Hot Swedish Love
By Joe LaMuraglia
As a publisher, I do my best to get seat time in as many vehicles as possible in order to bring you the most up-to-date reviews of the new cars and trucks. With a plethora of new and updated vehicles coming on line every year, it is nearly impossible to get seat time in them all so I count on my fellow journalists to share their opinions on vehicles I simply can’t get into. One vehicle that has eluded my schedule until recently is the Volvo C30. Based on the lukewarm praise that some of my colleagues gave it, I wasn’t going out of my way to get behind the wheel. However, the Volvo C30 has been coming on strong in our Top 10 Most Researched list so I decided to spend time in one and I am certainly happy I did.
Volvo launched the C30 in 2008 as sort of a Swedish version of the MINI Cooper. It can be customized in a myriad of ways but not in as many permutations as the British hatch. If you are like me and can’t make up your mind, this may be an advantage – fewer choices make easier decisions in my book. It is powered by a 2.5-liter turbo 5-cylinder that delivers 227 HP to the front wheels through either a 6-speed manual or an optional 5-speed automatic.
The first thing you notice about the Volvo C30 is its sexy design. For the auto enthusiasts, you’ll recognize the influence of the Volvo P1800s of the ‘70’s. Those of you who aren’t up on the history of automotive design, you see an aggressively designed 3-door with a unique glass hatch and one of the cutest derriere’s in autodom. This is much more than simply a hatchback version of the S40 that it is based on and the unsolicited comments from friends and strangers were all very complimentary of the shape and presence of the car. Try to imagine the cool blue of the cars shown above and to the right being a bright red and you’ll understand why being stealth in our test car was not an option. Each time I got in and took control, I felt like I had a little bit of hot Swedish love at my disposal.
The interior design is a carryover from the S40 and that is a good thing. It is simple, straightforward and clean. The floating center console hides a convenient storage space for your glasses, purse or murse. The seats, as in all Volvos, are incredibly comfortable and the visibility fore and aft is excellent.
All of the design elements were no surprise as I’d seen the C30 on the auto show circuit. What put a smile on my face was what happened after I started the bright red C30 I had for a week. Contrary to what my colleagues had claimed the Volvo was a spirited performer. It was a blast to drive around town and 227 horsepower always seemed to be on tap. My test vehicle was equipped with the automatic. Normally I prefer a manual but the autobox was a lot of fun to drive, especially using the Tiptronic functionality. The suspension was taut but not bone shattering and the entire package felt tight as a drum.
Living in the New York metropolitan area, I have ample opportunity to put a vehicle through a myriad of situations. The C30 and I spent time doing airport duty, sightseeing in Manhattan, family shuttle service and a cruise up the Saw Mill Parkway to CT. In all aspects, the little Volvo was a delight to pilot. On the open road, its European ride and handling inspire confidence and the engine has plenty of power to merge and pass with ease. It isn’t a melodious as say a turbo four-cylinder in a VW GTI but the distinct sound of the turbo five cylinder soon becomes a pleasant companion on grocery and canyon runs alike.
Living with a car for a week really allows me to get to know a vehicle and flush out any potential warts as well as learn positive personality traits. Overall, the C30 was a pleasure to live with. Despite a small looking back seat, my friend Kirsten was able to travel there in comfort and my very tall brother Matteo had no issues fitting in the passenger perch. I was able to park it easily in the tight confines of SoHo and the optional Dynaudio stereo system and was put to good use entertaining Kirsten, me and all who passed by when stuck in midtown Manhattan traffic.
If I had to complain about any one thing it is the fuel economy. People think small cars = high mileage but in the case of the little C30, it forgoes frugality for performance. It is rated at 19/28 city/highway and we saw a 25 MPG combined. Not terrible but the aforementioned MINI can be equipped with a non-turbo engine and get close to 40 MPG highway. A quick glance at message boards confirmed that owners are experiencing the same economy numbers but most feel the style and fun-to-drive factor outweigh having to fill up more often.
Our test car was the “R-Design” trim and was equipped with the optional automatic transmission, Climate Package, and Preferred Package and came it at a reasonable $30,265. With a base price of $23,800 for the T-5 and $25,950 for the R-Design you can still get a nicely personalized C30 without applying for a bailout package.
Another thing I noticed about the little hot hatch from Sweden was the fact that I never saw another one the entire time I drove it. I can’t imagine why this car doesn’t sell more but if you like driving something sporty with an air of individuality, you should make your way to your local Volvo store.
The Bottom Line: The 2009 Volvo C30 is a stylish, reasonably priced euro-hatch that is fun to drive and won’t get lost in a sea of sameness.
Volvo is a gay-friendly company.
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