2010 Volvo C30 R-Design Review

Don’t call it a purse!

2010 Volvo C30 R-Design Review
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It’s a satchel, not a purse! There is the difference between a leather handbag a man might use to carry his extra papers and nick-knacks in and the latest fashionable ladies’ offering from Dolce and Gabbana. Men buy utility, speed, and convenience, and women buy fashion. Uniqueness has its own raison d’etre.

FAST FACTS

1. All C30 models come with the same 227-hp turbo 5-cylinder engine.

2. Less dynamic looking base models start at $24,100, with the R-Design package priced from $26,300.

3. Rear seat passenger room is limited, as is cargo room with just 12.9 cu.-ft. behind the rear seats or 20.2 cu.-ft. total.

There, in a nutshell, lies the kernel of truth behind Volvo’s C30 R-Design. It is a purse disguised as a satchel. Or is it a satchel disguised as a purse? That view will depend on whether you’re male or female.

Ignoring for a moment the logical incongruity behind the assumption that today’s X-Games emulating youth will rush out to buy a safe hatchback, there’s the small matter of the existence of the Audi A3, the Volkswagen GTI, and the Mini Cooper S. These cars fill a hole in the market, and do so extremely well, to the point of discouraging other companies from even attempting to enter this niche.

R-DESIGN PACKAGE HAS C30 LOOKING THE PART

To be a player, Volvo needed something a little different and, viewed from the rear, the C30 certainly nails that design parameter. And while the base model might look somewhat strange, the R-Design model, with its fully-painted body kit and rear wing is surprisingly appealing. In a sense, it “completes the look” of the truncated body.

As much as we’d like to gush over this Volvo, if only to applaud the automaker for producing the Swedish equivalent of a “hot hatch,” the inclusion of “R-Design” DNA can only go so far to mask the basic premise. After all, the C30 is an entry-level Volvo. This doesn’t stop it from being a very good car though.

In terms of options on the car, Volvo has unfortunately done away with the extensive “Custom Build” program for 2010 that allowed customers to pretty much spec out the vehicle with individual options a la carte. Now there are just two option groups to choose from.

Our test model was nicely outfitted with both the $900 Climate Package that includes things like heated seats and electronic climate control, as well as the $1,950 Preferred Package with power front seats, keyless drive, dual xenon headlights, aluminum trim and fog lights.

If you can do without the 5-speed Geartronic automatic transmission or the rest of the aforementioned goodies, you can roll in the C30 R-Design for just over $26,000.

TYPICALLY VOLVO SAFE

The C30 is chock-full of useful safety features; too many to list in this review. Were we ever to be struck by a semi-truck and had a choice about it, we’d like to be in a Volvo. The really great news is that the C30 handles well enough to dodge that truck. There’s a wonderful on-center steering feel, and precise feedback from the Pirelli P-Zero Rosso tires on those attractive 18-inch alloy wheels. Body roll is minimal, front-to-rear pitch is dampened, and only the harshest freeway jolts will ever be heard or noticed in the hushed confines of the cabin. It is extraordinarily quiet for a hatchback!

TIGHT BACK SEAT

Did we say “confines”? We mean it. Definitely try the rear seats before buying one. This hatch is squarely aimed at folks without families. The best that can be said about the seats is that they fold nearly flat at the touch of a lever. Full-sized humans can ride in the back only during the length of time it takes for a collegiate beer run. Anything longer will result in a visit to the chiropractor. A lot of hatchbacks are this way though. It comes with the elimination of body length so we’re not faulting Volvo.

As for the rest of the interior, it is well laid out and designed, sharing its dash and controls with the S40 sedan. This is a plus in our book, as everything is neatly laid out and accessible. The blue-face R-Design gauges are a sporty touch.

R-DESIGN LOOK, BUT TURBO-FIVE-CYLINDER NOT ALL THAT FAST

But despite all the R-Design badging, the acceleration of this hot-hatch is only a touch warmer than tepid. It never overwhelms but it is more than sufficient for zipping away from stop lights and finding holes to squirt through in freeway traffic. The 227 horsepower and 236 ft-lbs of torque represent more than the Audi/VW and MINI offerings can muster, yet due to the weight of the body, the Volvo will get scorched in any head-to-head race. Volvo rates the C30 at 6.5 seconds to 60 mph.

At 2.5-liters in displacement and five-cylinders, it does offer torque even before the small turbo spools, hence the stoplight fun. It certainly doesn’t do burnouts; it’s much too refined for that. And the electronic nannies make sure of it, managing the power delivery at all times.

While we would like to see more power, in this case the Swedes have struck a nice balance between sensible speed and fuel economy. We saw 18.1 miles per gallon in urban driving, and 28.9 mpg on the freeway, all while paying little attention to frugal throttle application. Volvo rates the car at an official 19/28 mpg.

THE VERDICT

There’s much to like in the C30 R-Design. It’s stylish, frugal, and handles well, with a hatchback opening large enough to hold a keg but probably not a big screen television. Room behind the seats is 12.9 cubic feet. Drop the seats and you gain very little, for a total of just 20.2 cu.-ft.

It offers every amenity if you purchase a loaded-up model from a dealer, yet will deliver the same performance at a $24,100 base price, if you don’t mind a 6-speed manual transmission (saves $1,250) and gray plastic body cladding instead of the R-Design’s body-colored pieces.

If originality is your thing, well, you’ll like the C30 as you’re certainly not going to see one in every parking lot or driveway.

It carries Volvo’s reputation for safety which, let’s face it, enables Volvos to sell at a slight premium over other brands. A Dolce and Gabbana satchel sells for $1,850 through Saks Fifth Avenue; for our money, the C30 R-Design is less likely to get you beaten up in the wrong neighborhood.

Whether you’ll see the C30 as an attractive purse or a functional satchel will ultimately depend on your gender. Viewed either way, it’s worthy of consideration before you buy.

LOVE IT

  • Good handling
  • Handsome yet unique appearance
  • Volvo safety, comfort, and quality at a substantial discount over its full-sized brethren

LEAVE IT

  • Well-equipped models will limit the cost-to-fun quotient
  • Weirdly-soft brake pedal lacks feel, but still gets the job done
  • Very little rear seat leg room

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