2013 Volvo C30 review

28 Apr 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on 2013 Volvo C30 review

2013 Volvo C30

Oh, Volvo C30. how we barely knew ye.

It#39;s not often that the Leftlane reviewing team gets to spend time behind the wheel of a car that has been already put out to pasture, but that was just the case with our recent jaunt in a 2013 Volvo C30 R-Design.

This sprightly blue three-door was one of the last C30s to roll off the assembly line late last year, and that#39;s usually a sign for an automaker to sweep the discontinued model under the rug and move on. But not Volvo, which saw the C30#39;s departure as an opportunity for a swan song model with a zippy style – and some added performance – of its own.

Sharing much of its architecture (and its interior) with the under-appreciated Volvo S40 and V50, the C30 was envisioned in late 2006 as a spiritual successor to the nifty P1800 hatchback seen 40 years prior. Cash-starved Volvo didn#39;t have the budget at the time for a new interior or front end, so it raided the S40/V50 parts bin. A few years later, a styling update gave the C30 the dynamic look it needed, but sales never took off.

What was to blame? The hefty window sticker – building small volumes of premium vehicles in a country with high costs (Belgium, in this case) is bound to drive up prices.

Two C30s are on offer, the plush base model and the sporty R-Design. Our tester came from the latter camp, which means that it had a unique R-Design body kit, some interior touches and a firmer suspension.

Our test C30 was further loaded up with an individually-numbered R Design Limited Edition package with 17-inch black alloy wheels, Rebel Blue paint and an engine tuning package by Volvo racing partner Polestar. The extra 23 horsepower (to 250) and 273 lb-ft. of torque (up 37 lb-ft.) goes a long way. Normally, that Polestar power upgrade runs $1,295, but the Limited Edition package costs a more reasonable $1,000.

This C30 was further topped up with the feature-heavy Platinum Package (think navigation, premium audio, power seats, a moonroof and HIDs with LED running lamps) plus a cold weather package.

What#39;s it up against?

The Volkswagen GTI is the C30#39;s most natural rival, but you could also theoretically toss it up against the Ford Focus ST. the Mazda Mazdaspeed3 and the Subaru WRX. An oddly-balanced comparison for sure.

What#39;s it look like?

Drawing from the P1800 with its tall rear tail lamps and big glass hatchback, the C30 cuts a decidedly polarizing profile.

We like its elongated rear window and squat roof line and we aren#39;t opposed to the more aggressive front fascia it gained for 2011. The R-Design package#39;s color-matched bodykit has a tacked-on look thanks to the C30#39;s unique plastic fender flares, but we generally think it is well integrated. At the rear, we#39;re especially big fans of the R-Design-specific dual tailpipes.

One item we universally disagreed with is the wheel selection. While Volvo is generally pretty creative with wheel designs, black painting seems like too much of a passing fad for the contemporary chic style we expect from Volvo.

And on the inside?

The C30#39;s T-shaped floating center stack remains one of our favorite design cues. Not only does it look pretty darn cool to have such a thin panel for all of the audio and climate controls, the design frees up additional storage space and imparts an airy feel to the cabin.

The button-heavy switchgear on the center stack looks a bit dated compared to touchscreen arrays on many rivals, but the C30#39;s controls are generally logically arranged. Redundant steering controls on the large diameter three-spoke sport steering wheel helped out.

Hidden behind the right spoke is a nub and two little buttons to control the optional navigation system unit that, on the press of a button, rises to the occasion at the top of the dash. This integration feels a bit outdated compared to newer units, but it does have the ergonomic advantage of putting the navigation display up high for distraction-free visibility.

The navigation#39;s graphics are similarly dated, though we found inputs very easy with the steering wheel controls. A wireless remote is also included for passenger use – again, a throwback to the early era of navigation.

Comfort, however, is timeless, and the C30 does not disappoint. The two-tone seats in our tester didn#39;t prove well-bolstered for especially aggressive driving, but they were perfectly padded for a long drive and both front thrones were power-adjustable, a rarity in this class. Both front seats remember their previous position after they#39;re folded forward to allow passengers to climb rearward.

At the back, a fiddly (yet typically stylish) cargo cover revealed good room for a pair of carry on-size suitcases.

Befitting the C30#39;s premium heritage, its materials were all price-appropriate. Soft touch materials cover nearly every surface, and even the neoprene-like material on the outer seat panels (the black portion; the light sections are leather) felt bucks up. Only a silly fake key in the ignition (our tester had a proximity key that can be kept in a pocket, but the fake key must be turned to start the engine) stood out.

But does it go?

Under its bright blue hood, our C30#39;s 2.5-liter inline five-cylinder engine had its computer remapped to the aforementioned 250 horsepower and 273 lb-ft. of torque. In practice, the C30 feels much spunkier than that already reasonably impressive power output might suggest.

The standard six-speed manual features a light clutch and positive gear engagement (admittedly, our test car had about 300 miles on it when it was delivered to us). Though it doesn#39;t like to be hustled in the same way the VW GTI#39;s stick does, the C30#39;s gearbox was a joy to row.

Power builds progressively with little of the lag that afflicts smaller engines. At high speeds, passing rarely requires a downshift since the available torque peaks at just 1,500 rpm. Making the most of the experience is a subtle but refined thrum from under the hood, a five-cylinder growl that#39;s mildly addictive.

The zippy engine is a good match for the C30#39;s taut, composed chassis. Though well short of being as tossable as the GTI in aggressive driving, the C30 corners with little body lean and, unless pushed hard, it generally imparts a composed, docile feel. If anything, it feels a little too grown up when the road gets really twisty.

Similarly, the C30#39;s steering delivers predictable resistance but not a tremendous amount of feel. Combined with the gigantic steering wheel, the C30 feels more buttoned down sedan than hot hatch, a feeling confirmed by its firm but thoroughly compliant suspension tuning. In short, the C30 feels like a sporty car tuned for adults.

But that actually suits its demeanor particularly well. In town, its compact proportions and torquey engine made it a hoot to push around, yet it also proved exceedingly comfortable over a several hour highway trip. These are accolades we don#39;t levy on must hot hatches.

Making matters even better was its fuel economy, which easily exceeded the 21/29 mpg EPA rating. We saw 26 mpg in mixed cruising and 33 mpg on the highway.

Though it was never a volume seller, the C30 will forever be a Volvo worth appreciating. That most of the remaining C30s have probably been accounted for by now should only make them more appealing on the used market.

And that#39;s where they make the most sense given a sky-high price of admission that, unfortunately, kept plenty of would-be buyers out of showrooms.

2013 Volvo C30 R-Design base price, $27,850. As tested, $35,545

R-Design Limited Edition, $1,000; Platinum Package, $5,000; Climate Package, $800; Destination, $895.

Words and photos by Andrew Ganz. Follow Andrew on Twitter for exclusive insight into the automotive industry.

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