KBB Editors' Overview
By KBB.com Editors
A compact front-drive two-door that interweaves unique Volvo styling cues with well-proven mechanicals from the S40 and V50 lines, the 2009 C30 is designed to blur the established line between a conventional hatchback and a station wagon. It's also the first Volvo sold here to offer buyers enhanced personalization potential through the factory's Custom Build individualization program. Volvo's most affordable entry is available in two trim levels: The well-appointed T5 and a top-of-the-line T5 R-Design that includes suspension upgrades, more standard features and R-inspired body kit and trim. Although the C30's closest direct competitors are the Mini Cooper and Volkswagen GTI, devotees of trendy personal transport modules might consider this high-profile newcomer as a suitable alternative for vehicles as diverse as the Audi A3, BMW 1 Series, Saab 9-3 SportCombi or Scion tC.
You'll Like This Car If...
If you're willing to trade off a bit of conventional station wagon utility for a look that will definitely turn heads, the new 2009 Volvo C30's approach to style, comfort and performance could make it a very appealing choice.
You May Not Like This Car If...
While some potential buyers may find the 2009 Volvo C30's sheetmetal a bit too avant-garde, those wanting a true wagon will likely have bigger problems with its lack of rear passenger doors, modest cargo capacity and diminutive hatch opening.
What's New for 2009
The C30 T5 Version 1.0 and 2.0 become the T5 and T5 R-Design, respectively. Bluetooth is made a stand-alone option, while minor enhancements are made to the C30's equipment packages and colors. A seat-belt-reminder warning is added to the rear seats.
A turbocharged five-cylinder engine endows both C30 variants with the same spirited acceleration, while Volvo's driver-selectable Dynamic Traction and Stability Control system and anti-lock disc brakes enhance their fundamentally solid handling and stopping capabilities. Beyond those basics, each embodies a slightly different variation on the theme. In T5 guise, the C30's personality is skewed towards buyers who put a higher priority on ride comfort than on precision responsiveness. If you're more inclined to spend time carving up corners than negotiating urban stop-and-go or long-distance freeway cruising, consider the T5 R-Design. Its slightly tauter suspension settings, lower ride height and upgraded wheel and tire package help quicken the C30's steering response, trim body roll during hard cornering and mildly reduce braking distances. Even at the R-Design level, the C30 retains an edge in overall ride compliance compared to the Mini Cooper and VW GTI. However, it does still fall a little short of those two with respect to absolute sportiness.
This modern-day reinterpretation of one of Volvo's most memorable sportwagon models has a distinctive visual presence that sets it apart from the competition but still maintains legitimate four-passenger practicality.
Responsive Turbocharged Engine
Its wide, flat torque curve makes the C30's potent turbocharged five-cylinder engine a perfect match for this petite hauler, injecting a major dose of pure driving delight whether paired with the standard manual or optional automatic transmission.
The C30 borrows major cabin design elements from the S40 and V50, including Volvo's slim-line "floating" center stack that holds controls and switchgear for the audio and air conditioning. Aluminum-accent R-style trim in the R-Design model adds visual character that raises it well above the standard gray-plastic of the T5, but both versions are fitted with comfortable and supportive manually-adjustable bucket seats covered in Volvo's fabric-like T-Tek material. The C30's rear quarters feature dual seats with enough head and leg room to accommodate two average-sized adults. Although folding the seatbacks increases cargo capacity from 12.9 to 20.2 cubic feet, the C30's smallish and oddly-shaped glass hatch does negatively impact the loading and unloading process.
The C30's distinctive appearance reflects a neo-classic look that matches front-end cues based on Volvo's current S40 and V50 models with the flowing tapered roof and prominent taillight treatment seen on the firm's 2001 Safety Concept Car (SCC). While the C30's two-door configuration and rakishly angled all-glass rear hatch also figured in the SCC's design brief, both elements first appeared on the P1800ES sportwagon, a '70s-era Volvo that still enjoys cult-car status. The C30 T5 model pairs 205/50 tires with 17-inch aluminum wheels, while the R-Design steps up to 215/45 rubber on larger 18-inch alloy rims and adds a body kit with color-coordinated fender flares, side skirts and front and rear spoilers.
Notable Standard Equipment
Beyond identical powertrains, the T5 and T5 R-Design also share a fairly expansive set of features, highlighted by a full array of power assists, air conditioning with cabin pollen filter, tilt and telescoping steering column, a driver information system, keyless remote entry, anti-theft immobilizer system, front, front-side and side-curtain airbags, Volvo's side-impact and whiplash protection systems and anti-lock disc brakes with Electronic Brake Assistance. A 160-watt/six-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio package with auxiliary audio input jack is standard on both, with the R-Design tossing in a six-month subscription to SIRIUS Satellite Radio. The R-Design also gets cruise control, unique bodywork, chassis and interior trim enhancements.
Notable Optional Equipment
Highlighting the C30's conventional options list are an automatic transmission, leather upholstery, power glass moonroof, an HDD-based navigation system with real-time traffic updates and the Climate Package (heated seats, Rain Sensor wipers and headlight washers). Stepping up to the Custom Build program – which requires a one-time $300 premium – grants access to a much longer list of upgrades, including special interior and exterior color treatments, Dynaudio 650-watt sound system, dual-zone automatic climate control, a trip computer, cruise control, bi-xenon headlights, keyless start, rear park assist and dual power front seats. Several of the more easily installed Custom Build items, such as wheel and tire upgrades and cargo covers, are also available as dealer accessories.
Under the Hood
Both the T5 and T5 R-Design are fitted with identical powertrain elements. The lightweight-aluminum 2.5-liter turbocharged inline five-cylinder engine develops 227 horsepower at 5000 rpm and is fitted with variable valve timing that helps it make and maintain a constant 236 pound-feet of torque from 1500 to 5000 rpm. That expansive torque plateau ensures superb responsiveness, whether you back it with the base six-speed manual transmission or the optional five-speed Geartronic automatic that also incorporates a manual-style "auto-stick" function. The C30 can sprint from zero to 60 mph in 6.2 seconds with the manual and needs only 6.6 seconds to hit that mark with the automatic, even when left to shift for itself.
2.5-liter turbocharged in-line 5
227 horsepower @ 5000 rpm
236 lb.-ft. of torque @ 1500-5000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 19/28 (automatic), 19/28 (manual)
The 2009 Volvo C30's Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) ranges from around $25,000 for a T5 to around $27,000 for the R-Design. Opting for an automatic transmission will bump those figures by another $1,250, but supplementing big-ticket options like leather upholstery, a navigation system and a power moonroof with additional items from the Custom Build program can easily push either variant beyond the $30,000 mark. With those kinds of bottom-line possibilities, it definitely pays to consider what kind of ultimate return you can rightly expect on your highly-personalized automotive investment. In general, the base T5 is expected to fare slightly better when it comes to holding value over time than the R-Design; but neither comes close to the projected residual percentages for a MINI Cooper. The C30 projected values also trail those of the Scion tC and Volkswagen Rabbit, remain on par with those of the Audi A3 and BMW 1 Series and are far ahead of the Saab 9-3 SportCombi's figures.