2008 Volvo C30 Review – A different kind of "hot hatch"

Expert Reviews Volvo

Volvo interiors have always had that simplistic yet functional Scandinavian persona. And in our $24,000 Version 1.0 stripper model – the only option being roadside assistance – simplicity abounded to the point that our C30 wasn’t even equipped with cruise control. Quite a disheartening revelation upon embarking on a thousand-mile road trip. We’ve driven cars that sticker at $10,000 less than the C30 equipped standard with cruise. Although you’ll have your choice of interior combinations galore when building your C30, just don’t get so cross-eyed that you forget to check the $185 cruise control box. It doesn’t come standard.

Volvo C30 slim design center stack Volvo C30 front seat

The simplicity of the center stack is immediately eye-catching. And it might even take you a day or two before you realize that there’s a big gap between the stack and the rest of the dash. A classic touch of Volvo design. The base stereo system is an 8-speaker “High Performance Sound” affair with a single CD player and an AUX jack for MP3 players. We’re no audiophiles, but for a base system, we felt the stereo put out more than adequate sound with some thumpy low-end. A 10-speaker Dynaudio system is available in Version 2.0 models for bonafide sound snobs.

The heating controls are also uniquely Volvo, with the slanted, seated stick figure body. Our long drives in continuous downpours required frequent use of the front defog setting, and when the button was pressed, A/C automatically came on, as did a super typhoon of air from the vents, making you think a jet fighter was attempting to land on your roof. Every time the button was pressed, the same chaotic result occurred. We also had an issue with the location of the 12 volt outlet. It was directly behind the shifter, and for car chargers that have vertical plastic bodies, it got right in the way of the driver’s shifting arm.

Volvo C30 rear seats Volvo C30 rear cargo area

The cloth seats are comfortable, but don’t offer the same aggressive bolstering as a GTI. But the C30 does offer something its competitors don’t – rear bucket seats that are not only comfortable, but have plenty of headroom for six-foot tall passengers. The rear bucket seats also fold flat, providing lots of extra cargo space. We were able to fit a full-size mountain bike in the back with the rear wheel still attached.

2008 Volvo C30

Volvo recently ran a “Love it or Hate it” marketing campaign in Europe where consumers got to vote regarding their feelings for the exterior of the C30. For most people, it’s definitely is black or white. There’s no gray area. But in our experience, aside from the Eurotrash, Swedespeed sticker pack, most people we encountered loved the styling. It has the aggressive appearance of an S40 from the front, and perhaps one of the most admired hindquarters of all hatchbacks made today. Some might even say that the hatch glass reminiscent of the P1800ES is what makes the C30. We’d have to agree with that assessment.

Buyers have their choice of 14 different paint colors and a dozen wheel combinations. At Volvo’s C30 website, you can build your car exactly how you want it – just make sure you’ve got a fast connection. Fancy-shmancy Flash technology and 5,000,000 different build options tend to eat up a lot of bandwidth.

The C30′s roofline is one of the less noticed yet most attractive aspects of this car. It’s tapered so that the front windshield is wider than the rear hatch. It’s a terrific look on the C30, especially when admiring it from the second floor of your urban Ikea-equipped studio apartment (we’re making demographic assumptions here). The only drawback of this design is on rainy days. The roofline sits somewhere over the front seat, and when you open the door, rain water spills down onto the seat, dampening your entry experience – literally and figuratively.

2008 Volvo C30

Like the Interweb, the C30 comes in two flavors – Version 1.0 and Version 2.0. Version 1.0 starts at $23K. If you want stiffer suspension, thicker anti-roll bars, a body kit, 18-inch rims and a Dynaudio system, opt for Version 2.0 which starts at $26K. Although the starting prices are very competitive, customizing the C30 can get out of hand really quickly with prices peaking at $40K. Overkill customizing aside, the C30 offers outstanding value for the money and is priced competitively against the GTI and Mini Cooper.

Who Should Buy It?
This one is pretty obvious. Enthusiasts looking for a blistering tuner hatchback need not apply. The C30 is for someone who isn’t into engine tuning and suspension tweaking. Not that you couldn’t do those things with the C30; of course you can. But the C30 has a different approach and appeal. The most likely buyers will be younger folk who are looking for a practical, fun, sporty – and above all – stylish car that will be uniquely theirs and never mistaken for another hatchback.

2008 Volvo C30

Although the C30 didn’t set our hearts ablaze with tire-scorching adrenaline, it won our appreciation through being a well-mannered, attractive and gutsy machine that has the road presence of a car twice its price. Never before have we associated the Volvo brand with words like hip, rad and tight (in the cool sense, not the tension sense), but with the C30, our associations are beginning to change. In fact, the Swedish flag on the roof of our test car actually looked pretty cool. Obviously, it would have looked cooler if the shades of blue matched, but we get the gist of where Volvo is trying to go with the C30. Sure, some in the automotive press (including ourselves) are saying the C30 isn’t the athlete that the GTI is, but sometimes there’s more to a car than pure fitness. And as far as we’re concerned, the C30 has a much nicer ass than the GTI.

RATING 4.0 4.5 4.0 3.0 4.5 4.0 4.0/B

2008 Volvo C30 Photo Gallery

2008Volvo C30 T5 Specs

VolvoOfficial website for Volvo automobiles in the U.S. – www.volvocars.com/us/

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  • Fax machine dash? says:

    I test drove this car, and really enjoyed it. The price and features were right, but…. the damn dash center console is horrid. I think they found an old fax machine from 1986 and ripped the control panel off of it, then went to the pub. It has a NUMBER pad on it! You could literally use it as a touchtone phone dial. Above it is a narrow slit MONO colored LCD screen backlit with green LEDs. It’s a good thing the car doesn’t drive like a fax machine, but it sure does look like one from the driver’s perspective.

  • I am not so impressed with this machine…I mean, others might like it. But it is not my cup of tea.

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