmed. Car held up in the crash. I would recommend this car to anyone.

Features & Specs

See all Used 2008 Volvo C30 features & specs
More about the 2008 Volvo C30
More About This Model

If you're under 40, chances are you haven't ever craved a Volvo. Well, be prepared to crave. With the 2008 Volvo C30, Volvos will no longer only be bought by those who value practicality, safety and understated versatility.

Volvo's marketing boffins are claiming the C30 is a sport coupe that will appeal to couples aged 25-35 who are yet to breed, or the over-50s whose children have fled the nest. Moreover, they reckon that 75 percent of customers will be new to the Volvo brand. This Volvo seeks to steer trendy, affluent urbanites away from Audi TTs, Mini Coopers and Volkswagen GTIs, and it's priced to do so, starting around $23,000.

Although the C30 arrives in the U.S. next summer, it has already gone on sale in Europe so we headed for the U.K. and sampled one on the wrong side of the road.

A cool Volvo?
Designed under the direction of Peter Horbury, the C30 was the last car he did before leaving Volvo to lead Ford's design team in North America. It was Horbury who revolutionized Volvo's styling in the '90s, replacing the angular monotony of the old models with a new curvaceous, distinctive design language. The C30 is the ultimate expression of this vision.

The shape was previewed in the Safety Concept Car (SCC), which was shown at the Detroit auto show in 2001. The positive public reaction gave the management the confidence to put it into production. While the front end is instantly recognizable as a member of the contemporary Volvo family, the unusual hatchback rear draws inspiration from the classic 1800ES of the 1970s.

Static pictures tend to flatten the C30's curves, particularly the manner in which the windows taper to the rear. In the metal this is a modern, distinctive and undeniably handsome car. This may well be the first Volvo that can justifiably be described as "cool."

Four-seater cabin
With its two individual rear chairs pushed toward the center of the car, the C30 is strictly a four-seater. While it's positively commodious compared to an Audi TT, this is not a family car. Adults will find the rear accommodation adequate for short journeys, though two 6-footers will struggle to sit in tandem. The trunk capacity is also modest — golfers will have trouble accommodating their beloved clubs — although it can be extended by folding down the rear seats.

The dashboard will be familiar to drivers of other Volvos, including the C70, S40 and V50. The distinctive "floating" console is present and correct, although it can now be specified with an aluminum surf pattern or even with a glossy white finish, inspired by an iPod. Our test car boasted a more conservative aluminum. The quality is good, but it's a shame that such a youth-oriented car doesn't feel a little more sporting. We'd like to see supplementary dials, such as a turbo and oil temperature gauge and more side bolstering for the otherwise comfortable seats.

As you'd expect from Volvo, there's a plethora of safety features including front, side and curtain airbags. Stability control will be standard across the range, as will Volvo's IDIS (Intelligent Driver Information System), which delays certain functions, such as a phone call, if the driver is engaged in a more complicated maneuver (heavy braking, turning etc.). Customers can also expect a generous luxury specification with several "premium" options, including high-grade audio.

One engine
The C30 will be launched with just one engine, a 2.5-liter five-cylinder turbo, borrowed from the S40 and V50. Dubbed the T5, it generates 216 horsepower at 5,000 rpm and 236 pound-feet of torque between 1,500 and 4,800 rpm. This engine is available with either a six-speed stick shift or a five-speed auto, which has the added benefit of a sequential shift facility. Our test car featured the latter.

Searingly rapid it isn't, but the C30 T5 is swift. The turbo is only lightly stressed so lag is never a problem and it has a distinctive five-cylinder hum. It also works well with the Geartronic transmission. Volvo says zero to 62 mph takes 7.1 seconds (6.7 for the manual) and top speed is 146 mph (149 for the manual). The last Cooper S we tested hit 60 mph in 7.4 seconds, while the last GTI needed 7.2, so the C30 T5 is quick for its class.

Although the turbo five-cylinder suits the C30's character well, don't rule out other engines in the C30's future — Volvo's 168-hp 2.4 looks like a good bet.

It's no sports car
Based on Ford's C1 platform, the C30 shares its underpinnings with the S40, V50 and the second-generation (European) Focus. The MacPherson-strut front and multilink rear suspension is also a tried and trusted formula. The tune is more sporting than the S40 — Volvo spotters will notice the firmer ride quality — but the difference can be overstated. This is still no sports car.

The C30 is capable in the manner of Audi's A3. That is to say it is safe, predictable and blessed with plenty of grip. However, the enthusiast will still want for greater agility and more steering feel. The Focus ST uses the same basic ingredients but delivers a more engaging drive without any significant diminution in the ride quality. If Volvo is serious about producing a sport coupe, then it could do worse than to look to its stablemate for inspiration. What price an "R" version?

Volvo has modest expectations for the C30 — of the 65,000 it expects to build each year, all but 25 percent will be sold in Europe. Given the C30's price tag, left-field image and compact dimensions, these aspirations seem sensible.

Those buyers who do take the plunge will find themselves driving something genuinely different. More distinctive than a BMW 3 Series coupe but more practical than a Mini or an Audi TT, it has a genuine depth of ability.

We wish it were a little more exciting to drive but the 2008 Volvo C30 does appeal as a non-default choice — even if you're under 40.

The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.

Used 2008 Volvo C30 Overview

The Used 2008 Volvo C30 is offered in the following submodels: C30 Hatchback. Available styles include T5 Version 1.0 2dr Hatchback (2.5L 5cyl Turbo 6M), T5 Version 2.0 2dr Hatchback (2.5L 5cyl Turbo 6M), and T5 Version 2.0 R-Design 2dr Hatchback (2.5L 5cyl Turbo 6M).

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Should I lease or buy a 2008 Volvo C30?

Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.

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