2008 Volvo C30 T5 Review

Volvo C30 T5

The Volvo C30 T5 is a rather dramatic change for the Swedish car maker best known for their big sedans and SUVs. This all-new sporty 2-door hatchback boasts a 2.5-liter turbocharged 5 cylinder engine producing 227 horsepower mated to a 6-speed manual or 5-speed automatic transmission and FWD drivetrain. Can the C30 provide an alternative to the fanboy purist status of the Mini Cooper and VW GTI, or is it just an answer to a question nobody asked?

We were excited as Volvo dropped off the C30, anxious to see how the first small sporty Volvo in ages would fare up against modern hot hatches. The lightweight, turbocharged 227 horsepower hatch looked great on paper, and looked cool sitting in the parking lot, begging to be taken out on a winding road. And so we did…

Design

For the all-new C30, Volvo basically chopped the ass end off of an S40 sedan and squished the rear up into itself, leaving an awkward stretched taillight design. The last thing I would call the C30 is “pretty,” but there’s no denying that it’s unique, and depending on your taste, a welcome departure from the “I’m too scared to change” styling of most carmakers. From the side, the C30 looks as if it’s ready to pounce with nicely designed 17′ wheels, almost no rear overhang, and a high rear-end. But man, that rear-end is fugly.

Volvo C30 T5

Climbing into the C30, the first thing you’ll probably notice is the cool design of the center control panel. Styled to resemble a waterfall, the unique design allows more room to place your gadgets behind the console so they don’t get in the way. Comfortable seats hold you into a good driving position and keep you snug when taking extra tight turns. Headroom and space is decent for tall drivers, considering the size of the car. Room in the back is cramped, but livable. Got rear seat passengers? Don’t plan on doing much shopping; with the rear seats up there wouldn’t be enough room to fit a shopping cart’s worth of groceries. But it does have more room than a Mini Cooper.

Driving

Here’s where we get the angry letter from Volvo… While the C30 T5 can be fun while actively driving aggressively, there were too many annoyances which prevent it from being a reasonable daily driver. The seatbelts are way too eager to lock and tighten. On more than a few occasions, the seatbelt seemed to lock randomly on both the driver and passenger. Unlocking it requires awkward squirming and loss of breath; not good for claustrophobics.

Volvo C30 T5 interior

Once on the road, the C30 doesn’t feel like it holds onto the road well. The unnecessary tire squeal and overall lack of traction could be blamed on faulty tires, but I’m fairly confident the tires were in good shape. Rolling only one window down while traveling between 35-50 MPH is a no-no; the strange, low-pitched oscillating sound that comes from the incoming wind against the window frame make it feel like your head is going to explode until you roll down another window to balance the pressure. After you’re stopped, shifting the lever from Drive to Park almost always resulted in the driver accidentally shifting into the “Geartronic” mode instead.

It’s almost as if this car had it out for me from the beginning. After a storm had passed and things were drying out from the rain, I got into the driver’s seat and began to roll down the window only for a small wave of water to pour out onto my leg. Was the C30 keeping a reservoir of water ready to pour on me? To add insult to injury, my portable GPS didn’t work inside this car (and only this car.) Something in there apparently emits a signal that makes my GPS go haywire. Didn’t matter though, since the car randomly refused to start one evening, only to blink “Steering Lock, Service Required” for 20 minutes until it decided service was no longer required. Then we were on our way home, never to drive the Volvo C30 T5 again.

Options and Trim Levels

Volvo C30 T5 front

The C30 T5 comes with one engine only – the 2.5-liter turbocharged 5 cylinder with 227 horsepower. To appeal to the younger generation, trim level names are software-inspired: Version 1.0 and Version 2.0 – along with an “R-Design” version of the 2.0 trim. Version 2.0 adds bigger wheels, a body kit, a better sound system and aluminum dash inlays, while the R-Design version adds satellite radio, a spoiler, and some other sporty bits.

Pretty much everything else is an option on the car, and if you want any of those options, you’ll have to pony up an extra $300 for a ridiculous “Custom Build” charge. If your only selected option is the $25 leather handbrake, it will cost you $325. If you want any exterior color other than red, black, or white, you’ll have to add at least $475 to the price. There are plenty of interior choices, but most of them will cost you too.

Bottom Line

The Volvo C30 T5 is a fun car to drive aggressively, but simply has too many things wrong with it to be taken as a serious competitor to the big names in its category. The starting price of $22,900 is reasonable, but with the excessive cost of personalizing the car with options and different colors, it’s all-too easy to hit the $30,000 mark.

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About The Author

I founded Automoblog.net in May of 2006 to share my love of cars. My favorites include the Lamborghini Diablo 6.0 VT and Koenigsegg CCX, and I think the Ferrari 360 Spider is still one of the sexiest cars in existence. For “normal” cars, I like imports - Nissan, Audi, Subaru... I love my Pearl Yellow (don't judge) 1990 Nissan 300ZX TT and plan to get it to around 550 HP one day. I'm also an avid world traveler and love rock climbing.

2 Comments on "2008 Volvo C30 T5 Review"

  1. Well, although I am a Volvo-phile, I'm not a huge fan of the post-1999/Ford era, so I'm willing to listen to any well thought out criticism. For me, the C30 is a revival of the classic PV444, and with that filter I'm able to objectively overlook the admittedly fugly rear-end. To the average person with no unhealthy love for Volvo, though, I can see where the C30 just winds up looking like a poorly executed Civic hatchback. Sigh. Oh, how those once mighty safety kings have fallen :-(

  2. I could have overlooked the ugly rear-end due to it being subjective. I could have even overlooked the ridiculous trim/option packages. What I can't overlook is not only the numerous annoyances in the everyday functionality of the car, but the fact that a lightweight 2-door hatchback with a lively engine such as the C30 has a major lack in traction and stability in turns, which basically defeats the purpose of the car in the first place.

    I think the C30 was a massive failure for Volvo, but we're reviewing a couple more Volvos right now that (almost) redeem the brand, or at least show that the C30 doesn't speak for the whole line. They aren't what they used to be, but Volvo is still a reasonable choice for some.

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