With a huge budget, and a script based on the work of famed science-fiction novelist Frank Herbert, the motion picture Dune should have been the kind of movie sci-fi geeks go crazy for.
But something happened on the way to taking Dune’s 1000-plus-page epic story to the silver screen. The final product proved to be confusing, slow-moving, and oddly dull. It was also a box-office dud.
In some ways the Volvo C30, the sporty two-door hatchback that joined Volvo’s U.S. model line for 2008, was a bit like the movie Dune. Though the C30 wasn’t bad in any way, it really should have been a more compelling package.
How is it that a rakishly styled hatchback packing a turbocharged 5-cylinder engine and sporting an all-glass rear hatch failed to ignite the interest of car enthusiasts?
In truth, the core package was pretty good; the C30 was stylish and fun to drive. But, the little Volvo was also rather heavy for its size—it weighed in at more than 3200 pounds, which affected acceleration and fuel economy. It was also pricey.
A well-equipped 2008 C30 could be loaded up to around $33,000—roughly the same price as Volkswagen’s furiously entertaining Golf R32, a genuine all-wheel-drive performance dynamo.
Still, the C30 was a perfectly likable little car, and probably should have caught on with Volvo fans looking for a second or third car, but that never happened. That said, I would much rather spend time behind the wheel of a C30 than sit though Dune again.
All told, Volvo sold just over 22,000 C30s over the car’s six-year life span (the C30 was dropped after the 2013 model year). That number includes 250 high-performance C30 Polestar editions, all of which came in Rebel Blue (see photo below) and enjoyed a 23-horsepower bump, to 250. All Polestars were equipped with a 6-speed manual transmission and unique 17-inch wheels.
Republished below is Consumer Guide’s original review of the 2013 C30, including prices and specs. If you have any memories of the C30—or if you own one now—please tell us about it. The place to leave comments is at the bottom of the page.
The C30 is a 2-door front-wheel-drive hatchback that seats four. It is Volvo’s smallest car, and is built in Belgium.
There are no dramatic changes for 2013, but C30s are available with additional option packages and two new exterior paint colors. All C30 models add standard rain-sensing windshield wipers and headlamp washers. A switch to synthetic motor oil allows for longer service intervals.
The C30 comes in two basic models, T5 and T5 R-Design. A C30 Polestar Limited Edition model will also be available, but production of it is capped at 250 units.
T5 models are well equipped with many standard features including air conditioning, tilt-and-telescopic leather-wrapped steering wheel, height-adjustable front bucket seats, front console, split-fold rear seat back, remote keyless entry, USB port, Bluetooth wireless cell-phone link, and power windows, locks, and mirrors. Alloy wheels with 17-inch tires are included as well.
T5 R-Design adds combination cloth-and-leather upholstery, aluminum interior accents, fog lamps, rear spoiler, and a sport suspension. The wheels and tires are 18-inch units.
Most options are grouped into packages that are available for either model. The Premier Package adds a power driver’s seat with memory function, power sunroof, and a cargo cover. T5s also gain aluminum interior trim.
The Premier Plus Package adds to the Premier Package steering-linked xenon headlamps with LED daytime running lights, power passenger seat, and keyless access and starting. The front fog lamps are deleted. The top option group is the Platinum Package. This adds an upgraded sound system with satellite radio and a navigation system. Finally, the Climate Package consists of dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, and an upgraded interior air filter.
Individual extras include blind-spot alert, a portable navigation system, and satellite radio. Leather interior trim is available for the T5 model.
All C30 T5 and T5 R-Design models are equipped with a turbocharged 227-horsepower 2.5-liter 5-cylinder engine. The Polestar Limited Edition C30 gets revised engine tuning that raises horsepower to 250. A 6-speed manual transmission is standard and a 5-speed automatic is available optionally. All C30s are front-wheel drive.
EPA-estimated fuel economy is 21 mpg city and 29 mpg highway for C30s equipped with the 6-speed manual gearbox. Numbers with the extra-cost automatic are 21 city and 30 highway. The Polestar Limited Edition has the same estimated fuel economy as other C30 models. Volvo recommends regular-grade gas for all C30 models.
Every C30 includes all expected and required safety equipment, including traction control, anti-lock brakes, tire-pressure monitoring system, front-side and curtain-side airbags, and an anti-skid system. Blind-spot alert is available as an individual extra-cost option.
C30’s 5-cylinder engine is lively when paired with the manual transmission. It has fine throttle response and satisfying muscle at mid-range speeds. With the optional automatic, C30 remains peppy. The automatic is well behaved and pleasantly smooth.
In Consumer Guide testing, a C30 with the 6-speed manual averaged 25.9 mpg with a slight bias towards highway driving. With the automatic, our test cars averaged 18.6 mpg in largely city driving and 26.3 with a highway bias. All C30 models use regular-grade gas.
The T5 R-Design’s stiffly sprung sport suspension and low profile 18-inch tires combine for a borderline harsh ride. Hitting sharp bumps can result in abrupt vertical motions. We haven’t had the opportunity to evaluate a T5 model with the standard suspension and 17-inch tires.
C30’s nicely balanced chassis delivers good grip in most situations, though minor understeer can surface in fast corners. Some of our testers think the steering feels a little vague on-center and others like its meaty feel. Both camps agree it provides positive turn-in feedback. Directional stability is impressive. The four-wheel disc brakes deliver good stopping power, but some wish the brake pedal felt a bit firmer.
The turbocharged 5-cylinder engine is pleasingly relaxed at a steady-state cruise, though spirited acceleration is accompanied by a gruff growl and a bit of turbo whistle. At highway speed, wind rush is noticeable, but not loud enough to be bothersome. Road noise is a constant companion on the T5 R-Design, no matter the speed.
C30’s main gauges are large, clearly marked, and easy to read. Other controls are generally obvious and well marked, but some testers think the layout suffers from too many look-alike buttons–some of which can be difficult to locate and decipher quickly while on the move.
Rear-seat space is typical for a small 2-door. Headroom is no better than adequate for people under 5-foot-6, and legroom quickly disappears if the front seats are set far back. Getting into the back seat requires a multi-step process to slide the front seats forward as well as the expected crouch-and-twist contortions.Up front, C30’s interior has ample headroom and legroom. The bucket seats are firm and nicely bolstered, yet remain comfortable.
Rear cargo space is minimal, even by small-hatchback standards. There is no excess of space with the rear seats up. The split-folding rear seatbacks flip forward easily to increase cargo capacity, though the resulting load floor isn’t completely flat. The rear hatch opening is on the small side, and it’s oddly shaped to boot. Some of our testers disliked the C30’s all-glass hatch, which can leave cargo easily visible from outside the car. Interior small-item storage is skimpy.
Volvo’s small C30 hatchback is fun to drive, and the classy interior helps make the entire package feel premium. We’re not so fond of the T5 R-Design’s stiff ride, and unfortunately bargain pricing isn’t part of this compact’s equation. Adding options can quickly raise the bottom-line price past the $30,000 mark, and a fully optioned R-Design tops $35,000.