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February 27, 2008 > Auto Review: Volvo C-30

Auto Review: Volvo C-30

Volvo unveiled the C-30 to the public in mid-2006 and it enters the USA as a 2008 model. It's Volvo's smallest car and reminds me of the 1972 1800ES due to its glass lift-back design. It has two side doors and seats four people. They are built in Ghent, Belgium. Outside the USA, you have your choice of five gasoline and three diesel engines.

For U.S. sales, the C-30's engine is a 5-cylinder. 2.5-liter, turbocharged, 227 HP, 236 foot pound unit. Yes, you read that correctly, it has 5 cylinders. There have not been many 5-cylinder automotive designs in the past (Audi had one a few years back). This is because a 5-cylinder engine has more inherent vibration issues than engines with 4, 6, 8, or more cylinders. But Volvo has engineered out the vibration issues and the C-30's motor feels as smooth as silk. The C-30's EPA numbers are 19 city and 28 highway.

The C-30 is one of the sportiest and least expensive cars that Volvo has ever made. Its base MSRP (for Version 1.0) is only $22,700. It also is available in Version 2.0 (which adds a number of additions to the body styling, larger wheels, and a premium sound system) for $25,700. You can replace the 6-speed manual transmission with a 5-speed automatic for $1,250. The navigation system is $2,120. With only metallic paint and a destination charge, our test C-30's total MSRP was only $23,920.

I had a few minor complaints about the C-30. The shift lever throws seemed too long. Then, if you did not get your foot squarely on the clutch pedal, your foot would hit a raised surface on the left side of the driver's floor. This means the clutch would not disengage properly and you grind the gears. There is not a lot of legroom for rear seat passengers. When you are not carrying a passenger in the front seat, the passenger's seat belt flops around and annoys you by banging on the side of the car.

Volvo traditionally builds very safe cars, and the C-30 is no exception. Their engineers have engineered the front end using four different strengths of steel to control its deformation and protect the occupants in an accident. Similar protection is designed into the rear end. A full complement of dual stage airbags surround the front seat occupants. A set of side curtain airbags protect the front and rear occupants. ABS brakes, a tire pressure monitoring system, and Dynamic Stability & Traction Control are standard on all C-30s.

Is the C-30 a sports sedan? I'm afraid not. The drive train fits the bill, but the suspension did not stand up to the challenge of my favorite twisty road. The C-30 is too softly sprung for very spirited driving. For everyday driving the handling is great. But when pushed hard, the suspension gets "confused." Simultaneous hard braking and high side loading causes the rear end to move in mysterious ways and increases your fear factor a bit. On the other hand, there was very little torque steer.

So what's the bottom line? The Volvo C-30 is a great car. It's safe, powerful, fun to drive, cute, has lots of cargo space, and doesn't cost a lot. Just don't expect to beat sports sedans over twisty roads.


By Dick Ryan
Freelance Automotive Journalist
Member of the Western Automotive Journalists
RRYAN@FRK.COM

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