See Me, See You, C30
by Scott Corlett
In recent years, the conventional wisdom in automotive design shops was that Americans want to hunker down in fortified vehicles-less glass and more metal (think the Chrysler 300). The irony is that less glass equals less ability to see obstacles, pedestrians, and other vehicles. Although this hardly means that cars like the 300 are unsafe, they are, just maybe, less safe than if they were outfitted with bigger windows. One thing is certain-less glass definitely means less exposure for that new smile or those pecs on shirtless summer days.
Fortunately, the ever-practical designers at Volvo are less interested in psychoanalyzing Americans than to sticking with their longtime, overriding commitment-to provide the utmost in automotive safety. Hence, the new 2008 Volvo C30 liftback is an exhibitionist’s dream, with an expansive windshield, copious door glass, long rear-side windows, and a large, glass tailgate. This generous greenhouse means excellent visibility for drivers, whether for parking, passing, or picking up the hunk in the next lane.
But should you find a stud staring your way, you’ll have to wonder if he is looking at you or at the C30, for this little hatch is a hottie. The C30′s skin is well rounded at the edges, with a sweeping, dynamic roofline. The nose and ass are unmistakably Volvo, while the overall feel is sleek for the Swedes, more Audi-esque, with a cat-like quality.
Inside, the C30′s cabin is straight from the Volvo stylebook: the signature swoop of the center console, the standard tech-fabric seats, and the premium if slightly boring finishes. More notable is occupant comfort, which is Volvo good in the front and, much more surprisingly, quite fine in the rear: At over six feet tall, I’ll do anything short of walking to avoid the rear bench of a three-door hatchback; but during my test drive of the C30, out of deference to a colleague and his spry mother, I landed in the back for a good drive to a Michigan lake house; I was pleasantly shocked to find none of the slouched seating position, windowless claustrophobia, or cramped legs and crooked neck that usually accompany such accommodations.
The C30′s drive is all Volvo, too. Which is to say perfectly good, rock steady, and a bit uninspired. On both freeways and city streets, the C30′s steering communicated surface conditions well enough to satisfy most drivers, but it also imparted a ride-dulling (some would say stabilizing) latency to reaction times. The C30 does have plenty of pep: the sole engine offering-a 227-hp, turbo five-cylinder, which can be mated to either a six-speed manual or an optional five-speed manumatic-gives a zero-to-60 time of 6.2 seconds, according to Volvo.
Being a Volvo, the C30 features a safety list that goes far beyond passive measures like maximized driver visibility, a standard six airbags, and built-in crumple zones. Two of Volvo’s newest active safety systems are available on the C30: BLIS (Blind Spot Information System), which features cameras integrated into the sideview mirrors, and which detects vehicles in your blind spots and prompts an indicator to flash at the bases of the A-pillars; and IDIS (Intelligent Driver Information System), which is influenced by fighter-aircraft technology, and which monitors driving intensity and withholds non-essential warnings, such as a low windshield-fluid indicator, when conditions require the driver’s full attention.
With the all-new 2008 Volvo C30, safe was never hotter. And best of all, with all that glass, your commute becomes your rolling showcase.
Volvo is a gay-friendly company.
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