Reviews

2011 Volvo C30 Walk Around

The Volvo C30 design is striking, particularly from the side. The roofline starts out high and slopes gradually down, pinching the rear windows. Those windows are drawn in, leaving room for another Volvo characteristic, pronounced shoulders.

The C30 is a two-door hatchback, also called a three-door. Sporty design cues include short front and rear overhangs, an integrated body kit, and big wheels on wide tires. The ground-effects-type body kit outlines the bottom of the T5 in black from front to rear and includes wheel flares at all four corners. On R-Design models the entire kit is body-color, for a more subtle look that we like much better.

The story isn't the C30's front or sides, though. It's at the rear. Volvo is putting more emphasis on the rear aspect of the C30, choosing to show that angle in promotional materials. The most prominent feature is the dark-tinted rear glass, an attractive frameless trapezoidal shape that recalls the rear of the 1971-73 Volvo 1800 ES wagon. The glass dips down low and is flanked by unique taillights that rise up to the roof and jut out at the bottom to match the shape of the car's shoulders. The Volvo name is spelled out across the bottom of the glass in bold, bright letters. The look is different from anything out there and is strong enough to give the car a distinct character.

For 2011, T5 R-Design models come with 18-inch wheels Volvo calls Midir. C30s come standard with 17-inch alloy wheels.

The Volvo C30 is based on the same platform as the S40 and V50, and all share the same 103.9-inch wheelbase. But the C30 is nearly 9 inches shorter than the S40, all sliced from behind the rear wheels.

The Volvo C30 competes with the Audi A3, Mini Cooper S, and Volkswagen GTI. The C30 has a longer wheelbase than all three. The Mini is two feet shorter than all three of these cars. From the rear, the C30 has the most character of these cars. From the front, it would be easy to mistake the C30 for a Volvo S40 or V50.

Interior

Volvo aims at sportiness inside the C30, along with high-tech, Scandinavian style. Volvo's trademark floating center stack is the central design element. The brushed aluminum center stack's design is simple, with four round knobs for the main audio and climate controls. Along the center is another series of buttons for more audio and climate functions, including a telephone-like set of buttons for the audio presets. The R-Design model features additional aluminum trim, and handsome blue-faced gauges with white markings and red pointers.

The cloth upholstery that comes standard is called Kalix T-Tech. It has the look of wetsuit material. Kalix has a higher quality appearance than most cloth, fitting somewhere between regular cloth and leather. The R-Design upgrades to a striking combination of black Flextech fabric with creme leather seating surfaces. Full leather upholstery is available in both models. Leather is a better choice for fending off dog hair. We found the quality of the interior materials excellent. The dash panel is made of a quality soft-touch material, and all the panels fit together with close, uniform gaps.

The C30 is comfortable, though not as comfortable as the bigger, more expensive Volvos. The driver's seat has enough manual adjustments to tailor a comfortable driving position and enough side bolstering to keep backsides planted in corners. Head restraints are now adjustable as well. The front seats have plenty of head room and good leg room, though very tall drivers might wish for more seat travel. The tilt/telescoping steering wheel helps the driver adjust for a comfortable and proper driving position. The steering wheel seemed big to us, though.

Visibility is generally good, though Volvo's typically thick front pillars can restrict vision to the corners at intersections. Those same pillars add safety in a rollover accident.

The audio system is a capable 160-watt AM/FM/CD stereo with six speakers. The upgrade is a 650-watt unit with 10 Dynaudio speakers and Sirius satellite radio with a six-month subscription. A USB port for iPod or flash drive connectivity is available as an accessory. It allows customers to control their iPods through the radio. The high-end stereo can really crank, and we found the sound is clear even at high volume.

The HDD-based navigation system comes with Real Time Traffic with no monthly charge.

Interior storage consists of two cupholders located ahead of a console bin that is just big enough to hold CD cases. Additional storage can be found behind the center stack in a rubberized tray, but it's hard to access. Map pockets are located in the doors.

The rear seats are fairly easy to access and offer decent room. The front seats tilt and slide forward to provide an open path to the rear seat, though it still requires passengers to twist and duck. Once inside, they sit back and into the seats. Rear-seat leg room is good unless the front seats are far back and toe room under the front seats is plentiful. Head room is sufficient for six footers, but tall riders might need to slouch.

The hatchback body style gives the C30 a fair bit of utility. The rear seats fold to create a flat load floor with 20.2 cubic feet of easy-to-access cargo room. With the seats up, there is still 12.9 cubic feet, so you can pick up your groceries while driving with friends.

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